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Princess Cruises: Grand Princess

Fodorite Reviews

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  • New

Mar 22, 2017

Mexican Riviera

The Princess statement of "coming back new" is definitely how you feel after you return home. It is overall for all he senses, beautiful scenery, delicious and plentiful foods, delightful staff wanting to make your experience perfect, offerings on board for any taste, opportunities to visit the ports, provided by the ship even if it is not an excursion, the fun in the pools and hot tubs, the casino, theater shows and of course the meeting with other

passengers from diverse walks of life and countries. A fabulous experience. Many choices of many types of foods prepared in many ways so as not to be boring. You can eat what you want, in the quantitiy you want, when you want to. You also have the choice to get a light snack anytime you want at the international cafe. Any request is responded to by the staff, and most are eager to aid any style of cooking, or any dietary need. Nothing we asked for was out of the question, the staff was always eager to please. We have addressed some people below to separate out from the rest of the crew who did outstanding jobs. Very adequate, could use a larger closet area as we had on previous cruises - and a few more drawers and shelves for our needs for 10 days. Bed very comfortable, thank you. Many activities for many different tastes. You can participate in or refuse to as you please.We liked that the staff, the upper "management" of the ship participated in some of the activities. There were so many activities, we had to pick and choose amongst them. Every age group has activities designed for them. Excursion to Las Colinas and the pyramids of Colema. Horrible trip, bus traveling way above the speed limit down winding roads with great drop offs. Thrown against sides of bus resulting in a black and blue leg. First stop after 1 1/2 hours of traveling in an old church, bathroom without toilet seats, toilet paper or running water in the sink. Pigeons galore in the courtyard, feathers and pigeon poop everywhere. Stop at a museum, 20 minutes long, handful of exhibits. Pyramids interesting, more walking than we were told in the excursion description. Lunch at a restaurant with terrible, inedible food where the wait staff found our visit an interruption of their day. Food limited and horrible, people left the table without eating. Bus ride back too fast around winding roads, again thrown against sides of the bus. Upon return necessitated a wheelchair for my wife. Terrible experience and cancelled the one for 2 days later as we could not trust it would be any different than the first one. Extremely disappointing, stay away. To the Mexican Riviera, wonderful smooth cruise, February 28 to March 10th, 2017. Beautiful ports. Stay away from the Las Colinas excursion in Manzanillo, Mexico. Horrible trip. The staff at the excursion counter was rude, curt and dismissive when we offered a complaint about our experience. Only nasty staff aboard. Special thank yous to the staff at Horizon Court, where Borys , the head waiter of Horizon Court made certain that I received a special breakfast of grapefruit and non salted potatoes from the chef, daily. He is such a wonderful man, only looking to help out a passenger with a dietary need. Always a smile and good morning from a delightful staffer, Ketut from Indonesia, and again at Michelangelo in the evening. Vesna, the buffet steward is a wonderful, friendly person, eager to serve the passenger and make the dining experience the best possible. She is stationed at the Michelangelo dining room. Also at Michelangelo is Julian Diloreanu, head waiter, always smiling and helpful in a very busy dining room. Last, but not least, your most talented waiter, Wilbert San Mateo from the Phillipines, who learned what I liked very quickly, and worked very hard to see that it was delivered. He had many,many passengers to wait upon, always with a smile and eager to serve. He is a very hard worker, and has taught his assistant from Peru, Mario De Ita to follow in his footsteps. Very professional in behavior and excellent with all the passengers and both should be uplifted to higher positions, so they may train staff under them to be as excellent as they are. We are most appreciative for their care and made dinner a very special meal. Thank you for allowing us to tell you about these fine staff.

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Nov 4, 2014

Alaska

My husband and I decided to do a cruise to Alaska for our Honeymoon and we had such high hopes because we heard this was a great cruise to go on. Alaska was beautiful, but we were both extremely disappointed with how the staff handled things when a disaster occurred. On our 4th day, we got the news about our room being flooded due to a burst pipe in the ceiling. We had just returned from a trip in Skagway and were looking forward to showering and

resting up in our room after a long day, but we found our door wide open with staff going in and out trying to dry the soaked carpet. They ripped up the carpet and had noisy air blowers underneath the carpet in our room and outside our door in the hallway. We discovered our clothes were wet, our shoes were wet, and everything in our bathroom was wet (make-up, jewelry, feminine products, dopkits, etc.) with dirty water. The staff claimed the water was clean, but the brown puddle on our bathroom floor didn't look very clean to us. The cruise director said they couldn't move us to a new room because the ship was fully booked, so we were forced to stay in our room. We were also walked in on TWICE while my husband and I were being intimate despite a privacy thing on our door. I was so embarrassed. The next day, despite noisy airblowers and about 20 towels lining the carpet, the carpet still wasn't dry, and began to smell musty and like mildew. I had trouble falling asleep because of the smell. Princess said they would refund us for 1 day but we said the last 3 days of our honeymoon were ruined. We spent a lot of money on this cruise and flew all the way from Florida to catch this cruise from Seattle. We spent money at the spa and money on the excursions and could not believe that they were not willing to compensate us for the rest of our trip. Pretty good food on the ship. It was the most pleasant part of our trip. Smallish cabin, but we had a nice view.. Boring shipboard activities. This is a cruise for senior citizens. None of the events looked interesting. Misty fjords seaplane excursion was cool. Zip-lining was fun, but short and not as exciting as the zip lining I've done in Costa Rica. 2 different glacier excursions (dog-sledding and trekking) were cancelled. :( We didn't get to do what we were looking forward to so we did whale watching instead. Cool, but not as exciting.

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Jul 24, 2013

Transatlantic

Was a great cruise. Lots of activities was surprised by the beauty of the azores. Fabulous cabin with lots of space. Good food overall. Love the trivia games, but crafts filled up and couldn't get in. We tend to go out on our own instead of booking tours, never miss the Azores. The Azores was an amazing stop, we didn't expect it to be but was an awesome place.

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Jul 10, 2013

south american grand adventure

All 6 cruises have been on the Princess Line, Dawn, Crown, Sapphire, Sea, Grand. I can't say one thing bad about the service we have received. Would not cruise any other line. Have 3 more booked. Iceland, Caribbean, and Grand Mediterrean. Food for the most part is good. Love the internatrional cafe, the pizza place where they will make whatever you wish. Staterooms have always been good. One must know where your room is, its called

location, location, location. Good. Most of the excursions have been very good, except for Hawaii, when one of the Robert excursions bus drivers took us up to Pali Point and told us to go to the bathroom in the bushes. He did not know how to time bathroom breaks etc. Of course he was not Hawaiian, but Italian. All excursions on the South America trip were great, with the exception of the Estancia in Buenos Aires. A total dump, although the pictures of the place look great. Wonderful, except for Buenos Aires, Its a dump, so stay away if you can. The glaciers were wonderful, and so were the other countries that we visited. Chili, Peru, Argentina, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Cabo. Loved Chili the best. Santiago beautiful.

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Jul 10, 2013

south american grand adventure

All 6 cruises have been on the Princess Line, Dawn, Crown, Sapphire, Sea, Grand. I can't say one thing bad about the service we have received. Would not cruise any other line. Have 3 more booked. Iceland, Caribbean, and Grand Mediterrean. Food for the most part is good. Love the internatrional cafe, the pizza place where they will make whatever you wish. Staterooms have always been good. One must know where your room is, its called

location, location, location. Good. Most of the excursions have been very good, except for Hawaii, when one of the Robert excursions bus drivers took us up to Pali Point and told us to go to the bathroom in the bushes. He did not know how to time bathroom breaks etc. Of course he was not Hawaiian, but Italian. All excursions on the South America trip were great, with the exception of the Estancia in Buenos Aires. A total dump, although the pictures of the place look great. Wonderful, except for Buenos Aires, Its a dump, so stay away if you can. The glaciers were wonderful, and so were the other countries that we visited. Chili, Peru, Argentina, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Cabo. Loved Chili the best. Santiago beautiful.

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By Lam_CR

  • New

Nov 26, 2012

Trans-Atlantic

We have never been on cruise in which we've had a bad time. Cost & value is always a consideration for us and we rarely pay for any optional services or meals onboard. We treat the ship as a floating hotel and book based mainly on itinerary. While we had a good time, comparison to last years cruise always came up for us. When reading reviews I realize they are opinions and to decipher how they will affect us is sometimes difficult. I have 35+ years

experience in customer service, restaurant, & convention service so I may be more critical in those areas. So this review will compare my Princess Grand 2012 TA vs. NCL Pearl 2011 PC and hopefully will be helpful to 1st time cruisers. I will add more detailed info on the Trans-Atlantic cruise in the regular review section. I felt the comparisons are valid because of the following similarities: • Size of vessel • Length of cruise • Number of sea days • Passenger demographics • Time of year • Relocation cruises Summary: I wouldn't hesitate to cruise either line again but was "underwhelmed" by Princess based on reviews that I have read. My opinion may change when I hit Elite status but as an "everyday Joe" looking for value I felt more welcomed and a better atmosphere on the Pearl. I know for sure the quality of Princess services have declined since my sailing on the sister ship Golden a few years ago. Buffet dining: Breakfast was your standard pre-cooked fare with the exception of Lox and a juice dispenser. Lox and juice is available on request but was a standard offering on the Pearl. The pearl also cooked your eggs and omelets to order. Lunch and dinner quality at the buffet on both lines were good and comparable however the service was indifferent on the Grand. You were never asked if you needed a beverage, condiment, or how the food was. I asked for ketchup in the seating area at breakfast and they told me to go back to the buffet line to fill out a ramekin. Coffee and Ice Tea was inconsistent in dispensing a quality product. Strength of the beverage varied at all times. It is my belief that the Grand uses a liquid coffee concentrate while the Pearl grinds and prepares by the batch. Snack time and desserts were a higher quality and the selection better on the Grand buffet line. Sanitation procedures at the buffet was very lax in my opinion as there was no enforcement of sanitizer use and the changing of thongs and serving utensils were non existent. Even when there was someone at the entrance they did not say anything like the "washy, washy" staff on the Pearl. MDR dining: Breakfast and lunch on both lines were good and comparable. Dinner menus were not very good at the beginning of the cruise but got a little better as the cruise went on. I say this because it was not very difficult to choose an item and I did not have one dinner in which I had every course which is a cruise first for me. While most of the meals did not meet the exotic description on the menu there were a few meals that were quite memorable such as escargot, lobster tail, and prime rib. Unfortunately the lobster and the prime rib were on the same evening so one was the appetizer and the other a main course. This was my only dual entrée evening on the cruise which is also a first for me. It is my opinion that the inclusion of at least one vegan, and one "spa" item in each menu category diluted the choices for the mainstream cruisers. I grew tired of the 1980s pepper spiel pretty quickly. Other Dining: Pizza on the Grand is the best that I have had on a cruise. A good tasty crust and ample toppings made to order. The burgers are better on the pearl as they offer hot condiments such as grilled mushrooms and onions. The mustard had a Dijon flavor even though it looks like the standard yellow mustard. I was also concerned to see the cook turn his hamburgers with the same utensil he used to turn chicken. This is a food safe sin in restaurants The British pub lunch was outstanding on the days that it was offered in the Crown Grill. The "steak N kidney pie" and the "bread N butter pudding" were highlights. The Panini and salad snacks offered on the Grand's deck 5 are superior to the Pearl's "Blue Lagoon" cafe. Afternoon tea was superior on the Grand but the scones on the Pearl are better. Wine: Selection and pricing are similar on both cruise lines. The $25 Princess wine tastings are better than any wine tastings I've experienced on NCL. The best wine value on both lines is a French 'Chateaunerf du Pape' as they are priced similarly on land. The most overpriced wines are the $25 entry levels which are triple the land price. Anytime Dining: On my next Princess cruise I would not chose anytime dining again and would choose the second seating instead. They encouraged you to make a reservation on the day of dinner by calling a number but the staff never accepted it and told you to just show up. There seemed to be to be always a wait to be seated and they never checked to see if you had anytime or a scheduled seating. With a second seating I think I would always have a seat by 8:30. Freestyle is the pioneer! Stateroom: The Grand cabin is larger and the floor plan more user friendly than the Pearl. The Grand steward was good but not as meticulous, friendly, or outgoing as the Pearl. The cabin had a phone that didn't work and I had to request a replacement. I needed the phone for wake up calls as well as weather info. No towel art on the Grand but done nightly on the Pearl. Room service: I have never had a room service issue until this cruise. With a broken phone, I ordered room service for 6:30-7:00 delivery as a wake-up call. I just happened to get up early and waited. We waited until 7:15 and it never arrived so we left a note on the door to cancel as we had an 8:00am excursion planned. Upon our return the steward told us that room service had left a bottle of champagne and canapé for the inconvenience. Good recovery for a potentially disastrous day. Cruise staff: I found the cruise staff average and indifferent at best on the Grand. There were cancelled activities, no shows and tardiness to activities and a general lack of enthusiasm. I also found the arrogance of the cruise director may have set the example. The group on the Pearl was heads and shoulders above the Grand group. A failure to correctly announce a "clock rollback" by the CD almost cost us to miss an excursion and the corrected announcement came after some tours had left. Activities and lectures: I believe the activities and the cruise staff go hand in hand. If it was not for the golf related activities there would have been some boring sea days. My wife felt 4 days at sea seemed longer than on the Pearl because of the lack of varied activities. The "scholar at sea" lectures were a joke and just selling opportunities for the art, camera, and jewelry departments. Casino: The staff on both lines was attentive, patient, and welcoming. There were lots of Blackjack, Slot, and Hold'em tournaments during the passage. November 4, 2012 After eating we headed ashore and took a cab to the car rental agency. We were the last to arrive so our vehicle didn’t get a Garmin (English) and it was equipped with a stock French GPS. The manual Peugeot 208 VTI that we got handled well and was easy to drive. All the paperwork was completed shortly after 9:00 am and we headed onto the expressway for the town of Bayeux to see the famous Tapestry depicting William the conquerors conflict with Harold and his rise to the throne. The audio tour and museum was surprisingly interesting and we spent one and a half hours there. Our next stop was the cathedral of Notre Dame across the street. It was closed for renovations but its magnificence could be appreciated from the exterior. We had time for a quick stroll through town and stopped at a local patisserie for snacks on the drive to Juno Beach. We just wanted a croissant but we also left with a cheese stick, apple tart, and a dark & white chocolate loaf. All of the items were tasty but the chocolate loaf and apple tart were items we have never experienced before. We arrived in the town of Courseulles-sur-Mer and headed for the Juno Beach Centre. We took the self-guided tour and spent an hour in the museum before heading to the beach area. The tour gave us an appreciation of Canada's involvement on the D-Day landing at Juno Beach. There are monuments and war artefacts left throughout the area and while it's sentimental to Canadians, and the older French people it's become a sail surfing beach for the locals. The Canadian guide working at the centre suggested that we visit the Beny-sur-Mer Cemetery for Canadians. He said the French government allowed the loved ones of the buried soldiers to post a message on the tombstones. We took his advice and drove to an area that really was open for miles without any buildings or distractions. It was quite moving to read some of the 2500 headstones and that the age of most of them were in their early twenties. We paid our respect and headed for the drive to the Pegasus Bridge Memorial. It was a "flyby" stop on our way back to Le Havre. We dropped the car off at 6:30 and headed back to the ship. Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth and not an actual tapestry. It is nearly 70 meters (230 ft) long, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings. The tapestry consists of some fifty scenes with colored woolen yarns. It is likely that it was commissioned by Bishop Odo, William's half-brother, and made in England and not Bayeux in the 1070s. In 1729 the hanging was rediscovered by scholars at a time when it was being displayed annually in Bayeux Cathedral. Juno Beach Centre is a museum and cultural centre, which opened at Courseulles-sur-Mer, France on June 6, 2003. The Centre presents the war effort made by all Canadians, civilian and military alike, both at home and on the various fronts during the Second World War, as well as the manifold faces of contemporary Canadian society Beny-sur-Mer Cemetery was created as a permanent resting place for Canadian soldiers who had been temporarily interred in smaller plots close to where they fell. France granted Canada a perpetual concession to the land occupied by the cemetery. The graves contain soldiers from the Canadian 3rd Division and 15 Airmen killed in the Battle of Normandy. Pegasus Memorial is a memorial to the first British soldiers to arrive in Normandy who captured the Pegasus Bridge from the Nazis. November 6, 2012 We took just over an hour to get there passing many mussel farms in Vigo Bay along the way. We were dropped off at a bus depot and walk up to the Cathedral Plaza. We took a brief walk along the NE road and looked at some shops before heading to the Cathedral for noon Mass. We watched the Mass till its completion and noticed many pilgrims who made the long journey to the cathedral. We started for the public market and got ourselves lost but many of the locals volunteered to help. When we finally arrived at the market it was closing down as they are only open till siesta time. Many of the shops were closed for siesta but many stayed open for the cruise tours. We headed back to the Cathedral area shortly after 2:00 pm and spent the remaining time visiting the tomb of St. James and shopping near the plaza area. At 3:00 pm we were missing 2 passengers and had to wait before making the journey back to the ship. The 2 finally showed up at 3:15 and we managed to just make the 4:30 all aboard. Santiago De Campostela has its origin in the shrine of Saint James the Great, now the city's cathedral, as destination of the Way of St. James, a leading Catholic pilgrimage route originated in the 9th century. In 1985 the city's Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. November 7, 2012 We had to make our way to the Lisbon Welcome centre at Commerce Plaza to pick up our Lisboa cards which I ordered on line. The card allows us free admission to 27 attractions as well as transit fare for a 24 hour period. We took tram 15e to the Belem Tower and spent an hour touring the site. We climbed the narrow staircase to the top rampart and it was a bit claustrophobic in the tight quarters. After an hour touring the sight we headed for the Monument of the Discoveries. It was such a beautiful structure and we were so impressed with the carvings. Our next planned site was the Jeronimos Monastery as it was listed as a must see on trip Adviser. We didn't know much about it before our visit but it was pretty spectacular in its gothic glory. On our way to the national coach museum we stopped and purchased a couple of Portuguese egg tarts which apparently are a must have when in Portugal. They are similar to Chinese egg tarts but I find the pastry better. They serve it with a dusting of powdered sugar. Delicious! The Coach Museum was like the Royal Mews in London. Portuguese royalty must of loved coaches as there were so many in the museum. On completion of our visit we took bus #714 back towards the cruise terminal shortly after 2:00 pm. We arrived at the pier area earlier than we expected so we took a stroll down the waterfront boardwalk and stopped at a restaurant to use their free Wi-Fi. I got wired on an Americano, an Espresso, and tiramisu. We decided to head back on board at 4:00 pm as we wanted to be on deck for the sail away. The harbour area in Lisbon is spectacular and it's actually too bad that it was foggy and misty. Many were disappointed that we couldn't see the statue of Jesus on the Redeemer monument. Belem Tower was built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbour, the Belem Tower was the starting point for many of the voyages of discovery, and for the sailors it was the last sight of their homeland. Monument of the Discoveries was built on the north bank of the Tagus River in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. It represents a three-sailed ship ready to depart, with sculptures of important historical figures such as King Manuel I carrying an armillary sphere, poet Camões holding verses from The Lusiads, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Cabral, and several other notable Portuguese explorers, crusaders, monks, cartographers, and cosmographers, following Prince Henry the Navigator at the prow holding a small vessel. The only female is queen Felipa of Lancaster, mother of Henry the navigator, the brain of the discoveries. Jeronimos Monastery is located near the shore of the parish of Belem, in Lisbon, Portugal. The monastery is one of the most prominent monuments of the Manueline-style architecture (Portuguese late-Gothic) in Lisbon, classified in 1983 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site National Coach Museum is located in the Belem district of Lisbon, in Portugal. The museum has one of the finest collections of historical carriages in the world, being one of the most visited museums of the city. November 9, 2012 The clocks moved back again and we gained another hour sleep. We got up at 9:00 am to have breakfast and the ship was already docked. Ponte Delgada is a town on the island of Sao Pedro in the Azores belonging to Portugal. The Azores are to Europe what Hawaii is to North America. The ship was docked near the town centre at a new cruise terminal so we decided to take a short hike to Fort Sao Bras as it was a turn of the century fort that also housed the Military Museum of the Azores. We spent over an hour visiting the fort and museum before taking a trek to the "larger mall". While the mall may be small but DW did manage to find 2 pairs of knee high boots and a pair of ankle boots. At 2:00 we decided to head back to the ship by taking the narrow side streets and exploring the town. We stumbled onto the "smaller mall" and it had free internet so we stopped and I connected to delete my spams and check Face book. As it was only 3:00 pm with "all aboard" being at 5:30 pm, we returned to the ship for a late lunch before heading back ashore to use the internet. The internet was free at the local Burger King so I took the opportunity to update and post my journal. The espresso that BK severed was quite good. DW checked out the boardwalk area and brought me back a Portuguese egg custard tart to see if I liked them. They were as good as the ones in Lisbon so she bought some more to take aboard. We boarded at 5:00 and prepared to be on deck for the sail-away. The sail-away into the sunset was a spectacular end to a wonderful day in port. Ponte Delgada is a city and municipality on the island of São Miguel in the archipelago of the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal. It includes 44,403 residents in the urban area, and approximately 20,113 inhabitants in the three central parishes that comprise the historical city: São Pedro, São Sebastião, São José Fort Sao Bras was built in the 16th century to defend against pirate attacks, São Brás Fort was the most important fortress of all the existing fortresses in the city, strategically placed west from the narrow earth tongue that later gave name to Ponta Delgada. This fort has a monument dedicated to the seamen who perished in World War I. In present day, this fort is used by the Command of Azores Military Zone. It houses Azores Military Museum, which presents an interesting collection. It was classified National Trust Building. November 14, 2012 LAND HO! Bermuda West End! (King's Wharf) After 4 sea days we were pretty excited about getting on shore to explore Bermuda. It took longer than expected for customs to clear the ship so we got off at 9:30. All aboard is at 3:30 so that gave us 6 hours in port. Lot of the passengers were taking the 40 minute bus or the 25 minute ferry to the city of Hamilton. I asked at the visitors centre about Hamilton sites and was told the cathedral was worth seeing but mainly it was for the duty free shopping. We decided that the Royal Naval Dockyards area close to where the ship was docked was worth exploring. We had docked close to a fort and I wanted to head for that area. The area provided a free shuttle from the ship to 5 locations in the area so we took it and stopped at the final location which was the fort. The fort surprisingly housed the National Museum of Bermuda as well as the Dolphin Quest attraction. We took over an hour checking out the grounds. The ground was covered with sheep droppings as there was a flock roaming around freely. There was a lot of crap on the ground and we forgot to ask why the sheep were there. We went into the Commissioner's House on top of the hill and discovered the museum as well as the Prisoners in Paradise, Shipwreck Island, and Hall of History exhibits. We spent close to 3 hours there so we headed for the other stops on the shuttle route by foot. The stops were basically shopping opportunities for tourists. Everything was pretty expensive but there was a deal on Bacardi Rum cake. We were going to buy a couple of boxes except the label said they were made in the USA and not Bermuda. We bought a hours worth of internet time from the visitors venter ($3) for the last hour on shore to access to check emails etc. West End Kings Wharf is the original cruise ship berth or the pier in Royal Naval Dockyard of Bermuda where the large ships dock. The Dockyard is the largest cruise port in the island. It is located at the western tip of Bermuda in Sandy's Parish at Ireland Island (North). Kings Wharf is used as the docking destination by most of the cruise lines operating to Bermuda. A second berth Heritage Wharf was added in May 2009 next to Kings Wharf. So two large cruise ships can now dock here. The Dockyard once served as an outpost for the British Royal Navy, and has come a long way to become the busiest passenger ship port in the island with great many tourist attractions. National Museum of Bermuda The earlier Bermuda Maritime Museum located at the dockyard in Sandy's, has been expanded, exhibits and programs enhanced making it the National Museum of Bermuda. It was housed in the 10-acre area of the fort Keep. The Bermuda government decided to transfer the Casemates Barracks, additional buildings and fortifications to the existing Maritime Museum giving it a national stature and covering an expanded area of 15 acres of land. The former Maritime Museum had been instrumental in restoring the Commissioner's House and other historic buildings within the Keep Fort through a painstaking process. With the present expansion to the Bermuda's National Museum, there have been many enhancements to the exhibits, programs, nature of its research and publications.

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Mar 19, 2012

Eastern Caribbean

I was looking forward to seeing the "new" Grand Princess and I was not disappointed. I thought the ship was pretty the first time I went on her and she is now stunning in the public areas. The week went so quickly and we did not have a chance to try or see everything. I want to address the different venues as they were all different experiences. The International Cafe is a 5-star for casual eating. The shrimp and chicken salads were scrumptious

as were the panninis and soup. Great for a stress free lunch in the atrium and watch the Flamenco dancers perform. The buffet had it's hits and misses but overall was decent. I was very disappointed in the main dining room. The entree's were ok but the accompanying sides were so cheap and uninspired. They served white rice and zucchini with the "lobster" and shrimp. Did not enhance the meal at all. The room was clean, if dated. The TV was a flat screen. The bathroom was clean w/o any mold. Plenty of room for our stuff. Did bingo and did not win. Liked the casino and broke even. Princess Pop Star was actually very good and we enjoyed it. The best excursion we did was Orient Beach with lunch. Forget the 2 hr excursion in San Juan with shopping. It was a total waste of time. The excursion tour in St Thomas was boring. We rented a bungalow but it is a total waste of money as is the extra $25/pp for them to bring you lunch. GRAND PRINCESS EASTERN CARIBBEAN CRUISE This was my third Princess and my tenth cruise overall. For my friend Jan, it was her first ever cruise and she couldn't have been more impressed. We left the hubbies home for a girls' week of fun. Stayed at the Embassy Suites 1 day pre-cruise which was an excellent choice. We had booked Princess transfers and the move from the airport to the hotel was seamless. Our room wasn't ready so we left our bags with the bell desk and set off in search of lunch since breakfast had been at the airport around 6:30 AM. Jan had some recommendations from a co-worker who had lived in Ft. Lauderdale so we chose Anthony's oven-fired pizza. Not knowing where it was, we took the shuttle for $3/pp. It turned out not to be very far from the hotel. We decided on sharing a large salad and ordered a personal pizza each. It was way too much for us to finish so we took the leftovers with us. The shuttle driver had given us his card so we could call for a pickup but he was stuck in a traffic jam on RT 75. Looking at the street signs, I figured out that we were only a few blocks from 17th Street so we walked back to the hotel w/o any problems. There was a CVS pharmacy right on the corner which was great since I had forgotten a few personal items. Back at the hotel, our room was ready so we were happy to sit down in the air-conditioning and put our feet up for a few minutes. I don't know what it was, but we both were complaining of swollen feet which made walking around rather uncomfortable. After a brief rest, we took off in search of the Total Wine shop. Everyone said it was right behind the hotel but what they don't say is that there is quite a nice strip mall there and the wine store was in the far left corner. I even had some coupons to use. Purchasing one bottle apiece seemed to be the limit of our alcohol consumption. Proceeding to the Dollar Store which is kitty-corner from the front of the hotel in another strip mall, we got gift bags for our Meet and Greet gift exchange. At this point, it was getting dark and we were getting tired. I was cranky because my feet hurt so we headed back to the hotel for the free evening cocktail hour. One drink each seemed to satisfy our thirst and made us very relaxed. Still full from the pizza, we opted out of dinner and headed back to our room for a shower and bed. Setting the wake up call for 8 AM, we were up early and started getting cleaned up for breakfast. Our breakfast was great with made to order omelets and other things. The letter from the cruise line told us to have our bags outside our rooms by 10 AM and be in the lobby at noon for check in with the Princess reps. They were late so everyone was milling around getting antsy to leave. General chaos reigned as everyone tried to get their health forms and to identify their luggage for transport. This was the only problem with using the Princess transfers. Once the buses arrived and everyone had their luggage loaded, it was much better. Dropped us at the correct pier where we took our carry-ons through Security and checked in to receive our room keycards. We stopped for the boarding photo and then went up the correct ramp according to our cabin number. Found our room without any problem and dropped our stuff. Our cabin attendant was Savone from VietNam and he got everything we asked for; robes, top sheets, extra hangers, 2 tote bags. He was quick with cleaning the room when we were at breakfast and did a superb job. We were in Caribe 308. The room looked identical to the one I had previously on the Grand in 2008. I was disappointed in the balcony. Although it was quite spacious, there was no rubber matting and the 2 chairs were recliners but no foot stools so they were actually not very comfortable. The reason that was given to other cruisers for the lack of matting was weight which is ridiculous when you realize the ship lost 4 Tons with the removal of Skywalkers. What was 113,000 RT in 2008, is now 109,000 RT. The probable reason is cost cutting. Jan wanted to do the "Treasure Hunt" card we were given upon boarding. It required you to find different departments on the ship and receive a stamp for each one. We dropped the cards into a box by the pool for a drawing. The nice thing about it was it makes you become familiar with the ship. Jan was totally blown away by the beauty and size of the Grand. She kept saying she felt she was in the first class section of the Titanic! This was the only frame of reference that she had to cruising. We ran up to the Sanctuary to reserve some space for a sea day only to be told we had to be there @ 8 AM on the day desired. International Cafe won our lunch choice for shrimp and chicken salad. While eating we heard the first announcement for the muster drill telling us to bring our life jackets with us. When we got to our room, the luggage was there so we dragged it in and got ready for the muster drill. With the Costa Concordia disaster so fresh in everyone's minds, I have to say this was the most attentive muster drill I have ever attended. Next up was the sail away by the pool with the band and lots of fun and excitement. Our names were not drawn for the Treasure Hunt but it was fun anyway. Got our specialty drinks and watched the ship leave the pier. Back to the room to unpack and clean up for dinner. We had Anytime Dining and this was the first time I had tried it. I think it worked very well and I would do it again. First night at 7:00 was very busy but we got a pager and only had to wait 20 minutes. We agreed to share a table at every dinner and met lots of very nice people. I was wondering how Jan would like the menus as she is a picky eater. Princess now has "Down-home" entrees on the menu and Jan ate them at least 3 times. There was quite a range of ages onboard from a 6 month old baby on up. It was nice because the late night activities were well attended. The Princess Pop Star competition was quite good and we really enjoyed attending it. Some very talented people were there. We went to the casino and I started out with a bang by winning almost $200. Jan won $30 on the slots. Sunday was a sea day and One5 was the location for our CC meeting. The Meet and Greet was a big success. We met the Captain, Purser, Maitre'd, Executive Chef and Trent, Customer Relations. ( A real cutie!) Jan and I got our pictures taken with Captain Bilton who was so nice and accommodating. We met lots of nice people and loved crossing paths with them all during the trip. Tried the pool that day but it was rather windy and had some sprinkles. Of course we went to Bingo at least 5 times and never did win but we had fun anyway. Our first formal night we had to wait a short time with the pager but sat in the Piazza and watched the fashion show. Turned out we got a table for 2! Lots of jokes about our "romantic" dinner. Saw the comedian show and it was ok. Lots of people were walking out. Back to the casino and I won big again. Jan hit the slots for $65. Monday was a partial sea/tour day. We arrived in San Juan @ 4 PM and we had planned a tour. Jan had never been to any of these places so we did a tour at each stop. In SJ, we went to San Cristobal fort for a self-guided tour and then a short stop in Old SJ for shopping. Jan loves to shop so she was in hog heaven in every port. Back to the ship for dinner and see a show but don't remember which one. We were too pooped to stay up too late and the casino did not open until 11 PM. Saw the first part of Princess Pop Star and thought it was very entertaining. Tuesday was St. Maarten and this was the best tour we took. Booked the Orient Beach stop with lunch which was very good and 2 drinks. The beach was very nice and the water had big waves which I love!. I was sorry I didn't have a boogie board to ride them. We come from Chicago where not only is our land flat but so is our water. Lake Michigan is not known for it's surf. LOL! Going back to the ship we could have gotten off the bus to go shopping but we had done some with the local vendors and were anxious to get the sand out of our bathing suits. Another nice dinner and back to the casino again. This time Jan won $300 on the slots and I didn't know when to quit when I had doubled my money and had a loss. Wednesday was St. Thomas and we thought we were being so good to get up at 6:30 to we could eat breakfast before going on our tour to Magen's Bay. Thinking we had lots of time, we decided to go to the dining room for breakfast and as usual, were chatting away with our table mates while eating our meal. Excused ourselves to go back to the room and get our suits on for the tour. Looking at my watch, I was shocked to see it was 8:39 as our tour left at 8:20! We threw on our suits and ran off the ship to see no one waiting for us. Jan was for grabbing a cab to Magen's Bay and catching up with the tour. At this point, it started raining and I was not too keen on that idea. Back to the Shore Excursion desk where they were so kind to book us on another tour leaving in an hour. Changed out of our suits and were on time for this tour which took us around part of the island and to Blackbeard's castle and it's 99 steps down to street level. From there we hit street level and all the shops in downtown Charlotte Amalie. Our best stop was Mr. Tablecloth where we both scored great Christmas linens. Jan really wanted to go to the flea market to score some deals and I was ok for a while but, still suffering with swollen feet I headed back to the ship by taxi. I sat on the balcony and finally opened up my bottle of wine. Jan came back just long enough to get more cash and run back to the shops on the pier to make one more purchase. We stood on our balcony and watched the Eurodam back out first while we waited our turn. Hearing some cries of "wait, wait, don't leave without us" directed our attention to the entrance to the pier to see several young women running to our ship. I heard someone on a balcony above us saying she heard the ship was missing 6 passengers. The "missing" made it to the gangplank where they boarded and were duly checked in. Back to the casino where Jan won another $300 and I was chasing my money. Saw the Motor City show and liked it but everyone who saw the Magician said he was fabulous. Sorry we missed him. Stayed up late to watch a movie in the Vista lounge; "The Debt" which neither of us had seen before. Thursday was our last sea day and I ran upstairs at 8 AM to reserve our spot in the Sanctuary from 1-5 PM. Jan got her lounger in the sun but I am definitely a shade girl and I had trouble finding and keeping a spot. Most of the loungers are set up for 2 together so the odd single person is hard to accommodate. Everyone talked about how great the service was up there but honestly, no one came around with water spritzers, I-pods or menus. I asked for a menu and finally got one. Jan and I both ordered something and waited quite a while for it to arrive. Turns out one of the waiters dropped a whole tray full of lunches and they had to re-make everything. I wanted the tuna pate with pita bread but the "tuna" was not what I received. Vlade from Macedonia was knocking himself out to please us. I mentioned the food error and he went to get us 2 additional entrees as well as to replace my mistaken order. We ended up with 3 lunches! We went to the Captain's Circle cocktail party in the Vista lounge that I was invited to as a repeat cruiser and got a free drink and snacks. I have learned not to accept the drinks the bar staff is pushing at these things and wait for someone to ask me what I want. The Captain was very welcoming and mentioned that there were so many repeaters so they had 3 of these meetings scheduled. Off to our last formal night and sat with one couple from Texas and 2 couples from Canada. There were 7 lobster dinners and 1 short ribs. (guess who?) I was very disappointed in this meal as I think they feel that the lobster is the star of the plate. It was served with white rice and carrots. This is an elegant dinner? I thought the presentation was not that great. There was a sorbet for the Chef's Special night which I passed on as I am diabetic and thought it would be too sweet. No one at the table liked the combination of flavors, especially with a sprig of thyme in it. Back to the casino where they finally got us good and we left with our tails between our legs. Saw the show British Invasion and it was not bad but the usual cruise ship show. Friday was our Princess Cays day and we had rented a bungalow. Unfortunately or not, we slept in and had a late breakfast. Our priority tender tickets were a moot point since almost everyone who wanted to be off the ship was already there. Jan had popped for the Gourmet Lunch which they wanted to serve us immediately. We prevailed upon them to wait a little time. The appetizer alone was enough for a meal. They brought 8 dinner rolls for the 2 of us! Vlade was our server at the bungalow also and brought us plates loaded with everything on the buffet table. There was enough food for 4 people. We had a table with 4 small chairs in the bungalow and 4 loungers outside it. I was never a big fan of the beach there and even though we both had surf shoes we did not really venture too far into the water because of all the rocks. After Orient Beach, this is actually a come-down. Princess really has a huge facility there with 3 different buffet areas, very nice clean bathrooms and some vendors. Jan wanted to do her last bit of shopping so we ventured outside the gates to the small area of vendors there. It was the usual tourist stuff but Jan found some jewelry for her granddaughter. I was all shopped out by that time. The line for the tenders was long but moved fast. It was good to get back on the ship. Being the last night for our cruise, it was a bittersweet ending. We went for anytime dinner and ended up at a table for 4 which we shared with one of the couples from our first night! We decided to head back to the cabin just to get everything packed so we could enjoy the last evening. Back to the casino for one last chance and joined all the other losers. One of the nice things about playing the table games, you get to know several people because you all are there together every evening. We crashed for the last time and set a wake up time for 7 AM. Our last breakfast was in the buffet and we shared that with one of the couples from our formal night dinner. Jan had just discovered the chocolate croissants and grabbed one for the wait in the airport. Our disembarkation group met in Explorers lounge and we were only there for about 15 minutes before we were called to disembark. Found our luggage, went through customs and headed for the bus to the airport. While we were sitting waiting for our flight we heard people talking about an outbreak of illness on other ships. So glad it wasn't on the Grand! Hubby picked us up at Midway Airport and our vacation was over but not forgotten. All in all, we had a great time and Jan can't wait to take her next one. We are hoping to get our nursing school classmates together for a 4-5 day reunion cruise next year.

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Jan 18, 2012

Southern Caribbean

As an experienced Princess cruiser, I was disappointed in this cruise. This is the first time I've EVER been able to say that I was not happy with a Princess cruise but there have, it appears to me, to be major changes since my last cruise on Princess just one year ago. The overall quality of the food has dropped, the condistion of the ship is not what is was and the staff attitude was not the happy people as in the past. Many were obviously not happy

with Princess and you could see it. One staff member told me that all they are doing is cutting cost everywhere and he blamed it on Carnival. I am thinking about trying RCCL again after a few years exclusively with Princess. The food was mediocre at best. We had our traditional dining as usual except as it turned out, it wasn't as usual. We were confirmed for the 6:00 seating, however, when we received our cruise card as we boarded, we noticed it said 5:30. As it turned out, we were seated in the anytime dining room because they had no table for two in the traditional dining room. We were told our table would only be held for 15 minutes before being released for anytime dining. The food was noticably smaller in portion then in the past and tasted overall like it was microwaved. The old days where the excellent food of Princess were gone on this cruise. Interestingly enough, my son and his wife were on the Sapphire Princess at the same time we were on the Grand. We all had the same stories to tell about the food and ship condition. In fact, we filled out our Princess post cruise e-mail survey together, he for Sapphire and me for Grand. Neither of us rated the cruise very good. He received a phone call the next day. It's been a month and so far, no call from Princess to me. The stateroom was as I would normally expect it to be with the exception of all of the rust on the balcony. Onboard activities were good. I've seen better but no complaints here. We absolutely love De Palm Island in Aruba. Unfortunately, it rained that day but we still had a great time. Never miss De Palm Island whenever on a cruise. The Bushwacker in St. Thomas at Paradise Point is a don't miss! Beautiful views and they know how to make a drink. Plan on at least two Bushwackers. Whatever you do, don't miss this tour. We had to pass san Juan due to an engine issue on the ship and went streight to our second port but overall the itinerary was great. Just very disappointed in all of the rust on the ship and the mediocre food. I'm not sure if Carnival is trying to reposition the Princess brand as a lower end brand or what but it certainly was a much lower quality cruise then just last year. For the first time ever, after two weeks, I was ready to get off the ship. I hope they work out the issues within Princess because I really have always loved that company.

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Nov 28, 2011

SOUTHERN GRAND CARRIBEAN

14 DAY CARRIBEAN. WORST CRUISE YET, SHIP WAS DUE FOR SHIPYARD, 84 PEOPLE CAUGHT VIRUS INCLUDING MYSELF,QUARENTINED FOR 3 DAYS,SHIP WAS VERY UNCLEAN,NO SANITIZING DONE DAILY UNTIL AFTER VIRUS WAS OUT. HOT ,IN DINING AREAS, WIFE CHOKED ON A PIECE OF METAL STILL ATTATCHED TO HER GREENS AT DINNER,NO APOLOGIES,JUST 4 CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRIES IN OUR ROOM AT BEDTIME. WROTE SEVERAL LETTERS AND EMAILS WITH NO RETURN COMMENTS OR APOLOIGIES.VERY DISSATISFIED,WILL

NEVER CRUISE PRINCESS AGAIN.THEY GOT MY MONEY AND THAT WAS IT. EVERY BREAKFAST HAD TO ASK FOR CERTAIN BEVERAGES,WHEN WE COULD FIND A WAITER. BEST PART OF THE SHIP BEING I HAD TO STAY IN IT NOT WILLINGLY. WENT OUT ON OUR OWN. SAVED A TON OF MONEY. BUT WITH OTHER COUPLES. DONT GO ALONE.

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Aug 8, 2011

Med

Had a billiant holiday,from the embarkment to the disembarkment, which was so well organised and made our holiday stress free.Meet some lovely people, and lovely staff, who were always willing to go the extra mile, and make you feel special.I do feel they are exploited with the hours they have to work, as they all work extremely hard showing repect and concern to each and every passenger. (I cannot rate them enough) I do have concerns that the ships

are beginning to lose that extra special quality, with the clientel that are affording these cruises, by giving out late offers, as their were families that caused problems to others, with unruly children. Remember you can take on your own wine etc, in your cases. This is not taken away from you. Also if you want to stop your gratitudes and tip to whom you want do so quietly, where no eyes are watching, as we are not sure that they get the full amount given. We ate in the Michealangelo restaurant on any time dining, which suited us extremely well. We never encountered any waiting and mosly had the table we requested for. It was Excellent service, and Excellent variety of high standard cuisine. Meet some really lovely waiters and waitress, who could not do enough for us. EXCELLENT We had a inside cabin on plaza deck, which was, comfortable, clean, and was adequate for our needs and would definately ask for it again. It was there if you needed. We used the gym, which was excellent and joined in some of the quizez, which were fun. Felt the entertainment was poor and needed stronger and more professional crew, who could at least sing!!!! The sail aways were appalling and working in ths industry felt it needed people who could at least engage with the passengers and get the ship rocking!! The princess dancers and singers show got better as the week went on,pity it didn't start like this. The shows on the p&o ships were of a much higher calibre. Excellent organization and very good advice, although very pricey, and only did one and the rest independently.

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Jul 14, 2010

Western Mediteranean

Will we go on another trip like this? Probably - but perhaps I think we will allow time for this one to wear off first. Apart from a one-way trip on the QEII to New York this was our first proper cruise and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The Grand Princess visited seven west Mediterranean ports in a fortnight. Firstly, the good points: - We were advised of embarkation times at Southampton of 1 - 3 pm, but not to arrive until 2 pm to avoid

queues. We spent 30 minutes sitting in the car in the traffic queue at the terminal, and a further 90 minutes queuing for passport and boarding detail checks. The timing was fortuitous because earlier arrivals claimed to have spent at least two hours in the queue. We were on board by 4.05 pm with a further 30 minutes of queue behind us, and were just in time to hear the closing words from the emergency lifeboat drill being broadcast over the public address system. A cabin notice informed us that the lifeboat drill instructions would be repeated for late arrivals. Fortunately this never took place and so saved valuable time, a well judged decision by the captain as we did not need to act on this drill during the cruise. On reaching our cabin we discovered that the WC did not flush. The stewardess said this had already been reported before the ship berthed and she thought it now fixed. It took several phone calls and robust exchanges with the Purser’s Desk to establish that we considered a working WC a necessity. By 11 pm that evening the problem had been speedily and partially solved, and with hindsight gave us some needed exercise as we had a 100m walk along the corridor and down to a lower deck to use public toilets. The WC failed again a few days later, but was fixed the same day. Explanations were extremely ingenious and reflected great creativity on the part of the staff, varying from "Our technical team are looking at it", to "It's not our fault” (this last comment clearly established for us that blame for a non-working WC lies with the passengers). We discovered later that mention of the word ‘compensation’ sometimes achieves an even faster response. We had elected to make use of the two ‘Any-Time’ restaurants. This great flexibility meant we could go to the restaurants for the evening meal between 5.30 and 10.00 pm. The head waiter would then find a table, and as a group of four we were given one to ourselves on almost every occasion. The first two meals found us in a door queue that varied between 10 and 15 minutes long, but we solved this by dining later, from 8.15 pm onwards, by which time the queues had disappeared. Shipboard definitions apply in the restaurants: a 9.30 pm finish means the waiters prefer you out of the restaurant by 9.30 pm, and not that this is the time for last orders. There was also a good 24-hour self-service restaurant, but at peak times the crowd of passengers at each food counter meant that the food could get cold by the time you were back at your table. The food was superb in all restaurants and was certainly 5-star compared to the cabin accommodation which is nearer 3-star (although it has to be said that the cabins and en suite are extremely ingeniously laid out). The waiters were always very helpful and speedy and sported useful lapel badges giving name and nationality, and this positive attitude from the friendly and efficient staff was general throughout the ship. An insoluble challenge proved to be finding towel-free sun-loungers on deck after 8 am in the morning. Occasionally towels began to disappear from 4.30 pm and by 6 pm sun-loungers became pretty free, as they were of course on overcast days. This inability to sunbathe until early evening is reassuring if you worry about solar skin cancer, and should recommend the cruise to you. We saw a note that towels would be removed from sun-loungers if unattended for half-an-hour but this was never applied by the deck attendants. Maybe it’s a good case for booking cabins with balconies on the sunny side of the ship. By contrast the two shipboard theatres were full on only one occasion and when seats were available the shows were all varied and excellent. We went ashore at every port and found it easy to arrange our own transport, so we experienced ship-arranged excursions on only one occasion. Tender vessels were used at two ports and there was a longish wait with these unless you left your departure until about 10:30 am. Some of the ports are a long way from the major towns or places of tourist interest so each of the tours and shore excursions seemed expensive at £50 to £350 per couple. It would have been very useful for planning if we’d had information about each of the excursions before boarding the ship but this was not forthcoming from the travel agent (Gill’s Cruise Centre). Another distinctive feature was the three power cuts suffered by the ship in the 14 days aboard. These power cuts only lasted about 10 minutes so we considered ourselves fortunate, and they were hardly long enough to upset claustrophobia sufferers caught in an elevator in one of these outages. It was comforting to hear the captain announce that although we had lost electrical power the ship, with its electric motors, was in no danger. Our 4-strong party shared two cabins but these were not assigned until we had paid the fare, and although we asked that they be adjacent, we found that they were more than 20 cabins apart, albeit on the same deck. I realised later that this approach, far from being a disadvantage, was a great boon for mothers with young children or couples perhaps with elderly parents aboard. This “no guarantee” of adjacent cabins means that parents can have restful nights away from noisy children or over-demanding grandparents and this could clearly lead to relaxed holidays. Some 90% of the passengers were British with a few Americans (these figures are reversed on Caribbean cruises I understand), the facilities for disabled people appeared excellent and there were very few schoolchildren on board since the schools were not on vacation. Secondly, were there any bad points? Very few indeed. There is a restriction on bringing alcohol on board other than one bottle of wine, but the rule was not rigidly applied. In summary: An interesting experience; with first class facilities many of which were overcrowded; the food was superb; the staff are outstanding, helpful and friendly. Who would the cruise benefit? Certainly those with a big appetite, who like good food; those who enjoy queuing; disabled people; and especially those with their own porta-loo and sun-lounger. Will we go on another trip like this? Probably - but perhaps I think we will allow time for this one to wear off first.

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Jan 6, 2010

Caribbean

This is my 6th Princess cruise and what a dissapointment this one was - especially over the holidays. Have noticed a lot of cutbacks - everything from the quality of linens (looked very tattered and stained), to the lack of cruise brouchures for future cruise plans, the poor quality of the meat and replacement of decent fish to lesser quality (hailbut in the past versus tilapia). The evening entertainment often degenerated to Wii bowling and other

video games in the lounges. Many of the waiters had problems understanding English or their accents were so thick you couldn't understand them. The perfume boutique clerks were ultra-snotty as was the internet manager. The good part was the itinerary - even though we had bad weather starting out the trip itself went to some of the prime spots in the Caribbean. In a nutshell - substandard. We went to the steakhouse and 2 out of 3 meals were sent back; upon return one of them was still lacking in quality - the lamb chops were so gamey I couldn't eat them. Not a great deal when you are paying $20 per person for a "superior" dining experience. The dining room entrees at times looked like they were children's portions; one meal was about a cup of white rice and 6 small shrimp, with no vegetables. One night my duck was so tough I started humming the song "Rubber Ducky" - I've never had to use a steak knife (unsuccessfully I may add) on poultry. They also could never seem to get the beef right - it was either tough, flavorless, prepared wrong or all the above. Serious cutbacks in the amount of vegetables, generally only 4 stalks of asparagus, 5 baby carrots, 3 small pieces of brocolli - you get the idea. Also, no bagels were available during breakfast and there was not any regular sandwich bread to make yourself a sandwich over lunch. Cutbacks were evident (too numerous to mention). They always seemed to be out of green tea.... However the wine selection was decent and reasonable; perhaps they did this so you wouldn't be sober enough to spot the cuisine deficiencies...not a bad strategy but it wasn't working on me. Good not great - much smaller than the Island princess. Clean, great cabin steward. But small things were noticable - again the towels looked ratty and stained. Our sink faucet came apart at one point. Average to poor. Not enough going on in the evening. Cruise staff was not vested in making passengers feel valued, very much into their own stage presence. If you wanted to do Karaoke you basically had to sing up for the Pop Star competition to even sing (and I am not all that interested in competing - I do enough competitve stuff at work) as they only had 3 sessions of Karaoke on a 14 day cruise - one at 7:00 pm, right during the major dinner hour. Which brings up another point - Karaoke and PopStar was always filled up so you think they's be flexible and add more sessions - nope. Being a person who has cruised the Caribbean a lot I tend to be very picky about tours. The catamaran sail to Bequia out of St. Vincent should not be missed even though it's expensive - especially on a Sunday as there isn't much to do in St.Vincent then. The jeep 4 x 4 in Trinidad was good but a little overpriced for what you got - they didn't allow enough time for anything at the beach. My advice - if you know what you want to do and it doesn't fit any tour, do your own thing. It's cheaper and less restrictive time-wise. Off the ship - with the exception of downtown Barbados, which was dirty and crowded was great. Went to my some of my favorite spots and found some new gems. The staff seemed to want to make the passengers have a good experience but seemed perplexed or not enabled to do so. However, there were some staff members that just had a "this is the last place I want to be, and you, Ms/Mr Passenger are inconviencing me" notably in the perfume boutique, the steakhouse, the internet cafe and occasionally at the tour desk - like when I asked a tour staff member what the weather was going to be like in St Kitts he replied "it can only get better than this" very sarcastically as it had rained torrents that day. I don't need that kind of answer, I need the forecast you smarta$$.

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Jun 28, 2009

Mediterranean

I do not like flying so my husband and myself opted for a cruise from the UK. From the moment we arrived at the check-in at Southampton, to the moment we left the ship, the whole experience was one of efficiency and willingness to assist. Every member of staff we encountered on this ship was helpful, friendly and courteous. The overall experience is a pleasant one that will stay in my husband's and my memory for many years to come. The food was

excellent; from the elegance of the dining rooms to the 24 hour buffet style dining. We had to laugh, though, at the amount of food consumed in the 24 hour buffet section each day! Plates were piled high, and it did not matter what time of the day or night you were there; I even went there for a cup of tea at 4.00am, during a thunderstorm, and people were up there, eating! At least it shows how wonderful the food actually was! We opted for an inside stateroom, and we did wonder if this would seem too claustrophobic. No way! Although it was quite small, mirrors were strategically placed to give an illusion of space. The bathroom was plenty big enough, as was the queen sized bed; the latter was extremely comfortable. There was ample wardrobe space, together with lots of hangers, and plenty of drawer space. Our stateroom stewards (we had 2, as they changed shifts halfway through) were very thorough and friendly. We did not participate in many of the activities, but everyone seemed to be enjoying them. The shows were very professional and entertaining - top marks to the Grand Princess's onboard entertainment team! The excursions were a little on the pricey side - we were told by fellow passengers that other cruise companies' tours are cheaper. That said, we enjoyed our excursions, but some of the local guides left a little to be desired in as much as they either spoke too fast, and we could not understand them, or they said nothing at all, e.g. the coach guide for Orvieto put on ear-muffs and slept all the way there and all the way back!! The guide who took over in Orvieto, however, was completely different and rescued what could have been a disasterous tour. Orvieto is an excursion not to be missed, however, although it is on the same day as the Rome excursions. We thought we would try this one and we are so pleased we did. So if you have already visited Rome, give "Undiscovered Italy" a go (but ignore the sleeping guide!) We had saved up for a few years for a cruise and had been looking forward to it with great excitement. We were not disappointed. Although we met with people on board who did nothing but moan about things, it did not spoil our enjoyment and we would recommend this cruise, and ship, to anyone. Thank you everyone on the Grand Princess for a wonderful holiday!

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May 12, 2009

Mediterranean

A slick and value for money voyage onboard an excellent ship with a caring crew. Excellent in every respect. Large and comfortable, although the carpet was showing signs of wear. Enough to keep everyone happy. Organize your own, they're cheaper and you can see more. Cruising big style! Mervyn Hancock joins the Grand Princess fro a trip around the Mediterranean. We whizzed through the dock gates at Southampton with some apprehension,

on the weekend after the children had been returned to their classrooms after a half term break! We knew that our cruise ship, The Grand Princess, would be filling up with mainly adult passengers, but wife Sue and I also knew that there were three ships in dock, ready to embark on the first of the 2009 season's Mediterranean cruises, and that the total number of souls taking part in this adventure would total over 7,000. I expected chaos, but was pleasantly surprised at the slick and efficient operation which saw our car parked, luggage hoisted onboard, and being established in our cabin within the space of 20 minutes. Not bad considering the ship had only docked five hours earlier and was due to set sail again in just 120 minutes. The Grand Princess had sailed from Fort Lauderdale in the USA and brought over a cargo of Americans, 240 of which would remain with us for the 14 day voyage to Spain, Italy, France and Monaco, and prove to be most amiable traveling companions. With almost 20 cruises under our belts Sue and I were considered to be veteran sailors, but nothing prepared us for the vastness of our amazing ship, which dwarfed everything else we encountered, and only needed six walks around the promenade deck to complete a mile! Two other giants set off before us, following more or less the same route, and the numbers and variety of people waving from their balconies as they sailed past demonstrated how cruising has now become a vacation that's affordable for almost everyone. Indeed, there are so many cruise ships plying the world's oceans at the moment that it is possible to embark on a holiday that costs around $60 per person per night “ and don't forget that food, travel, accommodation and entertainment are all thrown in. Not many, if indeed any, hotels can match that. And with another ship, capable of holding over 5,000 passengers, due to be launched in a few months, competition and prices between the big operators can only get keener. Thus far, Sue and I had stuck mainly to the smaller ships, which are capable of getting into a bigger variety of ports, but the Grand Princess was a lady with a lot to offer. We were allocated a mini-suite on deck nine, midships, and very near to the countless elevators which swept passengers up and down to various dining rooms, theaters, bars, salons, pools, gyms and shopping areas. This was like being in the middle of a large town, with so many places to visit that, at first, we were quite mesmerized by it all. Should we lounge around on our private balcony in the sunshine, and take advantage of the 24 hour room service, find a lounger on one of the vast decks, or risk piling on the pounds in the dining areas, where food and drink were available throughout the day and night? Or should we wander around this veritable metropolis on the high seas and simply soak up the atmosphere? We did both, and enjoyed every minute of it! Princess Cruises offer a really useful dining plan too! You can either choose traditional dinner, with the same companions each evening, or go for 'Anytime' plans where you simply turn up when you are hungry, sit alone or join others, and if that doesn't suit, there's a 24 hour buffet offering more or less the same choice of food. Lobster, steaks, pasta, exotic dishes specially created by top chefs, mouth watering sweets, cakes and other delights were eagerly demolished by an appreciative audience, who seemed to still find room for the afternoon treat of home made ice-cream! We deliberately stayed away from the eating areas during the morning and afternoon, because it was simply too tempting. Entertainment was available from early morning to the wee hours, although no one tried to force anyone to join in! Two main theaters, as lavish as anything on shore, offered variety shows, while music and dancing could be found in many other parts of the ship. Many of the Americans favored the huge Casino, while the discotheque at the very top of the vessel was mainly occupied by people seeking sanctuary, as there weren't many youngsters onboard to take advantage of the nightly boogy-woogying! Many of the onboard cabins had their own veranda, a trend which is becoming more and more popular, and available as the ships get bigger. Ours had a bathroom with tub and shower, walk-in wardrobes, a Queen-size bed, separate sitting area with a comfortable settee and chair, fridge and two huge televisions, one for the lounge area and the other for the bedroom. Program choice was limited, but who wants to watch television with so much else going on? Bargain prices for the initial cruise mean that many people can now take advantage of what used to be, a holiday for the 'well off' and often a once in a lifetime experience. But you do need to be aware of those extras' which seem to crop up a lot more often on the bigger ships, especially those operated by the Americans. Gratuities are the main taking point among the British passengers, many of whom opted to remove the 'discretionary' charge of around 7 pounds per night per passenger, including children, which is automatically added to each bill. We were told that this cash is distributed among the crew to people like the cabin steward, waiter and back room workers, and makes up a large part of their wage. I have no doubt that this is true, but it does beg the question of why they need to rely on such a substantial tip, and whether it should be imposed even before you meet many of them! I do prefer the system operated in the Fred Olsen ships, where you tip individuals at the end of the voyage, and give them what you think they deserve. Onboard prices for drinks include a 15 per cent gratuity, and by British pub standards are expensive. I paid 10 pounds for a can of drought Guinness and a medium glass of red wine, and even the soft drinks were around 1-40p, although you could buy a 'soda package' which allowed you to drink as many as you like. Another moan on many ships is the charges for shuttle buses. Often the vessel docks away from the main town and city centers, and you have to pay to get from the port to the shops. Organized shore excursions also add up to hundreds of pounds, so you need to watch that credit card. You don't actually spend money onboard, as everything is charged to your shipboard account and settled at the end of the voyage. My own bill, modest by many standards came to $1100 or around 730 pounds for two weeks, which included two shore excursions, tips, drinks, cover charge for an onboard steakhouse and some duty free items. We were looking forward to three of the eight ports of call: Rome to see the Vatican, Naples for a visit to Pompeii and Monte Carlo to see the preparations for the famous Grand Prix. At all three the local businessmen were awaiting the tourists to extract as much money as they could from our short visits. Like 14 pounds for a pint of lager in Monte Carlo, 8 pounds for two ice cream cones in the Vatican, and an attempt to get 5 pounds for a cone of popcorn in Pompeii! But the tours were well organized and worth the money. Bargain hunters were out in force in Gibraltar, and with cigarettes costing 14 pounds for 200, and spirits as little as 4-50 pounds a liter, it is no wonder that some thoughts turned to smuggling! Don't try it though. You are allowed the old duty free allowance, and customs officers await you at Southampton. We opted, instead, for a wonderful fruity curry in the local pub, run by a cheerful Cornish woman, at normal prices. A real change from the very expensive Euro zone! Glorious weather followed us most of the way, and we even sunbathed on our veranda through the notorious Bay of Biscay, which was flat calm. Many of our fellow passengers were on their umpteenth cruise with Princess, and looking forward to even more adventures. On my part I would happily book another trip on Grand Princess, and despite those extra charges, cruising is still "pound for pound" one of the best bargains around. Mervyn and Sue Hancock traveled with Princess Cruises onboard Grand Princess which is offering a selection of cruises from Southampton throughout the year.

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Oct 28, 2008

Mediterranean

This Mediterranean cruise was our first in more than forty years & a 'big' birthday present for me. My husband and I enjoyed every minute of our twelve-day experience. We were looked after in a grand style by the crew members of this amazing ship and nothing was too much trouble. Our mini suite was large and comfortable, well appointed and spotlessly clean at all times. Our steward attended to all our needs and always seemed to be around when

we required something. The food on board was varied, excellently prepared and presented, both in the buffet area and the dining rooms. The entertainment on board was top class. In fact, everything exceeded our expectations. The tours ashore were tailored to suit everyone. Our cruise was a delight from beginning to end. Congratulations Princess! Quite brilliant. Large, comfortable, and well appointed. Something to suit all tastes. Don't miss Athens, Ephesus or Pompeii. Just great. We met some wonderful people, made numerous new friends, and will have happy memories of our cruise for years to come. We learned about the history of Ephesus & Pompeii when we were at Primary School but never dreamed that we would one day see these sites for ourselves. Now we have and are thrilled by the experience.

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Apr 27, 2007

Galveston to Venice

THE SHIP-The Grand Princess is very similar to a sister sailing we made on the Diamond Princess a couple of years ago that  took us to the Far East. The ship was built in 1998 and is still in good condition. We  noticed the crew is constantly working to keep the ship clean and properly repaired. Nevertheless, I don’t want to leave the impression this ship is spotless or brand new. It is almost 10 years old and thus shows some wear.

The ship is big and getting from one end to the other will take a few minutes of your time. Getting from the bottom deck to the 17th deck will also take a little time. We recommend that on embarkation day you try to arrive as early as Princess allows and take a tour of the ship BEFORE heading for the dining room. With very few passengers on board you will be amazed at how quickly you can get around the ship and even more amazed at what you see and can find without the crowds. Be assured that the early buffet will still be there when you have finished your tour. On some decks you will be able to walk from bow to stern, however on other decks there will be a bulkhead in the way and you’ll have to either go up one deck or down one deck to continue your walk. EMBARKATION—We arrived just after noon on cruise day and it took less than 15 minutes for us to be in our stateroom. The process was quick and easy and by the way we had not received our cruise tickets from our agent. Made no difference as everything needed was waiting for us. DINING—Might as well start here as for some this is the highlight of their cruise. When booking the cruise you will no doubt be asked for either early or late seating in one of the main dining rooms or “anytime dining” that lets you dine at your own discretion. There are three main dining rooms, the Davinci, the Michelangelo and the Botticelli. Your cabin key card will show which dining room you have been assigned. Our table was the 1st seating in the Botticelli which was traditional early and late seating dining. The table was for six and was located on a corner with an outside window. Just about perfect from our standpoint. The other two dining rooms are very close to being identical to the Botticelli and are for  anytime dining. ANYTIME DINING ROOM While we did not encounter any problems with respect to dining location, there were some passengers that wanted to change from one dining room to another, change dining times or switch from anytime dining to traditional dining. They found it was not possible to do and the fact the ship was full was no doubt a contributing factor. Out tip to you is this. When you purchase your cruise, insist that your agent get you the dining you prefer. Just stay after him/her. They can help a lot and usually get you your desired dining. Communicating with Princess prior to sailing will probably get you nothing. The food is rather good in the main dining rooms. It is all the same. We also found service to be excellent and we don’t often give that rating. ALTERNATIVE DINING—On the Lido deck (14th) is the Horizon Court. This a traditional cruise ship buffet area. The food was okay, however at 3PM each day that area turns to a more of a bistro dining area. You can get sandwiches on a variety of breads built just like you desire. There was fresh shrimp on some days and the ice cream bar opens at 3:30PM where you can get free ice cream sundaes. The deserts were very good at the mid-afternoon dining. The big problem is that if you are dining at 6PM, eating a lot may ruin your appetite. We definitely recommend you consider altering your dining times so you can include the mid-afternoon dining during your cruise.   Horizon Court Buffet Lido Deck 14 OTHER DINING---We always go on a cruise because everything is included when it came to eating. Those that have traveled in the past few years know that many cruise ships now have other dining areas where they charge a service fee. Aboard the Grand Princess you might want to consider dining at Sabatini’s or The Painted Desert. While we have paid the extra fees, normally around $20 per person, we have sworn that we will not pay additional for food. The dining at Sabatini’s is excellent and the food is excellent. The place even looks like a dining room and in fact it is since that is all it is used for. As expected food is Italian. The Painted Desert is actually a portion of the bar area which is open during the day for game and card playing. The food is very good. THE PAINTED DESERT DINING ROOM DECK 7 ICE CREAM BAR---There is a nice ice cream bar on the Lido Deck, however ice cream is for purchase only. A sundae with unlimited toppings is $2.50. Look for the ice cream bar just behind the pool. During the evening hours, when the movie is showing on the deck, you can pick up a free bag of popcorn at the same location. The bag is small and the attendant will frown if you pick up more than one bag. Go early as the supply is limited and they don’t pop more. THE ICE CREAM BAR LIDO DECK 14 POSEIDON’S PIZZA and TRIDENT GRILL----On the Lido deck, just to the front of the pool, you can have pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken sandwiches. The items come with French fries and are all good. Just a caution, the bread is sometimes a little crusty and hard. No matter how you try to warm buns, they are not like fresh ones. MOVIES---You have a great number of choices. Movies are shown throughout the day on your stateroom TV. You can also see some of the movies on the big outdoor screen on deck 14 (M.U.T.S. Movies Under The Stars) Lounge chairs let you relax while watching the movie. It may get a little cool, however the deck crew has blankets available. There is free popcorn at the ice cream bar just a few feet from your lounge chair. Movies  are sometimes shown in the Princess Theater, check the Platter for times and dates. Lastly moves are sometimes shown in one of the lounges. Not a very large screen, however if you sit close enough it’s fine. Movies tend to repeat as we noticed Casablanca was shown several times at different locations aboard the ship.                   The big screen in the top of the photo is really excellent. It is bright both day and night. Just like the ones you see at major league sports. ART AUCTION---Must not leave this out as art auctions are apparently a standard practice aboard most ships. This auction seemed to have the same “customers” at each auction. The display room is pictured below with the auctions being held in one of the lounges. SOFT DRINKS & COFFEE----Coffee is free when you dine in the dining rooms. However if you want coffee at one of the lounge bars expect to pay. You can purchase a “coffee card” when you go aboard ship and this allows to you have 12 cups of coffee of your choice for around $2 a cup. You can also purchase unlimited Cokes for around $65 for the cruise. These two items are offered in the lobbies of most of the elevator areas aboard ship on the day that you embark. If you are a big Coke drinker this is probably a very good deal. If you like fancy coffee drinks, then go for the coffee card. LOUNGES and BARS---There are plenty all over the ship. The Wheelhouse Lounge and the Vista Lounge, both on Deck 7, are large and offer entertainment and/or dancing throughout the cruise. We often found the entrainment better in the lounge than in the Princess Theater. The Skywalk Lounge is on deck 17 at the rear of the ship. You may have to search a little for this lounge as only a couple of elevators go to this deck. It’s worth the trip. The view is excellent. This is definitely a Las Vegas style lounge with all the neon, chrome and flickering lights. It’s open only during evening hours however  go there for the view or to read a book during the other hours. There will be very few passengers that will journey this far thus you probably will not be disturbed. SKYWALKER’S NIGHT CLUB DECK 17 POOLS & SPAS---There are spas on deck 16 as well as a small pool. Neptune’s Reef and Pool is on deck 14 and there is a  pool on Deck 15 towards the front of the ship. If pools are your thing, trust me , you will really like the many on the Grand Princess. The deck crews keep each pool tidy and clean and the lounge chairs are always in order. If you don’t want to swim, these are great places to tap a nap, relax or read a book. If you think for a minute these areas are not among the finest on the seas, just take a look at the ship next to you when you dock at the next port. The grand Princess is really Grand in this area.                                                                   NEPTUNE’S REEF & POOL LIDO DECK 14 CALYPSO POOL & BAR DECK 14   LOTUS SPA---Sorry folks but I don’t use this area. Now that’s another story for my wife. She gets her hair “fixed” on a regular schedule, so that means if we are at sea, the appointments are still made. She returned from her first hair appointment and her hair looked fabulous. They really do a good job. If you like massages and are willing to pay the price, then go for it. SHOPPING---Do you really go on a cruise to shop at ship shops? From the long lines on “bargain days” it certainly looks like some folks do that very thing. We always stock up on perfume when aboard ship as it’s usually about 30% less than store prices at home. Our first purchase and only purchase on the ship stores was $300 in perfume. We think it was a real bargain. This ship had a very good “general store” where you could purchase up to date pocket books and a very good variety of sundry items, many at reasonable prices. SHOPS CIRCLE THE ATRIUM MID SHIP PRINCESS THEATER---Some of the poorest entrainment that we have seen on cruise ships. We opted not to go about 50% of the time. We attribute the level of entertainment to the fact the ship was repositioning for the summer. It just could not be that poor all the time. The theater itself is very nice. Very few obstructed view seats. We found the lighting person’s limited ability to be annoying at many of the shows. Performers were not followed by light and at time completely out of the spotlights. We sat in the rear and trying to following the performers in a dimly lit theater was usually  a real challenge. Even though Princess tries to discourage passengers from saving seats, there were always the groups of people that attempted to “save” an entire row for their friends who would be arriving late from the casino. O did I mention---there is no smoking which was great. You will be constantly asked by waiters if you want a drink so just be prepared. THE PRINCESS THEATER DECKS 6 & 7 PHOTOSHOP----My advise---save your money, however, if you just have to have a “snapshot” from the cruise then go for it. Just remember these are all snapshots and not custom portraits or photos. The pictures are made from using rather inexpensive digital cameras which allow for quick processing of the snapshot.  My camera is a few steps above the ones the kids use so I’m sticking with my digital shots when I get home. Now the price—either $19.95 or $24.95 for a snapshot. In my judgment, that is just too much for a snapshot. As I said—if you just have to have one ---go for it. On a brighter side, we saw many , many passengers stopping at the photo desk and asking how to use their camera, or if they could get their photos transferred to a CD, etc. The young folks always appeared to be interested and helpful. Therefore we give an (“A+) to the kids at the desk and a “C” to Princess for charging too much. PHOTOSHOP PROMENADE DECK 7 INTERNET---This is a subject I could always write a book on. The charges at sea for internet service is actually not all that bad, HOWEVER, the quality of service can run from excellent to non-existent. Yet you pay one fee for both types of service. I usually subscribe to a block of minutes knowing full well I probably won’t use all of them. If you have cruised on Princess at least 5 cruises, they have some great programs for the internet for those passengers. Go for them. It ‘s the best way to stay in touch with friends and family. COMPUTERS AT SEA---Aboard the Grand Princess you can take one hour classes on a wide variety of computer course. There is Word, Excel, Adobe, Front Page, etc. The cost for each course was $25 or 4 for $75. If you want a simple course in how to operate a particular software program, then take time to attend one of these courses. The young man in charge was both professional and knowledgeable. There will not be time to take a lot of notes. Don’t worry, you will be provided a sheet that shows a download address so you can download the class outline when you return home. Expect to pay a lot for these courses in your home town. LIBRARY---There is a small library on deck 5 close to the internet room. There is a small number of books. Games and cards can be checked out for use. WEDDING CHAPEL---The Grand Princess has a very nice wedding chapel when marriage ceremonies and renewals take place. We noticed several couples taking advantage of this facility. It is located on deck  7 across from the Painted Desert dining room.                                  DISEMBARKATION---We were provided a form a couple of days before the end of the cruise that asked us about our future plans and preferred disembarkation time. We opted for a late disembarkation as we had plans to stay in Venice and we knew our hotel room would not be ready early. Since we are platinum members at Princess, we were invited to wait in the Vista Lounge. There was coffee, orange juice and Danish waiting for everyone. We sat there with another couple for well over an hour and not once did we think about getting off the ship. Once our number was called we headed for the elevators and in no time at all we were at the dock and picking up our suitcases. One of the easiest, best organized disembarkations we have had on any cruise. FINAL BILLING---There seems to always be long lines at the Purser’s Desk with people clutching their invoice for the cruise and some shouting "I did not charge that". Folks---you can get a copy of your on board statement anytime by just going to the Purser’s desk and asking for one. Try doing that a day of so before the end of the cruise so you will have time to check for errors and if there are some you’ll have time to get them corrected long before the lines form on disembarkation day. Our on board statement was 100% correct. MEDICAL SERVICE---I trust you will not need this service, however if you do, as I did, head for Deck 4 where you will find a very nice medical staff that in my case provided quick and professional medical service. The cost will be billed to your stateroom. If you have insurance, be sure and get a copy of the charges and procedures from the medical director so you can file with your insurance company when you return home. KIDS & TEEN DECK ---We had no need for this area, however every time we passed by, the kids looked like they were have a great time. The area is not accessible to the passengers. If you have young children ask Princess about this program. CASINO---The casino is a place for entertainment and a little fun. Forget about leaving as a big winner---it just is not going to happen. We did visit the casino several times and not once did we see a big winner at any of the tables or at any of the slot machines. Like I said---this is entertainment. We did not find the staff to be very friendly and perhaps they would rather have the high rollers. LAUNDRY & LAUNDER MAT---On our deck there was a self service laundry that went all the way from port to starboard side. The machines were fairly new and worked great. Ironing boards were plentiful as were irons. The cost was very reasonable and this was a reflected in the number of people that used this facility. There was a change machine as well as a soap & bleach dispensing machine. There are additional self service facilities on just about very deck. The ship also has laundry and cleaning service available. Prices are not all that bad. One day they had a $15 all you could put in a sack laundry sale. That was the only one on the entire cruise. SAFE—Each cabin has a safe that will hold small items. We noticed that more than one cabin passengers apparently forgot their safe combination and had to call for assistance. BATHROOM---This bathroom was really small. When I write ‘you could hardly turn around in it’, believe me you could not. We had an outside cabin and I have no way of knowing if other cabins had such a small bath. It is adequate but you must take turns---one person at a time! SHORE TOURS---Are you like me---you get upset with the shore tours and swear you will never purchase again, then the next cruise you go right back to purchasing half dozen shore tours? I generally find the people at the tour desk not all that helpful and for the most part not that knowledgeable about the tours. Their job of course was to sell and sell and sell. Do your research on the ports before you get on the ship. Plan your shore tours long before you set sail. You’ll get a lot more sights in and you can make those sights quality ones. Also go to the Princess tour site and get the information they have posted. If the tour looks interesting and it is fairly priced, then purchase. If the tour appears to be way out of reason, then make another decision. On this cruise we took 8 tours with the cost being almost $3000. Some of the tours were fabulous and others were a complete bore, mainly because of the tour guide and his/her knowledge and presentation. You are going to find knowledgeable tour guides on just about any tour , however you are also going to find those tour guides that are just working and not really interested in the group. It’s the “luck of the draw”. I wish I could give you advice on which ones to take but that just isn’t possible. This ship carries almost 3000 passengers and some tours will sell out quickly so you may have to book several weeks in advance prior to sailing. You are taking a risk. Are there alternatives? The answer is yes however let me caution, there are some risks. For example, we rented a vehicle where the office was just a few hundred feet from the docks. Four of us went together and headed for a particular site that we wanted to visit. After visiting the site we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant. Out total cost was less than 50% of the cruise ship price and we had lunch on our trip. Plus we moved about at our leisure and not that of the last person to board the tour bus. Just remember the ship will sail without you if you don’t return to the ship by departure time. One couple, we met on this cruise went to the internet where they found a driver and car available at the port. The price was not cheap. The driver alleged he was fluent in English and very knowledgeable about the area and that he would take the couple to sites that the tour companies did not. After a 10 hour trip in a late model Mercedes, the couple told us at lunch, it was the most fantastic tour they had every taken. They saw sites that the big buses couldn’t even get to and the driver was most professional and knowledgeable. They had lunch while on the tour and asked the driver to join them. They stated they learned so much and had such a good time on the tour they had plans to do it again. It’s hard to compare prices as the price they paid was about double what two four hours tours would have cost. I’m going to insert a topic here that is bugging me. We met folks that went ashore early in the morning that were so intent on getting back to the ship for lunch it appeared they were always watching their watch so they would not miss a meal aboard ship. We opted to stay on shore and had some delightful lunches at local restaurants. TENDERS---If you are like us we don’t really care for “tender” rides and especially on a 2800 passenger ship. It makes no difference how you try to “slice” this, tender trips’ are a pain. The tenders can only hold 125 to 150 passengers and you have a ship of 2800 people , all wanting to go ashore. Even with the use of three or four tenders, the math quickly shows you that a lot of waiting will be involved when a trip to shore take 10 to 15 minutes. Just be prepared on this ship as well an any other large ship to spend a lot of time waiting if tenders are involved. The really bad part about all of this is it means less and less time ashore at that port. Passengers holding tour tickets seemed to always go on the first tenders. THE STATEROOMS---You know there are so many different types of staterooms on a ship of this size, this subject is almost impossible to intelligently discuss. We had an outside room on the Emerald Deck. The room was fine. We got what we paid for. If one wants to go for the Captain’s Suite then go for it. It will cost about 4 times the price of the room we purchased. While I cannot say that I know about all the rooms aboard the Grand Princess, I doubt you are going to get a really bad room. They are clean and well maintained. Our cabin steward was excellent and responded to our every need. He was always there when we needed him. SPORTS ACTIVITIES---You can find the usual activities of this day and time on this ship. There was ping pong, shuffleboard, a ship building contest, and electronic golf driving and putting. Not a lot of folks showed up for these activities. Just check the daily Platter for times. THE PLATTER---The Platter is the daily paper for the ship. We were rather disappointed in the content and the delivery. Our copy never arrived at the cabin until early in the morning, like 5AM, thus you could not check for the next day’s   activities the evening before. The Platter contains a great deal of advertising about  sales in the shops and the drinks available in the lounges. Times were shown for activities. The “news” on the front page wasn’t anything to write home about. THE PORTS—We have been to a number of ports several times on cruise ships and found that some have little to write home about. There are several really great ports on this cruise that we would like to mention. We can’t say enough positive things about the ports in Santorini and Mykonos. These are ports we could easily stay a week. If you get a chance to go to either of these destinations, do so, you will not be disappointed. We just did not have enough time to explore at each of the stops. We also highly recommend the port at Kusadasi, Turkey. Go to Ephesus. The area is well worth your time. Athens was a most interesting city and while we found the ruins to be fascinating and worth the trip, the huge crowds are a real challenge. Two other Greek stops that we want to mention are Corfu and Katakolon. Do as much research on all of these ports so you can get to the most interesting sights if you are traveling by ship. We decided that we could have spent days at each of the Greece locations. Out ship docked in Civitavecchia, Italy and Livorno, Italy. You won’t find much in either of those ports so think about heading for Florence and Rome. Just be prepared for thousands and thousands of people. There were five large cruise ships docked at one of these ports at one time. This means moving up to 15000 people in and out of these port cities. We strongly suggest that you cruise to these areas in off season when the tourist crowds are not so large. That may not be possible if you want to cruise from the United Sates. On the first segment of the cruise we stopped in ports in the Azores, Portugal and Spain, but you have probably been there a dozen times so I’ll just move on. Barcelona was especially interesting to us and a visit to the Gaudi Church construction site will impress you. SUMMARY---The Grand Princess is a very nice ship. We still prefer the smaller ships and less people. That may not be your thing! The ports on this cruise were great. The ship as a whole, food, staterooms, service, etc. we would say was very good. This is not a five star cruise ship and we knew that. You get what you pay for (usually). Would we go on this cruise again---probably----just for the ports. Would we recommend this cruise and cruise ship. We think if you don’t mind the crowds on a large ship—then the Grand Princess might be just what you are looking for. Once again—it’s the ports that impressed us. The crew was very nice and accommodating and that seems to be a quality that is getting harder and harder to find when traveling.  

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Jan 20, 2007

Western Caribbean

THE SHIP/ OUR CABIN: The Grand Princess is nice (and certainly large), but we felt that just maybe it was a half notch below some of the other Princess ships as far as having an “elegant” and “grand” feel. In particular, the atrium/ lobby area was much smaller than other Princess ships and did not have any grand staircase. Not that this in anyway took away from our enjoyment of our cruise, but it was something that my husband

and I noticed right away. Our cabin was very nice and our steward was wonderful. Our room was always clean by the time we returned from breakfast and it seemed like every time we turned around we would have clean towels. PORTS: We enjoyed all the ports on this itinerary. Costa Maya: Costa Maya is still very early in development as a tourist destination. There is shopping and a small beach area right where the ship docks. The vendors in the dock area are quite expensive, so we decided to take a $5 round trip taxi ride to the nearby fishing village. The village is right on the beach, and there are several great places to get a drink and watch the ocean. The best kept secret in Costa Maya, however, is that you can get a 45 MINUTE MASSAGE ON THE BEACH FOR $20 in town. Definitely worth the trip to town. My husband enjoyed a beer, and I relaxed with a great massage (and hubby was thrilled that we saved $100 from what the same massage would have cost on the ship). Roatan: We were very surprised at the beauty of Roatan. We did not plan any excursion for Roatan, but we did end up hiring a taxi to take us around the island. The tour took about 2 ½ hours and was very interesting. Although the island is small, the different sides are all really quite different. You can walk to shopping and to the small town from where the ship docks. We felt very safe walking around, even outside of the “tourist” area. Belize: We took an excursion to the Belize zoo. It was a 40 minute bus ride out and back, but it was interesting and allowed us to see both the “good” and “bad” parts of town. The zoo itself was wonderful and in a beautiful setting in the jungle. I highly recommend this tour, with the zoo and city tour it was a great value. Cozumel: The docks are still being rebuilt from the hurricanes, so many ships had to tender. We were lucky and were one of one two ships that got to dock. We have been to Cozumel at least a dozen times over the years. Cozumel to me means “shopping”. I spent several hours touring the shops until my husband declared that he was “shopped out”. We counted 8 other ships in Cozumel that day, and the town was VERY busy. ENTERTAINMENT: We have always enjoyed the variety of entertainment on Princess Cruise Lines and always look forward to the evening shows and events. We usually prefer seeing the individual performers and headline entertainers instead of the production shows. It is not that the production shows are bad, but they do not change much from ship to ship and we would rather see something new and fresh. The quality and variety of the headline entertainers for the week of our cruise was just outstanding. The first show we saw was a comedian who does magic, Chris Linn. My husband does not like magic shows, but really enjoyed Chris’ show. The show was unique, funny, and it was clear that Chris and his wife were truly enjoying themselves onstage. This was probably the most talked about show throughout the week as we talked with other passengers. We arrived late for juggler, Steve Patients. We had seen Steve before on another ship, but really liked him, so we wanted to see him again. Although the theater was packed, we managed to find a pair of seats way in the back. Steve’s juggling is awesome to watch, and his show is packed with comedy. It was the same show we had seen in the past, but we still laughed hard with the rest of the audience. The only show we felt did not deserve an “A+” was Johnny Thunder, and even then, we would still give it an “A- or B+”. Johnny is a singer who was once a part of the Drifters. Johnny was very personable onstage, but his voice was pretty rough and his show reminded us a little of a cheesy hotel lounge act. The show was slow moving to start and really only seemed to get going at the very end when he did a medley of Motown hits. It was not a bad show, but it just did not quite excite us like the other shows. We did not see Jay the comedian but heard that his show was wonderful. The tropical party is a “must do”. The band was great and the staff really got the crowd going. There was lots of dancing, lots of fun…and lots to drink! We popped in for a few of the princess idol karaoke shows. Our cruise had some particularly bad singers but that is what makes the show so much fun. The audience is always great and encouraging no matter how good or bad the singing is. We wanted to see the final going away show because Chris was performing again, but we did not make it – due to a combination of end of the week exhaustion and the need to pack for our early departure. A general note about the shows: In the main theater, it seemed that the sound was much better in the first half of the audience (maybe this is just a sign of getting older…but my husband would never admit that!) We would highly recommend arriving early so you can sit down front. DINING: The food was consistently good all week. We are fans of the anytime dining and enjoy the opportunity to meet and share a table with different couples every night. As several past reviews have mentioned, the service at dinner was often hit-or-miss. With anytime dining, you don’t have the same wait staff each night. Some nights we would have a great waiter, and other nights service was slow and dishes left to pile up on the table. The slow service only became a real hassle for people who were hoping to catch an early show. We purchased a soft drink sticker to give us unlimited soft drinks all week long but found ourselves often just drinking coffee, water or tea, so I am not sure we really got the best value. Next time, we probably would not bother with the soft drink program. DISEMBARKATION: It was raining hard the morning we arrived back in Galveston. The rained slowed down the unloading of luggage, so disembarkation was slow. We were off the ship about an hour later than we had originally planned. Our luggage must have been on the top of one of the luggage bins as they were unloading because our luggage was SOAKED! When we finally made it off the ship, we made it through customs quickly. Once through customs, however, we were forced to stand in the rain while waiting to board a bus. Even with the rain and delays, our bus got us to the airport in plenty of time to make our flight. FINAL THOUGHTS: Despite some minor inconveniences which you will get anywhere, this was another great Princess Cruise for us and we will look forward to our next one. Happy and Safe Travels!  

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Jan 20, 2007

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 cruising!  

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Jan 16, 2007

Western Caribbean

I’ll preface this right off to bat and say that my wife and I have never had a bad vacation. We have had some crazy and funny memories, but not a bad vacation ever. We had been on one other cruise, NCL out of Houston. This one blew it away. We did the EZ-Parking – We had our baggage tagged and it got on a different bus. But they apparently just dropped it off and the porters take it from there. I was panicked for awhile, but it

showed up at my room. I guess it saved me a tip to the porters. Our room was an interior Queen. We had been on a wait list for a balcony, but didn’t get it. The room was great. Nothing wrong at all. It was a few feet wider than the old NCL ship. The ship was great. I could go on and on, but I didn’t even do half of the stuff available. The Movies under the Stars was like a drive in movie. We did not watch any movies, but we watched a NFL playoff game and the NCAA national championship game. That was pretty cool. I imagine that they telecast most major sport events on that thing. Seasickness? I am a diver. Half the time I take a trip to a dive site, I get seasick. You might have read that this ship rocks and causes seasickness. Dramamine is cheap, so I had enough to double dose me every day of the trip. I didn’t need a one. The ship does roll a little. This only hampered me because during the shows, it would feel like I was being rocked asleep. Some of the prior reviews mention that you spend two days at sea. Trust me, after 4 ports in 4 days, you’ll look forward to the rest. Ports: Costa Maya. Took the bus to Majahaul - $3. Cokes on the beach $4. Super view and super relaxing. We snorkeled for about 2 hours. It was very shallow and difficult to maneuver so we went to a guy with a boat on the beach and got him to take us out to a deeper spot for $15 a piece. We snorkeled- unrestricted for about an hour – hour ½. I liked that. Many snorkel tours play follow the leader. We are very competent and just want to do our own thing. If I could have done one more thing, I would have brought $20 more dollars in ones and just spread them around. That is such a pretty unassuming place, I wish I could have given those people more. We saved our last $4 for the taxi back to the ship- $2 apiece. If you want a budget shore thing, just take the bus to Majahaul. It should be a great time. Roatan. The best coral I have ever seen! Get there. Don’t touch it. Don’t walk on it. But go see it while it is still the best. We did the dolphin thing at Anthony’s Key resort and Tabyana. I would rather snorkel with Dolphins, but they would not let me for any price. Tabyana is just a pretty beach with great coral. Here’s a funny side note: I kinda wanted a watch to keep track of the time while we were off the boat. Well what do you know? This guy comes up to me on the beach, and he has every kind of watch known to man. I figured it would last the length of our cruise, so I cleverly negotiated him down to $10 from his original $50.Once I got the watch, he was gone. Guess how long a $10 beach bought watch lasts? About 4 hours. When he saw me hitting the water with my new “Dive watch” he probably took off running. Pretty good laugh for $10. Belize. We had booked Goff’s Cay from the ship but wind, rain and high seas prevented the tour boat from docking. The tender boats could make it so we went ashore and looked for something to do. It didn’t stop raining, so we bought some panchos and took a tour to some mayan ruins. The tour guy was very nice. It was 1.5 hours there and back. As ruins go, if you have been to any of the major ones, these will not impress you. However, our guide's background information kept it interesting. Now if it’s not raining: We have done Cay Caulker before for the shark ray alley. If you can and the weather is good, go to one of the cays. Cozumel. We did Chankanaub a few years ago before the hurricane. They have completely rebuilt it. There is not much reef there anymore, though. Not much at all compared to the prior stops. Next time we might try a different beach. FYI, there were 7 ships in port. We thought it would be crowded. It wasn’t.  The snorkeling was still better that most anywhere here in Texas. Taxi was $10 while the entry fee was $16 a piece. We had a very relaxing day.We should have brought our books and even taken a nap. I wouldn’t have changed much on this trip. FYI – I don’t drink coffee, but my wife tells me that the coffee at the buffet was terrible. So what? They make real coffee at the sit-down restaurants. Go forth. Have a great trip. Spread your happiness and wealth.  

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Dec 9, 2006

Western Caribbean

This was the tenth cruise for my husband and I, and our first cruise on Princess Cruise Line. We have taken four cruises on Carnival, three on Norwegian, one Royal Caribbean, one on Holland American. Embarking went well in Galveston. We waited in line for about 75 minutes, which is very normal. We took our luggage with us on board so we would not have to wait for it. I got motion sickness on the second day. The waves were only about

5 feet high but the ship was rocking too much. I think the stabilizers were not in use. Many people were complaining. We have been on seas up to 20 feet high and I did not get sick. I took medicine and it helped a little. So that started my first Princess cruise. We spent our third day at Costa Maya, Mexico. Our ship docked at this port. We took a 3-mile taxi ride to Majahual. The taxi cost was $5 per person plus a tip. Majahual is a quaint little town. We did some snorkeling and walked the beach during the morning. We ate lunch on the ship, took showers then headed out for some shopping in Costa Maya. Costa Maya is very touristy and new looking. A Carnival ship showed up around lunch time but could not port because the wind had picked up too much. The Carnival ship left the area after about an hour. I have not seen that happen before. We arrived in Roatan, Honduras on our forth day. Our ship docked at port so we just walked off the ship. We took a taxi to West End Beach. We swam out quite a way to some coral reef and did some great snorkeling. The fish were abundant. The round trip taxi cost was $15 per person plus a tip. We were dropped off at 9:30 and we asked to be picked up at 11:30. Our taxi was right on time. We returned to the ship for lunch and a shower then we did some shopping near the ship and a walked along the beach. On our fifth day, we tendered from the ship to Belize City, Belize. We signed up for a shore excursion through Princess. The cost was $49 per person plus a tip. The Princess shore excursion desk told us that our tickets would be delivered to our room the night before the tour but the tickets did not show up. The tour was suppose to the leave at 6:50 am and the shore excursion desk did not open until 7:00 am. We could not get any help from the purser’s office either so at 6:30 am we were first in line at the excursion desk. We got our tickets at 7:00 am and ran down several flights of stairs to catch up with our tour group. We took a tour of Belize City and the Atlum Ha Mayan ruins. The ruins are located an hour drive northwest of Belize City. We had a great tour guide and the ruins are beautiful. It rained for a short time while we were touring. I wrapped up my cameras in a plastic bag and kept walking. After the tour, we walked over a swing bridge, toured the old parliament government area and watched the sailboats come and go. We had a great time. We spent our sixth day in Cozumel, Mexico. Cozumel was our favorite port stop. We took a snorkel trip with six other people off a glass bottom boat. The cost was $30 per person plus a tip. No one snorkeled except my husband, our guide and me, so we had a private tour in the water. As soon as we jumped into the water, there was a big fish about 3 feet long and 2 feet tall. That was a little scary. We saw lots of colored fish, an eel, starfish, coral and a stingray. We saw the remains of a cruise ship dock under the water. It was a very large mess of concrete and steel. The late season 2005 hurricane really made a mess of Cozumel. The trees were broke over but the greenery on the trees was coming back. For lunch, we returned to the ship for food and a shower. There were seven cruise ships at Cozumel that day. Two ships were docked, the Queen Mary 2 and Caribbean Princess. Two Carnival ships, two Royal Caribbean ships and our ship (the Grand Princess) had to park a short distance from the Island so we tendered in. After lunch, we tendered back to the Island (again) and did some shopping and sightseeing. We spent our seventh day at sea. We played miniature golf, chess (with pieces about two feet high), shuffleboard and watched a movie on the ‘drive-in’ screen by the main swimming pool. When we arrived back in Galveston, we debarked the ship easily and headed for the beach. We fed the seagulls, walked the beach and collected some seashells. The Grand Princess is a big ship. It is 17 stories tall and has four large swimming pools, about twelve hot tubs, several nightclubs, nine hole miniature golf course, lots of other games and a casino. The outdoor theater movie screen was huge. We watched one movie during the day while we floated in the pool and watched another movie under the stars. The food on the breakfast and lunch buffet was good and there was a good variety. We looked at the ‘sit down and order’ lunch menu and were not real impressed. The food served in the evening in the formal dining rooms was ok but nothing to write home about. The lobster tail was great but the prime rib wasn’t. On our other nine cruise, there was a dessert buffet just before midnight on one night but not on the Grand Princess. We were looking forward to that. Princess had a free champagne fountain one night. We had an inside room on this cruise. Our room was clean and neat but was not organize as well as some rooms we had in the past. We could not open the door to the bathroom and open the closet at the same time, which caused a traffic jam for my husband and I. There were lots of huge mirrors in our room to make the room seem bigger. I was surprise to see a refrigerator in the room but it did not work. We did not need it anyway. The walls were not sound proofed. For the first time on a cruise ship, I could hear the people next door talking, so my husband and I whispered during the trip. The evening shows onboard were abundant. There were two different shows going on at the same time and twice a night for each. That was a new experience so we attended more shows on Princess. The shows were average compared to other cruise lines. The theaters were smaller and the ceilings were shorter. There were no columns to block anyone’s view. Nearly every night, about 30 people stood along the walls to see the shows. I have never experienced crowded theaters before. Some shows were singing and dancing, some were comedians, and one night we saw a hypnotist. The shows were good except for the hypnotist. The atrium was pretty but not impressive because it was the smallest ship atrium we had seen. It was always crowded. The onboard shops were about average. The clubs were great. There were many open every night. Some had live music and some with a DJ. The Skywalker night club with the DJ stayed open the latest. The music was a good mix. They played 1960’s – 2000’s. Our last couple cruises played mostly rap so we were pleasantly surprised on this cruise.    

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Jun 9, 2006

Greece

  I Had a big problem getting traditional dining even though it is on our Princess profile.  I found a live bug in my salad. I Got a special Rum and banana desert from the head waiter. Our stateroom door was left open by the cabin steward for an afternoon while we were in port.  

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Jun 8, 2006

Greece

This was our first cruise. We spent months beforehand reading reviews like this in order to decide what to book, and were then anxious about the whole experience. We needn't have worried. This will be a short punchy review, and I'll try to keep the superlatives to a minimum. The ship was first class - a floating hotel - but despite being full it never really seemed overcrowded. The exception to that statement would be unless you wanted

a sun lounger in a prime position on a "sea" day, with everyone aboard. That said, there were always plenty of loungers in other locations. The itinerary - Venice, Piraeus (Athens), Kusadasi, Istanbul, Mykanos, Naples, Civitavecchia (Rome), Livorno, Marseilles, Barcelona - was varied and interesting. A word of warning. Don't expect the ship to dock in the centre of town. With few exceptions most ports are gritty and a few miles away from the town centers. To get over this problem Princess Cruises ran non-stop shuttle coaches or boats all day in every port. We took a few of the dozens of tours available - Athens from Piraeus, the ancient city of Ephesus from Kusadasi and Herculaneum from Naples. These were all well run and good value. You can also do-it-yourself. We had a day in Istanbul just by using the shuttle buses and the maps provided. You could take a trip in every port but I think that would leave you exhausted. This is a holiday, after all. Anyway, back to the ship and the facilities. The ship was very clean, and they also insisted on your own cleanliness as well. You could not get on the ship or enter a restaurant or dining area without being asked to clean your hands with a special disinfectant. The bars and restaurants were all comfortable and well designed. The food was first class. The service was first class. The facilities - pools, theatres, sports, etc, were all good. The shows were excellent. The rooms were clean and comfortable. The medical facilities were excellent. There was plenty to do - on every day a ship's newspaper was provided describing everything that was going on that day. For every port a very useful "Port guide" is also provided. There were a few problems. For instance, the disembarkation at Barcelona was a real shambles and the check-in at Barcelona airport completely chaotic. But overall I would say that the cruise was a complete success. Were we lucky - I don't know. Will we cruise again - we've already booked for next year!  

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May 27, 2006

Western Caribbean

The Itinerary - Mediterranean Coast Line Day 1 - Barcelona, Spain Day 2 - Marsailles, France Day 3 - Livorno (Florence) - Cancelled Became Day at Sea Day 4 - Cativechia, Italy (Rome) Day 5 - Naples, Italy (Pompei) Day 6 - Mykonos, Greece Day 7 - Day at Sea Day 8 - Instanbul, Turkey Day 9 - Ephesus, Turkey Day10 - Athens, Greece Day11- Day at Sea Day12 - Venice, Italy Itinerary was Magnificent in all respects - best we have ever cruised!

============ SHIP - Grand Princess in disrepair and badly in need of refurbishment - I think that it is scheduled very soon ============= SHIP LAYOUT - was not cruiser friendly ============== FOOD - Food average - Dining Rooms undermanned - it sometimes took 2 1/2 - 3 hours to do dinner due to lack of help Wait-staff doing three large tables and had hard time keeping up The 24 hr Buffet Cafeteria was excellent Much better food selection and quality - we were very surprised that it was much higher standards than Dining rooms! ============== ENTERTAINMENT - Pretty good selection - Dancers, Orchestra, and Singers very good with wide scope show variety. Comedians all very good Juggler excellent. SHOW LOUNGES - Vista - Excellent PRINCESS SHOWROOM - Very poor BARS AND LOUNGES - Average KARAOKE - Very Poorly organized GAMES AND ACTIVITIES - Average POOLS - Very nice layouts - well done JACUZZI's - 4 of 7 always broken - Maintenance was not on its game here! Many problems with equipment and facilities - very slow maintenance response and results throughout cruise THEATER UNDER STARTS CONCEPT - I loved it and hated it all at same time LOVED Variety and availability of movies HATED overcrowding and constant noise - did not seem like a cruise - very strange effect - everyone crowded onto Lido deck piled on top of each other PURSER STAFF - Poor - not very helpful and quite astonishingly apathetic - SUMMARY - The Grand Princess need some attention to bring it back to snuff and Princess Cruises has gone downhill significantly since we last sailed the line in 2000. What happened? THE MEDITERRANEAN - a must do itinerary for everyone! If we did it again we would do it on RCCL, Celebrity, Costa, HCL, or even Carnival WILL NOT SAIL PRINCESS AGAIN!  

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May 1, 2006

Greece

Itinerary was excellent. Did not feel as though there were 2400 people on board. Never waited for a table. Or disembarking at ports. Dining room food was ok but the 24 hour buffet was great. Staff was friendly and courteous. Stateroom attendant was fantastic. We were on the Baja Deck outside cabin furthest to the stern and we were not disturbed in any way. Took three land tours and they were well done. A cruise is the best way to see

The Greek Isles. Different stop each day. I would recommend this tour to anyone.  

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Apr 1, 2006

Western Caribbean

Just returned yesterday from the Grand Princess and can certainly say we had a GRAND time! Embarkation: We landed in Houston (IAH) the day before and stayed at a LaQuinta with free shuttle to and from the airport. (not all the LaQuinta's offer this, so be sure yours does!) Ate free waffles and fruit the next morning and met our Princess Shuttle($66.00 round trip per person) at 10:00 back at the airport. The Princess reps were friendly

and efficient and we were on the bus 10 minutes after arriving! 75 minutes later we were at the ship, and 45 minutes later we were in our room!! We had cabin L303 category CC deck 14 and it was Wonderful! Plenty of space, and one whole wall was a window. Floor to ceiling. We were upgraded from an obstructed ocean view. About 15 steps from the burger and pizza grills! Our room was quiet and in such a convenient location to the pools, the buffet, etc. Entertainment: We love going to all the shows at night. We choose early seating and then go to the Princess Theater for the big shows, and then usually would go to the Vista Lounge for a smaller act like a comedian, Princess Idol, hypnotist, etc... They also had 3 or 4 lounge bands that played throughout the cruise, and a couple of individual singers that were all very good. The costumes of the singer and dancers were all first rate, as was the talent. Some of the best entertainment of the 4 cruise lines we have tried. Food: The food was all GOOD. Not fantastic, but we certainly didn't go away hungry. I think Celebrity might have a notch up in their food, but Princess offers plenty of variety at every meal. Good lobster and Beef Wellington! Great chilled soups! Don't forget FREE ICE CREAM every day from 3:30 to 4:30 in Horizon Court Buffet. Don't bother spending extra at the ice cream bar! Ports: Three ports were tender ports and that was kind of a pain! I much prefer being able to walk off the ship. Tendering gobbles up a lot of time! Costa Maya--we did the Mayan Ruins with David and Ivan as recommended on the message boards. Ivan had such a passion for his Chacchoben Ruins. It was fantastic and we saved about $25 each by not going with the ship! Belize--wish we would have gone to see the manatees, but instead we took an on-shore city tour. 1 1/2 hours for $25.00 It was a good intro to the city. Walking around the city looked a little scary, so we chose the bus tour. We then just shopped at the pier, and then returned to the ship. Playa del Carmen--we did intro to scuba with the ship. My husband enjoyed it, but my mask kept filling up and I didn't have the right bouyancy, I floated near the top. Actually the next day in Cozumel we did a 3 reef snorkel with Mayan Paradise Tours for 37.00 that was fantastic. We saw such a huge variety of fish. Our guides were great. I highly recommend this company, and again we saved at least $25 each from the ship's tour. They even provided perscription goggles for me! We loved our 5th cruise, and will cruise on Caribbean Princess in June with a party of 8. Can't wait!

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Mar 11, 2006

Western Caribbean

This was my families 3rd Princess Cruise. In Princess's defense, the 1st two were to Alaska and were wonderful. Unfortunately that was not the case with this cruise. Embarkation was the high point - it was quick and efficient. Entertainment was mediocre. Food with the exceptions of the King Crab Legs and Lobster were average at best. An example - at dinner we asked for tea and the waiter suggested Raspberry Tea - free on other cruises but

not on Princess. We were surprised when we were brought bottles of "Snapples". Now that is not what I call refined dining. Deck 14 where "Movies under the Stars" and most outdoor activities take place smelt like raw sewage from day two until end of cruise. When reported to the purser he stated they would look into the situation. They must have meant after the cruise was over. If you enjoy eating, swimming, and dancing while smelling raw sewage then this is the cruise for you. I am sure they will get this cleaned up quickly as many individuals complained. It did not help those of us on this particular cruise. I have already booked another cruise for next spring - on a Royal Caribbean Ship.  

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Mar 11, 2006

Western Caribbean

We had a fantastic time on our Grand Princess cruise out of Galveston March 11-18. This was our fourth cruise, our third on Princess, and the second year in a row we sailed on the Grand out of Galveston during Spring Break. Our cruise last year ended badly when my dad unexpectedly passed away while we were gone, and we had to leave the ship mid-cruise. We decided we liked the ship enough to try it again, and we’re glad we did – this

was an excellent trip for us, and most importantly it was uneventful! Embarkation We arrived at the port (Terminal 2) at 10:50. There was very little traffic and we had no problems at all entering the driveway and dropping off our luggage. It was immediately obvious how much the city has done to improve the traffic flow at the Port of Galveston since we first cruised from there in 2002, and even since last March. Jim drove over to EZ Cruise Parking (pre-reserved on their web site) while I stayed at the terminal with the carry-ons. He walked back to the terminal after parking the car, as he was told there would be approximately a 30 minute wait for the shuttle. We checked in at 11:20, and waited in the seating area for boarding to begin. We were in the second group to board, at about 11:45. Our cabin wasn’t completely ready, but we were able to drop off our carry-on luggage. “The Problem” While we were waiting to board I looked to see what our table assignment was for dinner. I was shocked to see the words “Anytime Dining” imprinted on my card where my Botticelli table assignment for 2nd seating Traditional should have been. This was the only real problem we encountered on our cruise, but for me it was a big one. We booked this cruise on July 1st, and had been confirmed for late seating Traditional dining at a large table ever since we booked the cruise. Traditional dining is important to us, and since we travel as a couple we always request a large table. We enjoy meeting a group of people we know we will see every day, and we like the personalized attention we’ve always received in traditional dining. I wasn’t happy at all to see the “Anytime Dining” on my cruise card! We spent our first 45 minutes on board waiting for the representative of the Maitre’d so we could request to be moved back to traditional dining. They were able to accommodate us on Sunday, but I thought the employee was somewhat condescending and didn’t understand what I was talking about when I referred to the Cruise Personalizer. She kept insisting either we or our TA must have changed our dining request, and only relented a bit when I was able to produce written documents that showed us as confirmed in late traditional. (I guess it’s a good thing I’m detail oriented and print everything up and bring it with me.) I’m glad we were able to be moved back to traditional, but I missed the anticipation and excitement of going to dinner the first night and meeting my tablemates for the week. The Rest of the First Day & Night…the Good, the Not-So-Good, and the Bizarre! The Good – We had an active Cruise Critic roll call for this cruise, and one of the participants (thanks, Phyllis!) had arranged a get together in the Wheelhouse for 2:30 on embarkation day. She contacted Princess, and they had set aside part of the Wheelhouse for a private “no-host” party. This get together was well attended, and it was great to put faces with the names of the people I had been “chatting” with for months. We had ALL our luggage before 2:00! That’s a record. It was so nice to get everything put away so we could begin the business of being on vacation. We find that the cabins on the Grand have plenty of storage space, with “walk-in” closets and a large cabinet for folded items. This was our second time in a mini-suite, and we very much enjoyed the upgraded amenities, especially the mattresses and the bedding. The champagne on embarkation day was also a nice touch! We always enjoy sailaway from Galveston. It’s fun to sip a big tropical concoction and wave to the people on the pier by the Harbor House. Future Grand passengers need to be aware there is a limited bar menu available while docked in Galveston. For example, I was able to order a regular Pina Colada, but I couldn’t get a Malibu Colada until after we sailed. It has something to do with Galveston’s liquor laws. There is a separate and limited bar menu for the Port of Galveston. We were scheduled to sail at 4:00, but in actuality it was almost 5 before we left. The Grand NEVER leaves Galveston on time. It seems like even when the ship is on time or early arriving, departure is delayed. I wonder why they don’t just publish a later departure time. The Not-So-Good O.K., I admit I was predisposed to dislike dinner on the first night. I probably didn’t give it much of a chance, because I was still stewing over being moved out of traditional dining. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like anything about it. I wanted to be sitting at a table for 8 in the Botticelli, and instead I was sitting at a table for 2 in the Michelangelo. Do you get the idea that I’m obsessing? You would be correct. The service was professional if impersonal, the food was the same, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t think dinner had the same flow that it does in traditional dining. With every table being at a different place in the meal, the wait staff seemed more hurried and less able to interact with the passengers. The Bizarre Fast forward several hours, to 3:05 a.m. What do I hear but the captain’s voice coming over the loudspeaker in my cabin! That was a first! Apparently they were looking for a young “lady” that had decided to “upgrade” to a cabin with a new friend. The announcement was the talk of the ship the next day, especially after there were 2 more announcements during breakfast on Sunday looking for “missing” passengers. Captain Nash, in his noon announcement requested that parents know where their teenagers were at all times. Boy, I would have liked to be a fly on the wall when Captain Nash was speaking to that teen (Kelsey-something of Caribe 6-something) and her mom. He couldn’t have been happy, especially knowing he was about to wake the entire ship because a teenager decided to run amok. Our Wonderful Staff Our room stewardess and waitresses were exceptional. They were all far and away the best we have encountered on any of our cruises. Our cabin attendant, Mihaela, was efficient, personable, and friendly. Our waitress, Katalin, and her assistant Alexandra were outstanding. They provided personal service with a smile, and always stopped to chat when we saw them around the ship. Sabatini’s We made reservations to go to Sabatini’s on Monday night when the Caribbean menu was being served in the dining room. We really enjoyed this experience. Sabatini’s provided very attentive service and small tastes of many interesting and different foods. The meal begins with several cold appetizers, such as marinated mushrooms, roasted vegetables, mussels, and shrimp. The cold appetizers were followed by a pizza, then the hot appetizers…we had two or three different pastas, fried cheese, and potato pancakes. The appetizer part of the menu is set, and you are brought just small portions of everything. We then chose our soup and our entrée. Jim and I had them split the scallops and the “Tiger Prawns” (these were actually just regular Gulf Shrimp) so that we both had some of each. Dessert is selected from a tray. Sabatini’s is probably not for everybody, but if you enjoy lingering over a long meal and are somewhat adventurous about tasting different foods, then you would probably enjoy it. We saw some older teens in the restaurant and they appeared to be enjoying the experience, but I think it would be torturous for young children. “The Problem” – Part II Here I am, back on dinner again! Have you ever sat by yourselves at a table for 8? We have, and it’s awkward. We weren’t the only ones who found ourselves in that situation in the “completely full” traditional dining room. There were actually entire tables that weren’t used all week, and other large tables where only one couple showed up for dinner during the cruise. We ended up joining forces with another CC member we met on an excursion and sitting together. Finally on Wednesday another couple came to the table. The newcomers were first time cruisers and they had been busy, so they were just eating in the buffet or one of the other dining rooms. I think this is a problem that Princess could correct with better communication and more detailed explanations of the dining options. Perhaps they need to implement a policy that if you don’t show up after two nights or you eat in one of the anytime dining rooms, you will have to give up your spot in traditional. It seems like there are always huge waiting lists for traditional dining, but this was our second cruise in a row where the traditional dining room has been AT MOST three quarters full. There were complete tables that were empty for the entire week. No one checked cruise cards for the anytime dining rooms, so many people with traditional ate there if they didn’t feel like eating in the traditional dining room at their set time. This affects both traditional diners by creating lots of empty places in the dining room, and affects anytime diners by creating longer waits for tables. I know the dining system isn’t set up to have passengers switching back and forth. If there isn’t anyone monitoring a system, it can break. Like I said, I think this could be easily fixed with very little effort. I know anytime dining is an excellent choice for many people, and traditional works for others, but you can’t have it both ways. I just think if you choose traditional, that is what you should do – not switch back and forth. O.K. – End of rant. We will now return to our regularly scheduled cruise review. The Ports Our itinerary was changed in January when the Grand was having some electrical problems that affected her speed. Feedback from passengers was positive, so Princess made the change permanent for the rest of this Galveston season. Grand Cayman was eliminated, and replaced with Playa del Carmen. I viewed this change as positive, since it gave us a full day in Belize and a full day in Playa del Carmen, instead of a half day each in Belize and Grand Cayman. Costa Maya OOPS! Did I say Costa Maya? This was a “drive-through” port on our cruise. Although we had glorious weather the entire week, it was VERY windy (gale force winds) the first couple days. When we arrived in Costa Maya I could see the waves breaking over the top of the pier we were assigned to. A Norwegian ship had already taken the only straight-in berth, and the Grand would have had to dock parallel to the shore. It didn’t bother me because I love sea days, but I know many people were disappointed. Still, Costa Maya can be a tricky port to dock in when conditions are perfect, and I think Captain Nash made the right decision. I don’t think anyone would have wanted to risk us ending up like the Grandeur of the Seas did last spring, when it hit the dock in Costa Maya and ended up with a long gash in the hull and a three day stay for repairs. Belize We had a great time in Belize this year. We took the ship’s “New Waves Catamaran Snorkel to Rendezvous Cay.” Our excursion picked us up at the ship and we cruised about 45 minutes to the smallest island I’ve ever seen. As the guides said, “population 4 palm trees!” The snorkeling was guided with three exit points for people who got tired and just wanted to relax on the beach. I found the water in Belize to be a little hazier than other ports, but it was still an enjoyable swim. The last leg of the snorkel took us out beyond the island’s coral barrier, where the currents were quite strong. We were tired after the snorkeling! After a quick lunch on the ship, we headed into port. This was our third visit to Belize, but the first time we’ve actually gone into port. We were pleasantly surprised. The vendors weren’t pushy at all, and we purchased some beautiful handcrafted bowls made of different native woods. All in all a very pleasant day. Playa del Carmen We took the Princess excursion to Xcaret. The park was beautiful, and showed little damage from the summer’s hurricanes. We floated down the underground river, and visited the aquarium, the butterfly enclosure, and the Mayan village. Playa del Carmen has exploded in recent years, and there are many new resorts being built as people look for options outside Cancun. Cozumel Wow! I wasn’t prepared for the damage from Hurricane Wilma. It was sad to see the crumbled ruins of the piers and the dead vegetation. We tendered in and shopped at the pier, but we didn’t venture into town. Our excursion was OUTSTANDING. We took the “New Waves Snorkel at Palancar Reef.” The snorkel boat picked us up at the tender pier, and we cruised about 45 minutes to the reef. We stayed fairly close to shore, so I got to see Chankanaab and a couple of the big all-inclusives that are still rebuilding. I had seen pictures, but I don’t think I really grasped the magnitude of the damage until I saw it in person. The thing that struck me the most was how brown everything was. Cozumel had always been so lush and green, and now it’s sparse and brown. Buildings can be reconstructed, but some of the repair work is going to be up to Mother Nature and will take time. Back to the snorkeling…in one word, it was amazing. Although many of the shallow reefs were destroyed by the hurricanes, Palancar is deep enough that it escaped major damage. We saw many coral formations and tons of fish. I was busy taking pictures (I have an underwater housing for my digital), but only about half of them are decent. I find underwater photography difficult, and I can’t seem to convince the fish to stop and pose! Tendering I was prepared for the worst and got something less than that, but I also think Jim and I were fairly lucky. In Belize there were no problems with tendering at all. All local boats were used. The tenders were fairly small and they loaded and unloaded quickly. In Playa del Carmen and Cozumel large ferries were used for tendering. These took a LONG time to load and unload, especially when they returned to the ship and everyone had to go through security and have their belongings run through the scanner. We were fortunate in that we were among the last ones on/first ones off in both ports. In Playa del Carmen we went up to our balcony and watched the ferry we were on finish unloading. We had been in our room for 35 minutes before all the passengers were off the tender. Entertainment In my opinion, Princess has improved their production shows. We thought the quality of the singers and dancers was much better than on previous cruises. We didn’t make it to too many events during this cruise, but that was by choice, not lack of availability. Our goal was to relax and just enjoy being on the ship, which we were able to do. Looking in the Patters, it seemed there was something to appeal to many different tastes – production shows, comedians, musicians, “Princess Idol,” trivia, etc. I’m not familiar with the children’s program, but I did hear someone say they felt there weren’t enough organized activities for the children in the evenings. We spent a little time in the casino where we never seem to have much luck. On the last night the gambling gods smiled on me, and I hit a couple of slot machines for $350.00! Not a fortune, but not a bad way to end the trip either! Disembarkation Again we were prepared for the worst, but what we got was the easiest, fastest, smoothest disembarkation ever. About 800 passengers opted to do the self-disembarkation and carry their own luggage. They left the ship beginning at 6:30 a.m. We opted for one last leisurely breakfast in the dining room, and vacated our cabin at 8:45. We waited for our tags up by the aft pool on deck 14. Now comes the part that amazed me. Our tag color was called at 9:50. We pulled into our driveway in West Houston (1 hour drive from the port) at 11:20! That’s off the ship, bags collected, through customs, car retrieved, and home in just an hour and a half! It simply doesn’t get any easier or smoother than that! A Few Thoughts The Passengers – This was a sold-out Spring Break sailing with more than 800 children! I HAVE to travel during peak times since I am a principal and I’m tied to the school calendar for my vacations. I think the Grand handles the passenger load very well and there are numerous places to get away from the crowds if that’s what you want to do. The aft pool is my haven when I travel during school breaks. The size and design of the Grand are also why I like the ship better than RC’s Rhapsody. On the Rhapsody I never felt like I could get away from the crowds unless I went to my balcony. On the Grand, I could always find a public place that was relaxing and peaceful, even if there was a “sexy legs” contest going on at the main pool. Tipping – We gave our outstanding cabin attendant and waitresses generous and well-deserved tips on Friday night. If you want to tip directly, it has to be in addition to the auto tips, and you’ll need to put your cabin number on the tip envelope. If you’ve taken off the auto tip, then the employee must put the tip into the shared pot. Food – I thought the food on this cruise was good, with some things being excellent. We only stepped foot in the Horizon Court for two quick meals, and I think that really made a positive difference in our opinion of the food. A buffet is a buffet, and there’s only so much you can do to fancy it up. If you don’t care for buffets, go to the dining room for lunch and try some pasta. Princess makes some of the most delicious pasta dishes I’ve had anywhere. The Coffee – I know everybody likes to complain about the coffee, so I had to talk about it. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered, nor was it as good as I would have liked it to be. We took large insulated mugs with us this time, since I’m an early riser and like to let Jim sleep as long as possible. I ran up to the Horizon Court and filled my mug every morning when I got up. Some mornings the coffee was weak and some mornings it was strong, but it was always very hot! If you wake up after 7:00 and want a better cup of coffee, try the fresh brewed coffee at the Promenade Bar on deck 7. Lists & Poop – There’s been a lot of talk this season about the Grand having a permanent list. We never noticed a list of any kind, except for when we were tendering. When we were in port to tender, the ship was listed in order to bring the gangway even with the tender. I had also read a lot of comments about a strong sewage odor. The only time I noticed anything unpleasant was on the last day, and I’m not sure if that was the ship or the Gulf of Mexico! Seriously, I did catch a couple nasty whiffs of something the last day, but I’ve smelled the same thing to some degree on every cruise I’ve taken. The End – Well, that’s probably more than you cared to know. I haven’t written a review of any kind since our first cruise, but this trip was so fantastic for us that I wanted to share the experience with future Grand Princess passengers. I think my husband and I are fortunate to have the Grand sailing from a port so close to our home.

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Mar 11, 2006

Western Caribbean

Embarkation on the ship was great. It helped that we got there early. We left San Antonio at 3 am. and arrived, after breakfast, at about 10. The arrangements and boarding were great. Our first obstacle came when we had a message asking us to leave our bags in our cabin and proceed to a lounge for at least four hours. We went to Horizon court and had a "decent" meal. I parted company with my fellow travellers and found a bar. After a

few drinks, I noticed we were leaving the harbor. I went down to the cabin and found a note telling me they still weren't ready. When I barged my way in anyway, I found a refrigerator repairman and no A/C. Signs of things to come. The ship was gorgeous, but everytime I got near the elevators, I smelled what could only be described as a septic system. Our steward, if you'd call him that was an overworked worry-wort. He walked in on us sleeping more than a few times. He pretended to know English, but had been strategically taught to say "yes" to every question we asked. He stayed in the way mostly and if you dropped anything on the floor or the bed it mysteriously diappeared. The seas were rough and we rocked and rolled for the first few days. Luckily, my family is not prone to sea-sickness. We were alright, but many people did not show up for dinner. We went to the movies under the stars on the Lido Deck and watched "walk the line." It would have been a good movie if we could hear it. Fourty knot winds tend to make sound carry away. I also recommend you bring a regular chair. Those chaise longes become quite uncomfortable after about an hour. I also recommend a blanket or jacket as well. My suggestions: Dry dock the Grand and completely refit it. Replace most of the A/C units. Don't varnish the ship while tourist are on it. Teach the crew English. Learn what bad seating is. Stay out of the western Caribbean until proper docks can be rebuilt. Vent the septic tanks above the 15th deck. Oh yeah, when I book a cruise that is going to Grand Caymen, I expect to go there! All in all we were able to salvage the trip, but Princess did not help. If you want to travel for all-inclusive-resort-rates on a floating Motel 6, then by all means, take a cruise. Me...next time I'll fly to the islands for half the price and stay where I'm appreciated. P.S. We all came down with "some kind of virus" by the time we got home. Just what you want to pay 2 grand a person for.

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Mar 11, 2006

Western Caribbean

This is a review of our W. Caribbean cruise on Grand Princess (GP) March 11, 2006, R/T Galveston, TX. Up front, you should know this was a Spring Break cruise topped off by the maximum capacity of 2900 passengers, which included only 538 Princess repeaters. There were 900 minors. The timing and passenger load obviously slanted our experience and colors the following comments. Your mileage may differ. This was a good seven-day cruise

with four ports. Three tender ports and one dock, Costa Maya, which we missed due to high winds. All of the tender ports required use of large local tenders. These take considerable time to load. We were fortunate that on our tender trips we were nearly last on and first off, so our waits were minimal. Others may have experienced up to twenty or thirty minute delays. Although large, 109,000 GRT, GP’s interior design minimizes the impact of her scale. The only place I became conscious of her size was walking full aft to fore through a cabin deck corridor. Then the extraordinary length becomes very real.This was our second Princess cruise, both of them on GP. Again we enjoyed the marvelous multi layered Lido deck, the courtesy and efficiency of the crew, and the excellent food quality in the main dining rooms. A weight gain of six pounds in only one week attests to the latter. A full month of Stouffer’s will be required to regain my svelte figure. We were in a balcony cabin on Aloha deck. The cabin is small, but adequate for a seven-day trip. Storage space is at a premium, but again ok for just one week. On longer trips, you might want to consider the larger minisuites, if price isn’t a barrier. Our cabin steward “tuffy” was fantastic. She was so quickly in and out that on the first day I thought she might have done a slap-dash job. Not so. She was absolutely thorough. Tuffy has a great attitude and personality to complement her efficiency. The extra tip and accolades I included on the ship’s comment card were well earned. The variety shows were quite good. Most notable were the ship’s dancers. As expected, the music and book are boilerplate cruise ship offerings. A marvelous band, Party Of Four, played the Wheelhouse Lounge. The band boarded GP just this week for their first cruise ship gig. Party Of Four has to be the best band at sea, either for dancing or listening. They play an amazingly eclectic repertoire with great beat and musicality, both instrumentally and vocally. On Thursday the band was transferred to Sun Princess for an extended engagement where they’ll entertain that ship’s lucky passengers. Tours: Belize Rendezvous Cay Snorkel. Good coral and lots of fish. The snorkel boat picks up at ship’s tender door. It’s about one hour trip each way. The boat is open 360deg both top and bottom decks so prepare for wind on both decks and sea spray on the bottom. This is excellent snorkeling at the second largest barrier reef on the globe. However, this excursion combined three tours, beginners, experienced and snuba on the same very overcrowded boat. They need to at least separate snuba to another boat. Playa Del Carmen: Tulum Mayan Show and Lunch At Alux Cavern Lounge. An outstanding guide who possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of Mayan history and culture heightened the Tulum tour. The lunch was a just ok buffet in a lounge cum restaurant created out of an underground cavern. The ‘authentic’ Mayan dance performance was actually very good, including a Vegas style fire handling ceremony. This tour’s a bit pricey, but worthwhile. Cozumel: Snorkeling at Palancar Reef. The deeper reefs are still eighty percent intact. This is world class snorkeling with enormous and many colorful coral mounds and heads of great variety. We saw many varieties of fish including three Eagle Rays. Our snorkel guide was good and easy to follow. He chummed up some hungry fish with pieces of tortilla. I failed to ask if he used corn or flour tortillas. There were thirty-nine snorkelers on board. It was crowded, but not too bad. Palancar is a large reef with plenty of room for everybody. The depth, maximum about twenty feet, is perfect and the water was crystal clear. If time permits, I’d recommend combining both Palancar and Columbia Reef. Columbia is deeper at forty feet, but the visibility is usually good. Both are easy drift snorkels.You’ll do best by staying with the deeper reefs. Dive and snorkel guides report that Wilma destroyed the shallow reefs such as Dzul Ha and Chankanaab. The shoreline plant life is dead as far as the eye can see. Our boat captain estimated it will take the vegetation about a year to recover. Much property damage is still evident. The worst example I saw was El Presidente Resort. The main building was so badly damaged it looks like a teardown. There are a few beaches such as Paradise and Palancar open for sunbathers, but many are literally gone. As much as we enjoyed this cruise there were a few problems. We prefer traditional dining and, as requested, were seated at a large table for eight. Only one other couple appeared the first night. They failed to return. Being the only couple at a table for eight is an intensely awkward experience. One other couple finally appeared, but they didn’t materialize until the fourth night. At a different table was another couple whom we knew through the Cruise Critic message board. We met on board and learned that they shared exactly the same experience. The Maitre d’ informed us that all of the other seats were assigned, making reassignment impossible. Finally, the situation became so uncomfortable that we did an unauthorized reassignment on our own. Passengers who abandon their assignment without notification are being disrespectful toward others. Our circumstance was far from unique, there were many other empty or near empty tables throughout the dining room. A fleet wide policy change is certainly in order. An effective solution might be if Princess would provide advance notice to diners that if they fail to appear the first two nights without prior notice, automatic reassignment to Any Time dining will occur. That would either allow proper seating reassignments, or fill the chairs as assigned. Undeniably, better ideas are afloat that might solve this problem, but something needs to be done. One final note about dining and I’ll let it go: Neither formal night dress codes or dining room entry time limits were enforced. The latter is not a ‘don’t care’ issue. As a tablemate correctly observed, late arrival disrupts the waiter’s timing, which negatively affects service to the other diners in his charge. Maybe the rules were suspended in recognition of the large numbers of first time cruisers. Despite a few gripes, I’m compelled to add a notch to my belt as testament that I cleaned my plate thoroughly and often. The food was excellent and the service was as good as circumstances allowed. Crewmembers shared some concerns they endured with kids that were not visible to all. They reported troubles with underage alcohol consumption, use of fake Ids, minors buying alcohol with parent’s charge cards and “lost” teens. The latter was obvious when everyone on board was awakened at 3AM with a public announcement seeking a wayward teen. The Atrium bar attendant said instead of covering the glasses at night, they had to put away all the bar glass because the kids were throwing it around. That’s after closing time, folks. These are problems with the parents more than the kids. Only we are responsible for the behavior of our children, not the ship’s crew or staff. We sailed this same Spring Break cruise last year. There seemed to be a more of the older teens this time. Overall, this was a good cruise. We enjoyed the ship, the port tours and most of all our companions. The problems did not, as they say, ruin our cruise. We’re certainly not canceling our Sea Princess cruise this December 9th.

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Feb 4, 2006

Western Caribbean

You may have heard about the “mishap” on the Grand Princess on Feb. 4, 2006. I will talk about that later. Please allow me to give you a review of this cruise as though it had not happened. There was the problem on the first day and the one due to weather on the last day. Bottom line, except for the first two hours and the last three hours it was a good cruise for us. But I realize that others will not be able to say the same. I

might be comparing this cruise to two others. Rhapsody of the Seas (RCL) and Elation (Carnival). See my review at: http://www.cruisereviews.com/CarnivalCruiseLines/Elation50.htm Parking - Went very well. Used EZ Cruise Parking. Would certainly use them again. We have used both the Dolphin lot and the Port Authority lot. I would not recommend either of these two. Embarkation – Smooth and quick. Less than 30 minutes from time we entered terminal to being on the ship and in our cabin. Ship – Very nice. Deck 7 has several nice show lounges and venues. Beautiful “Skywalkers” disco. Dining room very spacious. Some dining rooms (Elation) feel cramped and dark. The Princess Theater is very nice. It seats over 900 and there is hardly a bad seat in the house. The main theater on Elation is terrible. Entertainment – Excellent! The Magician, Juggler, Comics, & Musicians offered excellent entertainment. The magician does a close up show, in the atrium, on the last sea day of the cruise. This is not to be missed. But I could say the same for the juggler and the comics. Food – Very good. You might be able to find better food but it would not be easy. When we compare the food to Elation … well there is no comparison. The food on Grand Princess was many times better. We chose the “Any Time Dining” experience. This was really different for us. But, I must say, it worked really well. All of the waiters were helpful and friendly. Crew – Always Friendly. Always helpful. Ports – What can I say? Ports are ports. But we really love Belize. If you go to Belize, do not book an excursion from the ship unless you just happen to want one of the really special things. If you want to see the Baboon Reserve of just take a tour of the city, etc. hire a driver from the Belize Tour Guides Assn. Do not get a “taxi”. Anyone with a car can have a taxi. To be a licensed tour guide you have to be trained and licensed from the government. They are great! You will also save money. You can find them on the dock. They will have ID cards around their necks and will take you to a small building where they will write up the charges. You may see a sign over this door that says “Tour Guide Assn”. We have done this twice now. Disembarking – This did NOT go great. Problems, beyond the control of the ship probably caused many people to miss flights. The ship was supposed to dock at 0600. Customs was supposed to clear the ship for passengers to leave by 0830. At 0700 the Captain came on the PA and informed us that the winds were over 70 knots (80mph). This is beyond what the ship can maneuver in. He informed us that we would have to wait for the winds to die down to less than 50 kts and then wait for four tugs to take us in. If you looked you saw dozens of ships anchored around us because they could not go into the ship channel as well. It was 0830 before we docked. The original plan was for the bags to be offloaded and Customs was going to take 2.5 hours to let people off the ship. They must have sped things up because by about 10:00 people were being let off. Because we did not have air connections and we were in less expensive cabins, we had expected to be let off by 11:00 if the delay had not happened. They called our color at 11:58. By about 12:30 we were out of the terminal and before 1:00 we were on the way home. Unfortunately a highway warning sign told us that I-45 was shut down just south of Houston due to a major accident. It took us 2.5 hours to drive from just south of Houston to just north of downtown. I am sure that many of those trying to make flights were not able to do so. It was a nightmare but I can’t say that this was the cruise’s fault. The problems with getting off the ship were compounded by all the people who were trying to get on. Because we were not off, there was no place for them to park and the shuttles that were supposed to be picking up passengers at the airport were stuck trying to get people there. But that is not the big story. We sailed at 4:00 (1600) Approximately 2 hours later we are just about 30 miles (or less) from Galveston. We were in our stateroom, having just returned from the required muster drill, when we perceived that the ship was turning. I commented on it to my wife. She called me to see that the drawers on our dresser were coming open. Having sailed on several other cruises and not seeing this before, I said, "That's new." The ship continued to turn and a moment later items on our dresser began to slide off. I began hearing groaning sounds from the ship and crashing noises from outside our cabin. This is where I joked, "Have we hit an iceberg?" Looking out of our cabin there were people in the hallway. Some were crying and wondering what had happened. The cabin steward was doing his best to control rolling carts and reassure passengers that everything was OK. He commented to me that "This is deck 5. The upper decks will have more movement." A few moments later the Captain came on the PA and explained that he had to make an emergency turn in tight shipping lanes and return to Galveston because of a critically ill passenger. He also explained that the ship had heeled over more than expected but there was never any danger to the ship. We left our cabin to find that the ship was in disarray and the crew was busy trying to pick up things. It seems that everything on the port side of the ship had tried to move to the starboard side. Some people were a little panicked. Here are some other facts or information we were told. - The bottles from just about every bar were tossed from their shelves. (One report put just this loss at $7500.) - Some people were dining when everything on their tables slid off, then the chairs and tables in the dining room took off and headed for the starboard side. - The ship tipped over so much that water poured from the swimming pools on deck 14. (And there is a 2-3ft wall around the pools.) - Several rooms were flooded by swimming pool water. The carpet in the "Horizon Court" buffet restaurant was wet the entire cruise. - Television sets in many cabins came off the shelf and crashed to the floor. (Even though each shelf has a 2 inch rail around it to prevent this. A news report listed this as over 80 TVs destroyed.) - There were numerous minor injuries. (One news report has the number of reported injuries as 27.) - We watched a Coast Guard cutter rendezvous with the ship within sight of the lights of Galveston. - Several people were moved from the ship to the cutter. - After the incident I noticed several people with, what looked like, brand new casts on arms etc. One has to wonder why someone would go on a vacation, that probably involved the beach and swimming etc. with a cast on their arm. - We were also told that a chef was taken off the ship with injuries due to burns during the turn. (This has been confirmed by some news agencies.) - We have been told, by friends and connections now on the ship, that the captain has been replaced as of Feb. 14. 2006. We don’t know if this had anything to do with the mishap. You can see pictures here. http://www.riotacts.com/theturn.html News report here: http://galvestondailynews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=8a3a7d0d4e5dc3d0 I know that some people have very valid complaints and concerns. I am sure that if my wife had been even slightly injured I would be very angry right now. But for us, and many other people we spoke with, the cruise was fun. If I could, I would go back on it tomorrow. I also know, that if it had been me or my loved one the captain was trying to save by the quick turn, I would consider him a hero. It probably just depends on who you are.

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Jan 21, 2006

Western Caribbean

Overall the cruise was good but not memorable. Three days before leaving we received an e-mail saying that grand Cayman had been removed from a port for our cruise and would be replaced with Playa Del Carman which is still suffering from hurricand damage and requires tenders to get to shore. Talking with others, Princess is doing this same change on all of the Grand Princess cruises instead of changing their itennary. Staff was nice for

the cruise and shows were average at best. Food was good but most lacked flavor and spice. The first 2 ports it was raining in the morning and all tours were cancelled. In Belize they did not tell us until we had tendered to shore and were told by the tour guide. Made out own tour with one of the tour guides and saw the zoo. Small but interesting. At the third port, Playa Del Carmen, the tenders were very unorganized and we were 2 hours late getting to shore. They had to cut our tour of Tulum short with only a brief walk and talk. The last stop was Cozumel. Went on a snorkel trip after tendering to shore. Good operators and beautiful fish. Coral was severely damanged though. Town still needs much rebuilding to be back to quality with many things still under construction. No sign of reconstruction on the docks for the cruise ships so expect tendering for the next several months. Happy I was not on the Grand last week. Ship made a quick turn leaving Galveston with a LOT of list. Several people injured and lots of "stuff" damaged or broken. Think before using this shiop in the near future.

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Nov 26, 2005

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.

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Nov 26, 2005

Western Caribbean

The Grand Princess left Galveston, TX, on November 26, 2005. It was voyage A535 and the booking was MGDT4C. The ship departed two hours late, resulting in the shore excursions to be limited on time. Time was even more limited, due to the fact that the crew lacked the ability to move people, when tendering. The itinerary was also changed, resulting in 8 ships in the port, at Grand Cayman. Imagine passengers from 8 ships boarding tenders and

arriving at the same dock, at the same time. During that shore excursion, we had three stops and were told that we would have ten minutes at each stop. We went on shore excursions at each destination and felt rushed, during every one of them. After the tours, we were lucky to make it back to the ship on time, let alone shop for souvenirs. The food and service was less than impressive. The purser was rude. Instead of just fixing my room key, she insisted that I must have done something to it. A supervisor reprimanded a staff member in front of co-workers and passengers. Two bartenders were too busy making out to realize they had a customer. Waiters would wander aimlessly, without stopping to see if you needed anything. We had our meals finished, before we were offered something to drink. It took nearly 5 hours for us to leave the ship, when it returned to Galveston. That's more than the total time we were able to spend on our shore excursions. This was not a relaxing vacation. We found that the staff were unprofessional and lacked the ability to provide good customer service. We sent a letter to Dale Whitmore of Passenger Relations, requesting that Princess reimburse us for the cost of the shore excursions. We didn't request anything for the poor service, since one can't put a price on good customer service. Six weeks later, Princess sent us a letter offering us $100 ship credit each, during our next cruise, despite the fact that we stated in our letter that we would never cruise with Princess, again.

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Aug 29, 2005

Mediterranean

To Whom. It May Concern: I would. like to share with you and your readers my experiences regarding a very disappointing Mediterranean voyage aboard the Grand Princess cruise line. The cruise that I am writing about originated from Barcelona, Spain on August 30 and ended in Venice, Italy on September 11th, 2005. All of my friends who took the same cruise during previous years bragged about how fabulous it was, I am thinking now that they

must have been drunk, as many other people aboard were, because IT WAS THE WORST VACATION OF MY LIFE !!! I do not know how often, if ever, the Health Department check up on ships but the food was not kept at safe temperatures. Some of it was absolutely inedible. Multiple people came down with food poisoning. This did, not stop many others from eating like there was no tomorrow but I spoke to quite a few passengers who, like me, ate enough bread and butter on this cruise to last us a lifetime. The entertainment (and I use that term loosely) was worse than any amateur show and the majority of the ship’s activities were scheduled during the times when, most of the passengers were ashore doing sightseeing. To top it off, our time ashore was continually cut short. When my husband inquired as to why we had to come back before our scheduled time, he was told that it was because “It is cheaper. When, the ship is docked, port fees have to be paid.” This did not seem fair as all of the port fees and taxes had already been charged to the passengers. My husband gave this cruise as a gift to me. It was our anniversary so he purchased a special package that included a massage and a facial. I was very excited about this. However, the therapists who worked at the spa were obviously salespeople as well and they kept pushing various different products and additional services to me. This made me very uncomfortable. Even after I politely declined and said I was not going to buy anything, they did not give up. When I finally responded with a very firm “No thank you.” I received several extremely unpleasant looks. It is very difficult to enjoy yourself and relax when anywhere and everywhere you go you are being solicited to buy something. Then, right before we were supposed to arrive in. Turkey, the unthinkable happened---Our ship broke down in the middle of the sea. We were not moving. After about 5 hours, we were told that we were going to have to skip our stop in Istanbul. Many of the passengers got very angry. The next morning, we docked at a very small Greek island called Samos. There was nothing to see or do there. Of course, the captain and the crew acted as if we should thank our lucky stars that we were allowed to stop anywhere. Later that evening, we received an announcement that we would be skipping Turkey completely. Passengers went from angry to enraged. The combination of frustration and alcohol is never a good one so about 600 passengers got together in the middle of the ship and began to riot. They started screaming that they wanted to see the ship’s maintenance log. The response was that a maintenance log was not kept since 1999. Security eventually came out and told everybody to disburse. Two hours later, after a lot more drinking, we had a second riot. This was definitely not my idea, of a good time. The next day we were told that, due to the generosity of the Princess Cruise lines and their incredible customer service, we would each receive a $400 credit. Unfortunately, this credit could only be used aboard, the ship, was not retroactive, and could only be used at the present time. It would expire once the cruise ended and no cash refunds would be given if the total amount was not used. Everyone aboard felt that this was completely insufficient for all we had been through. By now we were completely off schedule so we arrived in Athens earlier than, we were supposed to and, all of the sightseeing was completely cancelled. It was obvious that the ship was moving far slower than it was supposed to and it began making very loud noises. We then had to spend an additional day out at sea. It was at this point that I began to pray. A day before our cruise ended, my husband was in an elevator that was marked “capacity 18.” There were only 12 passengers but the elevator ground to a halt. Neither the emergency button, the phone, nor the air-conditioning was functional. People began to panic. Finally the passengers, with no help from the crew, had to force the doors open to get everyone out. By some miracle we made it to the last day. We were in Venice. What a magnificent city that is! On the way from the city, we had three cruise ship employees sitting behind, us. They were discussing the ship’s current situation. My husband and I could, not believe what we heard! Apparently there was complete and utter chaos going on below. The maintenance people stated that it would be impossible to fix all of the problems in time for the next voyage but, rather than cancel, the management had decided to proceed with the ship “as is” and start the next cruise and just skip ports. My husband and I were stunned! 2700 people were about to board that ship in Venice to go to Barcelona and they would have no idea what hit them. Oh, but I am sure that Princess came up with some line of BS stating that all of the problems were totally unexpected and unavoidable. What a joke. I truly hope that you will publish my letter. Cruises may seem like a great vacation idea but people need to know what really goes on “behind the curtain.” Lord knows that I will never take one again. Sincerely,

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Apr 15, 2005

Transatlantic

I didn't see any reviews of this itinerary before we took the trip, so I thought I'd add what I observed. First the bad: 1) The average age of the people on this cruise was approaching about 70. 2) A transatlantic crossing is a really long time to cruise with a non-party crowd like that. 3) Princess puts lots of salt in the food. We were all swollen by the end of the trip. 4) Our dining room service was sub-par. In a first for

us, we cut their tips. 5) The tab adds up fast on a long trip like this one. The good: 1) There were only 9 kids on board. 2) The Grand Princess is a great ship with lots of amenities. 3) Our cabin steward and the cruise director staff were outstanding. 4) The poolside video screen for movies under the stars was especially cool. Observations: 1) All food on board is included with three exceptions. There are two restaurants on board with an additional cover charge. Sabatini's, the Italian place is probably worth the extra $20. They serve you about 14 courses of neat stuff. (I learned I like anchovies.) The Painted Desert has a $15 cover charge. Since it's pretty much just a steak place, and you can get steak in the main dining rooms any night you want, I don't see the advantage. Grand Princess also features an ice cream bar for an extra charge. The ice cream isn't great, and we discovered they have free ice cream on the buffet every day between 3:30 and 4:30. 2) Coffee, tea and water is free on board. All other beverages are charged to your account. Alcoholic beverages are expensive and really add up over the course of a cruise. At $1.50 per coke, it's definitely worth while to buy the all you can drink soft drink deal the first day of the cruise if you like sodas. 3) I suck at bingo. At $20 a session, that's another thing that really added up fast. 4) Princess owns and operates the art auctions on board. No matter what you buy from them, they guarantee they'll buy it back from you if you change your mind. 5) Get involved in the on board activities. It's fun and helps to pass the time on the long at sea days. 6) In addition to the internet access area, there are three computers in the library with net access. The line for net access was always shorter in the library. 7) Did I mention how charges add up on you? Get a print out of your charges from the purser's desk at least a couple of times during the cruise so you don't have any nasty surprises. Ports of call: Galveston, TX: We departed from Galveston. Princess had representatives at the Houston airport to meet us and put us on their shuttle bus. Embarkation went smoothly once we arrived. Fort Lauderdale: The first stop for this itinerary was Port Everglades, for only 3 hours. When we booked, we were told we couldn't get on the ship there, yet many people did. I don't understand why that was. With all the at sea days, we could have skipped the Gulf of Mexico crossing and not felt like we missed anything. Bermuda: The ship docked at West End. Most of the shopping and activities were in Hamilton or Georgetown on the other end of the island. We chose to ride a ferry to Hamilton to take a look around. Bermuda is beautiful and very stateside like, even though it's part of Great Britain. If the weather had been warmer we would have enjoyed a kayaking or snorkeling outing. As it was we just did some shopping and picture taking in Hamilton and then headed back to the ship. At Sea: Only a few days before we were in the Atlantic, a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship got hit by a freak 70 foot wave. We were very fortunate in that by the time we got to the area that happened to them, the Atlantic was flat and smooth like glass. Honestly, for our entire transatlantic crossing, the water looked more like a lake than an ocean. It was so smooth, we could have water skied behind the ship. According to past transatlantic cruisers, these calm conditions were definitely out of the ordinary. One night the captain came on the intercom and asked for volunteers to donate blood for a sick crew member. We later learned one of the casino dealers was having some internal bleeding for some reason. Several passengers donated blood to help her. The next morning at about 6 am, the captain roused us from sleep to evacuate a couple of decks of the ship because a helicopter was coming to medivac the young lady to the Azores. People gathered all over the decks to watch the chopper hover over the deck and draw the stretcher holding the woman up as it spun in the air. They got her aboard safely and after reaching Ponta Delgada successfully operated on her. The last we heard she was recovering nicely. Ponta Delgada: The Azores just suddenly appear in the middle of nowhere. The islands are really beautiful. We took the crater lakes overview excursion. Our guide was good and very enthusiastic about his homeland. Unfortunately our view of the crater lakes was obscured by fog, but the drive around the island was marvelous. The rolling grasslands full of cows suddenly falls away to valleys of trees and cliffs that drop right off into the Atlantic. I was reminded at once of pictures I've seen of Ireland and Hawaii. After all the at sea days, this little piece of land was very welcome. I stayed on deck until the last glimpse disappeared behind us when we left. Lisbon: Sailing up the river to Lisbon we got to enjoy the sights of fishermen out for the morning catch and the beautiful bridge across the river right at the port. Lisbon also features a statue of Christ across the river, just like the one in Rio de Janeiro. We took a shore excursion to Fatima during our Lisbon stop. What little I got to see of this beautiful city was from the windows of our bus. There's plenty to explore in Lisbon and I'd definitely like to go back to check it out better. Fatima is a very impressive place and they're still building more. We witnessed several people crawling into the chapel on their knees, signifying whatever they had come in search of in the past had come to pass. They crawl in as a way of returning to say thanks. We watched part of a church service while we were there and toured the rest of the church grounds and the surrounding town. We were looking for a place to have lunch when we stumbled upon Jack Pizza. As a Jack, I had no choice but to try them out. The pizza was good and so was the Portuguese beer. On the way back to the ship we got to experience rush hour traffic Portuguese style. Actually it's just like any other rush hour traffic you've ever been caught in, but we barely made it back to the boat before our scheduled sailing time. The roughest seas we saw were in the approach to the Straits of Gibraltar. Even these little white caps weren't much higher than about 4 feet. Unfortunately it was hard to see the Rock of Gibraltar, but we could just make it out in the distance. We did get a good view of the African coastline before we turned north towards Barcelona. Barcelona: What a pretty city. We took the Barcelona highlights tour and cruised around past the Olympic stadium, many architectural wonders and ended up with a tour of Gaudi's unfinished cathedral, La Familia Sagrada. The cathedral was crawling with tourists, but was really cool to see. After getting dropped back off at the ship, we struck out again and had lunch along the popular La Rambla district of the city. It's a pretty tourist filled area, but it's a lovely place to stroll and shop. Unfortunately we didn't have time to also ride the tram from the port area up to the top of Montjuic. There's a village up there built for one of the World Fairs to represent all the separate provinces of Spain. If I ever get back to Barcelona, I'd like to check that out. We got our most beautiful sunset of the cruise after we sailed from Barcelona. The sun set behind the mountains and reflected across the Mediterranean as we headed north east to Cannes. Cannes: Cannes is a tender port, which means you have to ride a boat to get to shore. You can take shore excursions to Monte Carlo or Monaco, but we chose to just wander around Cannes. We happened to be there the week before the famous film festival and we saw a lot of preparations taking place for that event. We also stumbled into a flea market in the town square area. It was kind of a combination art festival and garage sale, but fun to poke around in. We also did some window shopping at some extravagantly priced shops along the beach strip. Cannes appears to still be a quaint seaside town and it's very clean. Livorno: All I saw of Livorno was the actual port. We took the Pisa and Florence highlights excursion and were off the boat as soon as it docked. This tour featured our only annoying guide. She must have lost someone in the past because she was obsessed with counting us multiple times every time we got ready to go somewhere new. I really felt like cattle on this tour. Unfortunately we were in town on Italian labor day, and all the museums were closed. We did get to walk past the museum where Michaelangelo's David is housed, but alas couldn't go in to see it. Likewise, we only got to walk around outside the cathedral and other monuments in Florence. It was in this city that I first started to notice the graffiti problem that seems to plague the cities on our trip. Of all the places we went, this city was the dirtiest. Pisa looks like it wouldn't be anything if it weren't for the leaning tower. It's really more of a small town than a city. The tower itself sits in a square next to the cathedral and baptistery. Those three buildings are surrounded by a wall and tons of stalls hawking souvenirs and counterfeit sunglasses and purses. Taking the obligatory "holding up the tower" picture is a very popular activity, and you have to jockey for position since people are constantly walking in your way. Once you've done that, you can head back to the bus. There's nothing to see here folks. Civitavecchia: Our disembarkation port was Civitavecchia. A word to the wise, this port is quite a ways out from Rome. You'd better have your ground transportation arranged, because there aren't any taxi cabs nearby. Some people took a shore excursion into Rome as their way of getting to town. After the tour, they got dropped off with their bags at the train station. This was a pretty cheap way to get to town, but I wouldn't want to have to deal with my luggage on the Rome subway system. It would probably be OK with just one bag, but since this was the end of a 16 day cruise, few people had that little to keep up with. Rome: We stayed for a couple of days in Rome. All Rome hotels are expensive. Ours was no exception, but I highly recommend La Scalinata di Spagna at the top of the Spanish steps. It's a good in town location, right at a Metro stop and at the top of one of the most popular tourist sites. In Rome, everywhere you look there are historical sites, ruins and things to fascinate the visitor. You can walk between many of the most popular things, or grab a cab or jump on the Metro to get around more quickly. We saw the Spanish steps, the coliseum, the forum, the Pantheon, the Trevi fountain, the Presidential palace (accidentally), the Vatican and many Piazas and fountains along the way. Really you need several days to see it all, and we only had two, so we were turbo touring. We took a tour with Icon Tours (www.icontours.com) for the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. I highly recommend this outfit. The guide really knew his stuff and was passionate about the material. I came out equally impressed by his knowledge and the skill of the artists who created all the wonderful work in the Vatican collection.

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Mar 26, 2005

Western Caribbean

My wife and two daughters (13, 10) recently returned from this week-long cruise. Overall, it was an excellent experience, and we had no complaints about any aspect of it. Here are some thoughts about the voyage: Ship / Entertainment -- We took a Disney cruise about 2 years ago, and their boat was a little newer than the Grand Princess. So comparing them was a little bit of a let down, but overall, the appearance and functionality of

the Grand Princess and our rooms were very good. One point in favor of the Grand Princess was that due to its larger size, we felt that the quality of the entertainment for adults was better on the Grand Princess than Disney. This was a pleasant surprise. Food -- excellent, all the way around. We did anytime dining, and settled in at Michealangelo's after a couple of days with the same wait staff. The staff of the boat was completely excellent all the way around; they were very friendly and acccomodating. Ports -- I did not care for Belize much due to its impoverished conditions but the other ports were quite good/fun. It was spring break week so there were a lot of people from other boats there that made things hectic at times (not a big deal). Recommended are Sting Ray City at the Caymans, snorkeling on Cozumel, and the Mayan Ruins at Costa Maya. Embarkation and disembarkation were not a problem at all. About the only thing that could have been better is something that noone can control, which is that the weather was not good (overcast) the first two days and the last, but that did not prevent us from having a great time. Overall, we would rate this cruise a 8.5 out of ten, and would not hesitate to take a Princess cruise again. If you have any questions about it, feel free to contact me.

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Mar 12, 2005

Western Caribbean

The ship and crew were great and the food was excellant as usual. I must note that we were late leaving from Galveston and getting to every port. On ports you must take a tender to shore (Belize/Cayman), beware if you have booked a private, (non-ship) tour. You will be late. Everyone who signs up for tours sold by the ship will be given priority disembarkation. You will have to fight for a tender ticket and otherwise be treated as 2nd

class to the people who bought ship sponsored tours. This is not right. If ship sponsored tours are late getting back to the ship, (as usual), plan on being late to your next port as the domino effect takes hold. Look at your watch often as you watch the precious time in port and your plans for the day tick away. Otherwise a truly beautiful ship and crew. I also found it harder to learn your way around the Grand than other bigger ships I have been on but you will survive. Not recommended for the time conscience types.

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Mar 12, 2005

Western Caribbean

Background – My family and I have cruised with Carnival, and Royal Caribbean, and recently on Grand Princess. Living near Houston and frequently visiting Galveston has made the cruising experience so simple and easy that we rarely vacation any other way. We are both in our late twenties and we have a daughter who is 9 and we love cruises! Embarkation - Embarkation was very simple as they are well staffed with greeters and friendly

faces who know your goal is to get on the ship quickly and they help in every way to see that this happens fast. We had no trouble at all with the embarkation process. Ship Overview – The Grand Princess is a massive and beautiful ship which to me makes it almost harder to enjoy because it is SO massive! This is a great thing when you have 3000 cruisers on board so everyone can spread out but it is also bad when on the last day you find a beautiful room that you never got to enjoy. Every public room is big and bold and decorated wonderfully and the ship does not show its age at all. The staterooms (we had a balcony room) are very nice with plenty of space and a cozy atmosphere. The only complaint we ever had was that the cooling throughout the ship was minimal. This goes back to the fact that it is such a huge ship so naturally it will have a problem keeping nice and cool. But that is a very minimal complaint. Overall the ship was the best I have seen and we enjoyed it immensely. The entertainment was great – not the best but very good. The food was to die for in the dining rooms and on the buffet. The pools and giant TV are amazing. Be sure to head out to movie under the stars – it is neat! Don’t by shy to ask for extra blankets. The TV is great and in the heat and sunny part of the day it amazed me at how it was able to deflect the sun so you could still see it clearly. You know you are on a great ship when docked at different ports people from other ships lean over from their top decks to watch the Grand’s TV! Kids Activities – Our little girl was very pleased with her stay in the kid’s area. They are staffed with fun upbeat people who make sure the kids aren’t baby-sat, rather that they have a vacation too. We only used the kid’s area twice so we could enjoy the casinos (which were great) so her time there was minimal but in that time she enjoyed the activities! Side Note- The ice cream that is out by the pool is an extra cost but a very small cost however, each night in the dining rooms you get the same ice cream for free. Ports Of Call – Belize – so pretty! We absolutely loved Belize. We decided not to go into the town of Belize after hearing that we may have more fun on one of the secluded cays and that is just what we did. We went to Rendezvous Cay and snorkeled and sat on a beach no bigger than a modest sized home. It was fantastic! Costa Maya – For a day of relaxation we booked an excursion to enjoy a restful day at a local beach and had a great time. Beware of open bars as the alcohol in the sun has a lingering effect and not to mention they tend to make the drinks a lot stronger in Mexico! Loved the port! Grand Cayman (our favorite) – WOW! Nice weather and always a beautiful place to visit. Even thought there were talks of hurricane damage Grand Cayman never lacks in the beauty of the island or the friendliness of its people. We snorkeled here again and it is just beautiful. I recommend any snorkel trip in Grand Cayman. Don’t forget to walk down a bit past the tender pick up and enjoy Eden Rock. For a free snorkel spot it is amazing! Cozumel - Cozumel is always a hot spot and never fails with its vacation atmosphere. Unfortunately spring break was going on and so many people were there that it made it just a bit nerve racking. We had no time to shop nor would I have seeing as everyone was there already so we booked an excursion to Passion Island. We had been before and just loved the tranquility of it. A secluded island that is used only by cruise ships it is a great place to just go and relax. Again – careful around the open bar! Cruise Staff – Superb, nice, and accommodating in every way. If you book a cruise on the Grand be sure that when you first get on the ship go ahead and make dinner reservations in the DaVinci or Michael Angelo room and spa appointments. You will be upset if you don’t. I had luckily read this on another review and I am glad I did. If you don’t have reservations you will have to wait for a table. If you choose to go to the other places – Sabatinis’s, Bottecelli’s, or others I am sure you need to call ahead first. We didn’t eat at the extra cost places simply because the food in the DaVinci and Michael Angelo rooms was wonderful! The waiters and matridees are all helpful and charming in every way. The room stewards are great as well and made our room as nice as could be. All of the bartenders were very nice too. Everyone working on Grand was welcoming and we were very pleased. Embarkation – Again, handled very well and with a mass of 3000 people who are tired and cranky from having to get up early to journey home the staff was all wonderful. We simply don’t like leaving a pretty ship and that was the hardest part of the trip – leaving! To Sum Up – I would say this is our favorite cruise so far and we thoroughly enjoyed the others. Can’t wait to go back! If you are looking at cruises out of Galveston I give this one a 10 and would encourage anyone at any age to go cruising on it!

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Feb 26, 2005

Western Caribbean

Embarkation - We drove into Galveston and arrived around 1pm. The traffic was unbelievable. We spent at least 1 ½ hours waiting in traffic trying to make our way to the terminal. When we finally did get there, I got out with the luggage and my husband went to go and park the car. He said the traffic was also very bad going to the parking lot. We parked in the Port Authority secured lot, but next time we may consider one of the other

ones. He could not get a shuttle back to the terminal and ended up running all the way..and it is a very long way to run. Then we waited in a very long line to board the ship. It was 3:30 when we actually got on board and made our way to our room. There were 3 ships there that day, so I assume that is why the traffic was bad and the lines were long. We had been told and had read here on this site that embarkation was a breeze, but that was not our experience. On Board the Ship! Wow! So much nicer than the ship we had cruised on previously. Our room had a balcony - which we loved! We were celebrating our wedding anniversary and had bought one of the “anniversary packages” online prior to saling. We had a bottle of Dom Perignon and canapes (including caviar and shrimp) waiting for us in the room. We couldn’t immediately enjoy it because we had to go the Muster Drill,(which they took a lot more seriously here than on the prior ship we were on)...but then back to the room and we enjoyed champagne on the balcony while we were leaving Galveston. Fantastic!! The balcony was so wonderful. I don’t think I’ll be satisifed with anything less ever again. We enjoyed it so much! We had our coffee here every morning. Our room was on the Lido deck. This was a great location as the Horizon Court Buffet and also the pizza/hamburger grill is on this level. Several times we went to the buffet and then brought our food back to enjoy on our balcony. The room was spacious, plenty of room for us (even though I seriously overpacked!). The first night we ate at the Painted Desert ($15 each) and did enjoy the steaks there. The food in the main dining rooms was excellent though so I’m not sure if we would do this again because of the added expense. Some of the entrees that were offered throughout our cruise in the dining rooms were veal chops, lobster, beef wellington, chicken kiev and shrimp diavlo. It was all very good and the wait staff was very friendly and accommodating. The second night was “Oscar Night” and they had a viewing of the Academy Awards in one of the main theaters. They also offered specials on bottles of champagne and complimentary hors d’oeuvres (we ate so many of those we didn’t have room for dinner!) This coincided with formal night, so everyone was very dressy for the “Oscars” and it was a lot of fun Movies Under the Stars was awesome! There is so much to do on a cruise that we were only able to enjoy this one night, but it was great. The pillows and the blankets are a nice touch. We had a lot of fun in the casino too and entered a couple of slot tournaments. The Skywalkers club was neat and we enjoyed watching the “Princess Idol” contestants sing or at least try to :>). We played Bingo several times. Entered a few trivia contests. We watched the “Marriage Game” (like the Newlywed game) one night and it was too funny! And of course, the wooden horse races! You’ll just have to see if for yourself but it too is a lot of fun. Ports We didn’t get off the boat in Belize and instead had a relaxing day on the ship (this is a really good time to the get the hot tub all to yourself!) Costa Maya, Cozumel and Grand Caymans, we did a little bit of shopping, but truth is we are beach bums and spent most of the time lying in lounge chairs. Cozumel is our favorite port though. We enjoy San Francisco Beach. You can take a taxi there for not very much ( I think it was $6-$8?). Access to the beach and lounge chairs is free. Try to get a chair with one of the cushions that is also a float. That’s the best ~ just floating around in the ocean! They also make an awesome pina colada here that they serve in a beautiful pineapple. Be sure and try the shrimp fajitas for lunch! Yum Yum! Disembarkation Took a long time to get off the ship and an even longer time for my poor hubby to run back to the parking lot (couldn’t get a shuttle this time either) and get the car. This was a wonderful, fantastic cruise! I recommend it to everyone. We cannot wait to go back!!! Feel free to email with any questions. Also, if anyone has any tips for me on the parking situation, let me know. Thanks!

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Feb 19, 2005

Western Caribbean

When I got home, I realized how much I missed everything about the Grand Princess: clean towels, chocolates on pillows, wonderful meals and an EXCELLENT 24 hour buffet. What I appreciated most was the ship's crew. They work so hard all day every day, and they can often be seen scrubbing, varnishing, cleaning... makes you realize how spoiled you are. The crew was the most friendly, polite group of people I have ever met! If you get really

lucky, you'll have Joseph from the Philippines as your waiter; I couldn't have asked for anyone better. My grandparents have been on 6 cruises and even they said this was the nicest ship they had ever been on. Although not many children were on board, there was still plenty to do. I encourage trying out the Movies Under the Stars. Fresh pillows and wool blankets on lounge chairs in front of a huge screen.. It's quite awesome. Everything. Best week of my life.

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By RKM _CR

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Feb 12, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was a Great Cruise!! Embarkment went smoothly, but allow a hour and a half to get onto the boat once you arrive. Our mini suite was absolutely wonderful, clean and Joey our steward was great. The meals were tremendous. We ate each night in the dining room, except the one night we ate at the steak house where they charge a $15.00 per person cover charge. Breakfast and lunch were ate at the buffet, and late meals and between

meals at the pizza and hamburger stands by the pool. Every meal was very, very good! We would have loved to have room service for breakfast and eat it on the balcony but the menu was very limited. The shows were good, one comedian gat a little too crude but overall they wre good. Excursions were very enjoyable, the Myan Ruins was the best. Everything about the Grand Princess is just that, GRAND!! Let me say hat having to fly into Houston and shuttle to the port is a pain and expensive beginning. They need to make more affordable arrangement for those who need to come in a day early and make transition from the airport to the dock area more economical.

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Jan 29, 2005

Western Caribbean

This is our forth cruise, third with Princess. The first time on Grand. Embarkation was fast, the slowest part was security. The Grand is a good ship very smooth, nicely appointed and cabins were of normal size. We enjoyed personal chioce dining and never had to wait for a table, there were some nights that a line formed as we were leaving, so what time you go to dinner makes a difference. You can make reservations. We enjoyed the movies

under the stars.The pizza is great and food in the Horizon Court Buffet was good. My wife and I thought the live shows were well done and entertaining. I wanted to write a little about the stops. Costa Maya we got off the ship and tried to take a taxi, we had to take a shuttle at $3 per person to Mahahual. Here we hire a boat to take us fishing it cost us $100 for two hours for two of us (they wanted $200 but came down), we caught a barracuda, jack and dorral (dolphin), we then had lunch on the beach and a massage on the beach and sat around the rest of the time reading (great day).It cost $2 pp for a cab back. Next stop Belize, We had booked a cave tour on the internet because the ship's tour was full. We had a great experience with Gilly our guide, the outfitter Yhony was at www.cave-tubing.com the cost was $55 per person but it was just my wife and myself on the tour, the price drops to $45 if you have a group. Third stop was Grand Cayman, we booked a trip to singray city and snorkeling with SOTO cruises cost was $30 per person and enjoyed the trip, great crew and can recommend them highly. Last day was Cozemel we took a cab to Chankanaab, wondered around there and snorkeled, it is a nice park with everything you need located there. Overall a very good week cruising.

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Jan 22, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise and it was a great experience! I would not hesitate to book a cruise with Princess again. About The Grand Princess: It is a beautiful ship and we found the rooms to be more than adequate. We had an inside room. We spoke with many people who had been on other cruises and said this was by far the nicest ship they had been on. This cruise had quite an older crowd with a lot of retirees. So, don't plan to navigate

through a crowd very quickly... :) Some of the features/entertainment we enjoyed the most: 1) Dan 'Piano Man' Mills - he is very talented and funny, puts on a good show, makes for a nice end to an evening 2) The International Cruise show was a lot of fun. Kind of like a talent show for the cruise staff. 3) We enjoyed eating at The Sterling Steakhouse. Definitely a great steak and worth the $15 cover. 4) Don't miss the champagne waterfall. Free glass of champagne! :) 5) Chocolate covered strawberries on the buffet! YUM! The itinerary was great and we had beautiful weather! One cloudy day, but other than that, nothing but sunshine! About the ports: Costa Maya: We took a cab to the public beach at Majahual. It was beautiful and we had the best Margarita EVER! Not from a mix and made with real limes. If you have snorkel gear, bring it. There is some good snorkeling right off of the beach. Belize: Our itinerary was modified and we only had a few hours in the morning in Belize. We decided to check out the city. We did not feel safe and quickly went back to the pier. There was good shopping at the pier, but that was about it. I would strongly recommend that you book an excursion so that you can enjoy your time in Belize. Grand Cayman: We went snorkeling with the stingrays and it was so much fun!! Don't miss this opportunity. We wanted to check out the turtle farm, but we ran out of time. We enjoyed shopping at the pier, but the prices weren't very good. Cozumel: We took a cab to Chankanaab. They have a beach area and great snorkeling off of the beach. We found the pier area had some good shopping. Then we had drinks and appetizers at 'The Crazy Pelican' before getting back on ship. Tips for first-time cruisers: 1) Take a cheap water-proof watch (something you could take to the beach and not worry about) and wear to port so that you know what time you need to head back to the ship 2) Walk through the buffet on occasion just to see what they have. We discovered ice cream in the afternoons and chocolate covered fruit on night. 3) Don't really need to plan to much in advance, just the excursions on shore. There are a ton of activities on the ship and we found it best just to plan it out each day and kind of play it by ear if the plan needed to change. 3) Relax, you're on vacation! Don't get stressed out, just have another drink! :) If you have any other questions, feel free to e-mail me. Enjoy your cruise!

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Jan 15, 2005

Western Caribbean

This cruise was very enjoyable, I give it 4 stars. We were pleasantly surprised a few days before sailing by a call from Princess offering us an upgrade to a family suite from the mini suites that we had booked. We enjoyed the additional space and the cabin was very nice. The only complaint that I had against the suite was the balcony. It was big, but being at the front of the ship and there being no shield to deflect the wind, it

was unusable while the ship was underway. We had several days and nights where the wind howled outside, throwing the deck furniture all over the place often against the door making quite a racket. Unless you don't plan on using the balcony, I wouldn't recommend this suite. Our cabin steward, Raul took very good care of us. He kept the room clean and was very personable. The ship has been maintained very well, but you could tell that she has been in service for almost 7 years. We parked next to the Star Princess in Costa Maya, and you could tell that the Star was newer. The maintenance crew was always busy maintaining the appearance of the ship though. The food was good, better I would say than the food we ate on the Golden Princess on a 2003 cruise. We would eat most of the time in the buffet, because often the same food is served in the dining rooms. We did eat at Donitello's, Sabitinni's, and the Sterling Steak House. Donitello's was good, and the service was good. The Sterling Steakhouse was an excellent meal, and the service was exceptional. Regarding Sabittini's the service was good, but the food wasn't particularly to my liking. Not to say that the food was bad. But they really feed you a lot of food there. We went to a couple of the shows. The magician was an excellent show. The comedian show we attended started slow but got better. The Movies under the Stars was pretty cool, and is a nice addition to the ship. We stopped at 4 ports, Belize, Costa Maya, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. We took 3 excursions, the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins (Costa Maya), the Nautilus Semi Sub and Snorkel (Grand Cayman), and the Chankanaab Sea lion and Snorkel (Cozumel). Belize, no excursion, didn't get off the boat. Had to tender to the port, the sea was rough it was raining, and according to my wife the port has few things to do. The cruise director, ship staff and even the comedians complained about this stop. Costa Maya, the excursion was great, well organized and very educational. The port was nice, with some nice shopping and entertainment. Grand Cayman, I was surprised on how much there was to do this soon after the hurricane. The Nautilus Semi Sub was a lot of fun and we were able to snorkel for a little while. The reefs and water in the area are beautiful. There was good shopping and places to eat. The port supplied the tender boats, which they packed to standing room only, very unsafe. Getting back onto the ship from the tender boat was a problem, had to jump down about 3 ft to the deck. Cozumel, there were nine cruise ships in port this day. But it didn't seem crowded. The Chankanaab Sealion and Snorkel excursion was a lot of fun, nice facility, nice beach, great snorkeling. The taxi ride to and from the park was scary. This excursion was overpriced, because you could get a taxi to the facility, and rent the snorkel equipment cheaper. The port area offers great shopping and dining opportunities. Would have liked to spend more time here. The embarkation process was flawless, we were on the ship and in our room 20 minutes from walking in the door. Our luggage made it to our room about 1 hour after we got on the ship. The disembarkation was not good, I don't know why they couldn't setup the immigrations station in the cruise terminal and check everyone as they get off the ship. Instead you go to customs to declare what you bought. Go sitdown where ever you can find a spot. Then they call you to immigration in disembark order, check out and go back and sit down where ever you can find a spot. Then they call you to disembark, go pickup your luggage in the terminal and then go to see if you can get a shuttle to your car. The road in front of the terminal is packed. Took us 2 hours to get off the boat. To summarize: The Grand Princess is a nice ship but aging gracefully. Room was nice except the balcony. Food was very good. Entertainment was pretty good Ports, skip Belize, the other ports were very enjoyable. Would have been nice to have spent more time in Costa Maya, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Embarkation - great Disembarkation - bad.

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Dec 18, 2004

Panama Canal

Joggers Beware! The jogging track is open only from 8PM to 8Am. Why? Because the people in the spa do not like the thump-thump of the joggers overhead. Therefore you have to jog on Deck 7; wet wood floor, steps halfway around and lots of strollers, yet Princess advertises that they have a jogging track. Under Captain Manfuso's command the ship should be re-christened the Not-So-Grand-Princess

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Dec 4, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was possibly the worst cruise we have ever been on. I'll start with the "highlights" as there are so few! The ship itself is lovely; pleasant decorating, nice artwork etc. Entertainment was pretty good and Movies under the Stars a welcome addition. (stale popcorn not with standing) Ok, that's it! On to the negatives..... Food was inedible slop. My husband, who eats just about anything, couldn't fathom how they could serve

what they did. The meat was of poor quality and tasted old, everything was either overcooked or undercooked and tasted like it had sat out for days. Main courses were bland in the extreme, salads wilted, vegetables mushy and desserts so-so. The buffet had 2 entrees I never thought I'd see: "Minute steak Diane" and "Wiener Schnitzel Parmagiana". Huh? Fruit on the buffet had that shiny, glazed look. One afternoon I decided that they couldn't ruin a salad and asked for a low-fat dressing and the waiter brought me a BOTTLE of WISHBONE! After being angry for the first 2 days about the quality we decided to simply go with the flow and make a joke out the experience. It wasn't just us either. Most of the discussion on board centered around complaints. The cabins (we had a balcony) were tiny and ill-thought out. The bed is hard like a rock, storage space nil, and the a/c wasn't working in any of the cabins. We were lucky; we had a balcony door we could open. Others were roasting for a week. Our cabin steward was fine the first day. After that she'd "forget" to clean the room. She also apparently didn't care for us complaining about it; On the last night we found our baggage tags had been ripped off our luggage. The ship itself wasn't overly clean either. Someone had dropped a comb in a main hallway and it sat there for 2 entire days before being picked up. A dropped piece of pizza on a staircase sat for almost 4 hours before being cleaned up. Frankly, we are used to Celebrity. From the moment you are greeted with a glass of champagne at boarding and escorted to your cabin, the tone is set for impeccable service. Food is wonderful, ship is IMMACULATE, staff bends over backwards to accommodate. Not on Princess. Never again on Princess. (And THAT readers is a refrain we heard over and over again....)

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Nov 27, 2004

Caribbean

My wife and I decided to sail Princess as it was their maiden voyage from Galveston and having their reputation was good. Having seen their ships on television shows like the "Love Boat", one expected luxury and accomdation. Being their maiden voyage, one also expects the Cruise line would want to ensure their passengers were treated royally. Good reviews and word of mouth could help guarantee success. What we got was a portion of the

"Voyage of the Damned". We booked our cruise through our travel agent and spent considerably more than we normally do, as we were getting an outside cabin with a balcony. If you consider this option, save your money as the amenity is not worth the expense. The cabins are adequately furnished with bedding and a sofa, but two televisions are a waste of space and the restroom is not big enough to change your mind in. The closet is relatively sufficient for the space and a set of small shelves are nice but all in all not worth the expense. We arrived at the cruise terminal in Galveston, Texas and had zero trouble with our baggage. Extra baggage tags were needed and the attendant was accommodating and attentive. We proceeded to the ticketing area where we were processed through and then sent to board the ship. This is where the problems began. Having cruised many times before, we did not want our pictures taken as this is not a photograph we intended to purchase, and the ship photographer seemed disturbed that we wanted to bypass her service. She had us stop as she complained to another employee about our lack of cooperation and as we waited, other passengers were allowed to go ahead of us. We finally ignored her and proceeded toward the ship, where we faced a long line in a dusty and warm building, as construction is on-going outside the building. We never figured out why the line was long as once we got near the front of the ship, the line began to move, but this took over 45 minutes. The embarkation and security staff seemed under trained and were not pleasant. This seems to be a theme with most of the ship staff throughout the cruise, with many crew members appearing unhappy and ill prepared to interface with the public. The exception was our stateroom steward, Jenelyn Gorobat, who was always accommodating, smiling, and pleasant to interact with. At the sail away party, the Cruise Director Tim was trying to generate their version of fun, while their expensive drinks were being peddled, and was yowling on his microphone for passengers to come down and dance, where dancers would be given tickets redeemable for prizes. My wife went down as the band began to play and when she asked Tim where the tickets were, he coldly and rudely informed her that they weren't ready yet. I think you could give them 2 weeks and they still wouldn't be ready.  Our cruise itinerary took us first to Belize, and this was a total waste of time and money. We didn't book a tour as we planned to shop, and passengers who booked tours were given first priority in departing the ship through the tender service. The argument could be made that tours are prioritized but we could never discern how paying passengers were made to wait over 3 hours, allowing only a few hours to shop. The shopping area is walled off from the city, and makes it appear that the shopping are is owned by the cruise lines, or that the people of Belize do not want cruise passengers to infect their country. All in all this is not a port I would recommend or advise others to spend money in. Keep your money and spend it in ports where the people are more appreciative of you and your dollars. We then set sail for Costa Maya, or Majuhual. This is a port built by the cruise lines and consist of a small village with a large, concrete pier. The shopping is good and the people friendly, and there are reasonable bargains to be had. Setting sail ftom there took us to Grand Cayman, still reeling from the effects of Hurrican Ivan. The devastation is pretty evident and are refelceted in some prices. There are few bargains to be found and many tours were cancelled. We had wanted to book the Submarine tour but were informed the sub had sank, although the Grand Princess tour desk only informed us the day before, and we had to inquire on our own. We booked an Island tour and after our reservations were taken, we were informed it was for the later hours, a bit of information not offered until charges to our account. The tour attendant acted indifferent and could have cared less. The tender service was better as the Grand Princess also used their own service craft. Nonetheless, we didn't wait this time and we were able to spend more time ashore. Once the tour began, we were assigned a driver named Betty and she was informative and saucy, traits we found most appealing. Setting sail for Cozumel, we were met by at least 6 other ships in port, with the city crowded and difficult to maneuver in. Bargains were scarce and hard to find. We then sailed back to Galveston, where we found a chaotic and problematic embarkation, made more difficult by a crew which seemed undetermined and incapable of handling assigned tasks. That was our trip in a nutshell, bit I will give you my views on some of the areas I missed. The food service is spotty at best. Some food was wonderfully prepared and tasty, but other times it was terrible. One night the theme was "Octobetfest" and the food was sausages, sourkraut, and the like. A little would have been fine but "Yuk" the whole night was such fare. The pizza was greasy, which left a smattering of hot dogs or hamburgers. The room service sandwiches are so-so as they are not very tasty and the chips are stale. We also had the "Choice Dining" option, and told we could eat in the dining room between 6 and 10 PM nightly. We found we had to book a table, where we were handed a pager, to be summoned to the dining room when a table was open. The waiters seemed offended that they would have to wait on additional passengers and the wait staff seemed to understaffed. Service was spotty and there was no entertainment, since the staff was gloom and generally unfriendly. Shows were not lavish but entertainment was clean and family oriented. I never went to the Disco so I could not give a review for this area, but if it was representative of the rest of their operation, I did not miss much. The ship offers seminars in the spa on weight loss and exercise but they are all designed to get you in there and sell you some service. We went to one where electrodes were placed on our foot and arm, which supposedly measured our inability to lose weight. An attempt was made to sell us some overpriced package desiged to cure all our health ills (at the expense of our wallets). I declined as I believe a physician is better able to determine my health needs, although the staff informed me that physicians and pharmacists are in cahoots, preventing the public from getting proper assistance. I turned down the ability to spend over $1000 for my wife and I to get healthy with their treatments, although their services did cost me $40. I shudder to think how many believe this stuff. I know that many of you who read my review will believe I am grumpy and difficuly to please but nothing could be further from the truth. I spend a lot of money on my vacation and the staff seemed to forget that the cruise was representative of my vacation, which should be the reason for their existence. I wish everyone well who choose to disregard my review. I am only trying to educate you should you decide to use this cruise line and wish you well if you do. My wife and I will look elsewhere.

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Oct 23, 2004

New England/Canada

This was our first cruise with Princess. We drove to NY and parked in the lot above the terminal owned by the city. It was expensive, but worked for us. Arriving the police were very helpful, as my husband is in a wheelchair. They helped get him out of the car and took him in to the terminal while another officer assisted me with the luggage. I then parked the car. Check in was a little hectic, but a port official came over and took

us to the head of the line. The staff were helpful, we got our ID cards and were in our room in less than 30 minutes. We had a balcony cabin, very clear, nicely laid out, even room for the wheelchair. (there were no handicap cabins available) We needed a table removed and a bench for the shower. Our cabin stewart took care of it. He was fantastic the entire trip! We enjoyed the choice seating. Never had a problem, called in advance for a reservation. I can't say enough great things about the staff. They were so accommodating, even going so far as to cut my husband's steak when they noticed I was doing it. The food was very good, of course there were things we didn't like, but overall, we were very pleased. We enjoyed speaking with the waiters and hearing about their home and country. The tours were very good and well organized, though a bit pricey. I still enjoyed all of them. This is a cruise I would take again. Embarking was smooth and well organized. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and look forward to traveling with Princess again.

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Aug 23, 2004

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. Embarkation 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. Rooms 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. Food 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. Pictures/Entertainment 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. Excursions 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. Seasickness 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. Disembarking 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.

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Apr 24, 2004

Western Caribbean

First, a little about us so you can understand the perspective of this review. We are Jim and Sue, in our mid-fifties – all kids grown and gone. We both work fairly high-stress jobs and Jim works out of town much of the time. For us a cruise is a way for us to kick back and relax and have some time together without any cell phones, pagers or radios beeping at us. We book ships that offer an elegant experience rather than casual or high-energy

atmosphere. Also, for the Caribbean and Mexico, we tend to book for the ship and stateroom rather than the ports. We spend much of the time in the cabin and on the verandah so for us booking a suite makes sense. Each spring we take a cruise with my Aunt Sherry and Uncle Tom. They are “70ish” and Tom requires oxygen. We usually book suites next to each other, but this time we were able to get both Grand Suites so we were on opposite sides of the ship. It worked ok because there was an elevator hallway almost directly between the suites. This was our first Princess cruise and the first on any ship the size of Grand Princess with 2600 passengers. I should also mention that through the Cruise Critic message board we had become “acquainted” with about 40 of our fellow cruisers and were looking forward to meeting them onboard. We flew from Denver to Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, the day prior to sailing and stayed at the Howard Johnson’s. Since this isn’t a hotel review, I won’t go into detail, but I wouldn’t ever stay there again. I’d give it a very low two-star rating. Sunday morning we awoke about 6:00 and called room service for coffee only to find out that there was no room service available until 7:30 – and no coffeepot in the room. We survived the lack of coffee for the hour and a half and later took a taxi to the ship. We handed our luggage off to a longshoreman and went into the terminal where we were pointed to a special counter for suite check-in. We checked in within five minutes and were pointed to the entryway to the ship. Our boarding picture was taken and we went up the gangway for the Lido deck cabins. Princess staff were located in various areas to point you in the right direction to your cabin. I have to admit that I was surprised that we were not escorted or welcomed onboard in any special way since we were in the top suites on the ship. We have always been escorted on both Celebrity and Holland America and when in a high level suite we are usually welcomed by the Social Hostess or Cruise Director. We headed in the general direction of our suites and ended up at L301, which was ours. After several months of looking at pictures of the suite we couldn’t wait to see it – so in we went. It was beautiful, by far the most lavish suite we’ve had. We took a few minutes to look around and then headed across the ship to theirs, L302. As we were looking around there was a knock at the door and their room steward, Dennis, and his supervisor arrived to say hello. After a few minutes of looking around we decided to give them some privacy and head back to our cabin. When we opened the door Tom’s oxygen had arrived thus eliminating that worry! The two Grand Suites are identical except for the art and we all liked the art better in L301. The woods are a rich mid-tone, not too light and not dark enough to make the cabin gloomy. The furniture was in good condition with no noticeable wear. The dining table was nice. It was a drop-leaf design - normally with the leaf down and against the wall, it had plenty of room for two and when pulled out from the wall, it made a nice table for four. The balcony was small, but had room for two lounges, a table with four chairs and the Jacuzzi. The bedroom was nice and we really enjoyed the huge floor-to-ceiling window by the bed. There was a small dressing table in the bedroom, but it lacked any outlets so there was nowhere to plug in my lighted make-up mirror or curling iron. We ended up running an extension cord from a plug many feet away when I needed it. There were many ceiling lights and lamps in each room and so many light switches it took forever to figure out which ones operated which lights. We spent some time checking out the suite and making sure everything was in working order – everything was fine except the door from the living room to the balcony; it would stick and you couldn’t open it – the maintenance people worked on it several times during the trip, but never really got it fixed. (Sherry adds that the door problem was the same in their suite.) We managed to get it partially opened most times and squeezed through the opening. Norman, our steward arrived to welcome us and I asked why we had no bouquet of flowers (Tom and Sherry had a beautiful one) and if we were to receive our complimentary glasses of champagne. I also asked him to check on the bottle of champagne I had pre-ordered to be in the cabin for sail-away. Sherry and Tom arrived a few minutes later with Dennis carrying the tray with their glasses of Champagne and we all went out to our balcony to relax and await the Muster Drill. Soon Norman came back with our champagne and a little plate of appetizers. The bouquet arrived a short time later. Room service called and said our champagne would be in Sabitini’s that evening [huh?]. After several calls explaining that we were not eating at Sabitini’s that night and that I had pre-ordered the bottle for our suite through Princess, we finally received one. It took several calls and trips to the purser’s desk during the trip to have the charge for it removed from our account – I had already paid for it by credit card when it was ordered. Our luggage arrived about 3:00 and we all decided to unpack and meet again at the drill. We unpacked our luggage and organized everything; there was plenty of space for everything and I always over-pack. We attended the Muster drill and dropped our life-vests off in the cabin and hurried to the Neptune pool for a sail-away party with all the Cruise Critic’s. About 35 people turned out for our party – a really great showing! It’s amazing what the Internet has brought to today’s cruise experience. After sail-away we went back to our cabin and decided to order dinner to the suite rather than go to the dining room. This is one of my favorite reasons to book a suite – the ability to have the full dinner from the dining room delivered and a table that is actually big enough to eat on. Not long after dinner we called it a night. Monday – Princess Cay Over coffee we all decided to stay onboard even though the island looked beautiful (we often choose not to leave the ship at Caribbean ports). This would give us the opportunity to explore the ship while it was nearly empty. We did a little sunning and swimming at the spa pool and then explored part of the ship. Jim and I picked up lunch from the grill at the Neptune pool and took it back to the suite and then settled on the lounge chairs on the balcony to read and relax. Towards evening we got back together and decided to again order dinner to the suite. Tuesday – Sea Day Jim and I had breakfast in the suite and didn’t leave until noon to do a little exploring. This was to be a formal night so we made reservations for four in the Michelangelo dining room for 7:15 and agreed to meet at 6:00 to go for cocktails in the Wheelhouse bar. We browsed the photo gallery and purchased our boarding picture. At 2:30 we met Tom and Sherry and headed to the Oasis bar to meet with the Cruise Critic group again. The turnout wasn’t as good this time and there really wasn’t a good place to sit for any conversation, so after an hour the party broke up. We all dressed formally - the men in tuxes and ladies in long dresses. We had pre-dinner drinks in the Wheelhouse bar, my favorite bar on the ship. It has beautiful wood paneled walls and many interesting ship artifacts and models. The chairs and tables are well situated in small groupings that make conversation easy. The band was pretty good and tried to play a variety of music. The room was mostly populated by “silver-hairs” (us included) so when they did the big band music, the dance floor was crowded. The Michelangelo Dining Room is nice, but rather plain and with a very low ceiling which made it quite noisy. The food was good and the service, although somewhat rushed, was also very attentive. Most of the people in the dining room were dressed up, but few were actually in tuxedos and gowns. In the public areas there seemed to be the attitude that “anything is okay” for the evening attire – not what we are used to on the other lines we sail. We decided to return to the Wheelhouse for an after-dinner drink. With our luck, as soon as we were served the band said “good night.” We decided that their balcony would be a wonderful place to finish the evening. After a couple more drinks we all called it a night. We returned to our suite to find a plate of chocolate covered strawberries awaiting us. Wednesday – Grand Cayman We awoke just as we were approaching Grand Cayman and pulled the drapes on the floor to ceiling window open beside the bed to watch until our coffee and rolls arrived from room service. We took our coffee out to the balcony to watch the rest of the approach and realized there were four ships anchored. We were suffering a bit from the adult beverages of the night before and decided that that was far too many people for us to deal with, even in my favorite jewelry-shopping port! Tom and Sherry went in by tender and had a good time, but also said there were too many people. Jim and I spent the morning [slowly] recovering on the balcony and then went to explore areas we had yet to see. We even played a game of miniature golf! We went up to Skywalker’s, the nightclub up in the “handle”. It is a beautiful place by daylight; Jim commented that it reminded him of something that should have been on the QE2. We went up one night while it was operational and found that it lost some of its charm when all the neon was lit – but that’s just an “old folks” opinion. Thursday – Costa Maya This was a new port for us, but since we had read a lot of pro’s and con’s we wanted to take a look. We took our time in the morning relaxing over coffee before we went ashore. We wandered around a bit at the pier and looked in the shops buying a couple t-shirts and a shot glass. We watched a nice Mexican Dance Show – the guys especially liked the skimpy attire of the female dancers – and then we all had margaritas and decided to head back to the ship. We decided we’d like to have dinner in the suite again that night and asked if the Painted Desert (the Mexican Restaurant onboard) would serve us. Dennis came back in a few minutes with menus and said it was a first. We ordered and were very happy with the food and the service; a waiter from the restaurant came and put a tablecloth on their balcony table and took our orders. When he returned he had our margaritas and appetizers, about 15 minutes later he returned with the main course. He said it was definitely a first, but that it was kind of fun to serve the Grand Suites because they always wonder what they are like. He came back with our dessert orders and cleared away the main course…. he was tipped well. It was perhaps the best service we had on the whole cruise. After that we called it a night. Friday, Cozumel I love the Mexican Caribbean and have spent much time here so I was looking forward to a lunch of ceviche and a margarita. The Mexican authorities have developed two piers and now have many amenities at each – without going all the way into town. We spent our usual morning relaxing over coffee and disembarked about 10:30. We were booked on the Atlantis Submarine excursion. The boat picked us up right at the pier and took us directly to the sub. Although we had all done similar excursions in the past we enjoyed this one. It’s always great for those of us that are not scuba divers to see the fish and coral that are far beneath the surface of the sea. Sherry and I browsed through a few jewelry stores in the area at the pier since I hadn’t had the opportunity earlier in the cruise. I found a necklace I liked and did the usual barter thing…. I didn’t think they were quite low enough so I said I’d have my husband come back and to give me their card with the price. About an hour later we were all sitting in a great palapa bar having a drink and nachos (I was having my ceviche) and Jim finally agreed to go to the shop… I told him what I thought the right price would be. He came back empty handed – said they came down to within $200 .00 and wouldn’t go any further. Oh well, there are always more diamond necklaces! Back to the ship we went because this was another formal night. We had made reservations for dinner in the Da Vinci dining room so we followed the same schedule as we did for the previous formal night – to meet in the Wheelhouse at 6:00. The Da Vinci dining room was actually very similar to the Michelangelo and we had a table in the same location, sadly the service wasn’t nearly as good. The meal was good, but after sitting with dirty plates for quite some time and no service or desert menus, we left. Saturday – Sea day We had our usual relaxing morning on the balcony. Then went to the photo gallery and bought several of the formal pictures. The last day is always bittersweet in that you look back on the trip and don’t want it to end, but know that it must. They spent a little time in the casino and browsing the shops and we spent much time relaxing on the balcony reading. That afternoon, Princess held a Cruise Critic party for us in the Wheelhouse that was attended by almost every one from the message board as well as Captain Andy Proctor, the Cruise Director, the Hotel Manager and other Officers. They had a wonderful cake and a no-host bar with waiters. It was one of the nicest ship-sponsored Cruise Critic parties we’ve attended. Later that afternoon we packed so that we wouldn’t have to rush in the evening. Just prior to dinner we had a small cocktail party in our suite with a few of our new friends. We ordered extra appetizers by using the suite order card for the appetizers and they were all delivered. Norman made sure we had enough glasses, ice and buckets to chill the wine and champagne. After the party we decided to order dinner to the cabin one last time and spent the evening on the balcony relaxing. Sunday – Ft. Lauderdale There was no priority disembarkation for the suites, but since we had an early flight, we were in “Red-4” the fourth group called. Tom and Sherry were in the next color group so we knew they would be on their way soon. We found our luggage quickly and were in a taxi in about 10 minutes. Airport check-in went just as well and we killed almost three hours in the airport before our flight. And now the fat lady has sung… and the trip is over… but not the memories. Summary: This was a good cruise, but not a great one. We loved the Grand Suite, but felt that the service was lacking for this level accommodation. The suite amenities were “iffy” – we had to ask for some repeatedly. Perhaps this will smooth out in time, but they have already had four months to smooth it out. On other lines in the top suites we have had invites to special parties with the officers, visits to the bridge, or dinner with the Captain or Officers – generally treated as special passengers. Maybe we are spoiled… but we do pay to be spoiled!

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Apr 10, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

This was the first cruise that my wife Nancy and I have taken. It won't be our last. We chose Princess on the advice of our travel agent, Laverne of The Travel Company. Nancy and I thought that a 4 or 5 day cruise was all we could afford, but Laverne assured us that with a little juggling of our schedules we could go for 7 days and spend a little more money, but expand our options greatly. Boy, was she right! We chose the Grand

Princess because of the itinerary and the ports She visits. The Bahamas (Princess Cays), Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. We were really interested in some snorkeling and shopping, of course. But we also hoped for a few surprises. First off, embarkation was a breeze. We had all of our paperwork filled out beforehand, via Internet and mail. We were off the bus and on the ship within 15 minutes. We dropped our carry on luggage in our cabin; which had been upgraded form an M class interior to an E class exterior with obstructed view. Boy, were we happy! It was a nice cozy cabin with only about 20% of out view obstructed! We could see a couple of the tenders on Promenade deck, but it wasn't bad at all. After we settled in, we joined the party up on Lido deck. Had a few cocktails and some of the fabulous pizza at poolside. We then went to check out the ship. Lido deck is where a lot of the action takes place. Horizon Court, 24 hour self serve buffet. Three pools, one all ages with rock and roll or a band playing, one a little quieter with less kids and the adults only pool at the stern of the ship. This area and pool is actually on deck 12 but can be accessed from decks 12, 14 and 15. It was a pleasant and quiet area that we really enjoyed. The sunbathing was fantastic and the bar staff can really make a good drink! After that we went to check on our luggage. Aracelli, our cabin steward was putting the last of our luggage on the bed. She was very pleasant, and efficient. We never really noticed her and the towel animals she made each night amused us a lot. They have a paging system on board to reach the cabin stewards and it works quite well. We had to go to the Pursers desk to retrieve a piece of lost luggage, Nancy’s snorkeling gear had the tags ripped off in transit and it came up with the last 2 or 3 luggage carriers. The pursers were very pleasant and efficient. They assured us that it would turn up, and it did. Thank you very much. I’ve seen some negative reviews of the Pursers staff, but I never experienced anything but great service and pleasant greetings! We chose “Anytime Dining” and were glad that we did. The first night we dined alone, but after that we dined with different people every night. We had a great waiter, Stephan and his second Tomy. They were knowledgeable and efficient. A couple that we met at breakfast dined with us one night and remarked how good the service was too! We asked for them every night and the Matir’d did his best to accommodate us. The food on board was good most of the time. A lot depended on the choices that you made. We took the advice of Stephan most of the time and were rarely disappointed. Some of the other couples, mostly with “Traditional Seating” said the food was cold and improperly cooked. I’ve got to say we never had that problem. Nancy and I really enjoy meeting new people and going on a cruise is just the ticket. We sat with new people each and every time we ate. It can be a little intimidating at first but after a while it got to be so much fun. It was one of the highlights of our trip. We were unable to tender in to Princess Cays due to rough seas. From what I gather, we missed a “Day at the Beach”, but not much more. We were hoping to try out our new snorkel gear, but the staff made the most of it by putting on an earlier art auction and having some more trivia and bingo games. The art auctions were fun but quite pricey. I’m not a real art aficionado; Nancy and I did purchase a nice seaside print for a good price. And Princess arraigned shipping for us! Grand Cayman and Georgetown was experiencing rough seas too, but Captain Andy Procter got us to Spot’s Bay so that we could enjoy the day in Grand Cayman. Only three ships were allowed to into Spot’s Bay and we felt lucky to have most of the island to ourselves. We had arraigned for a trip with Capt. Marvin’s to Sting Ray City. They picked us up in Spot’s Bay, drove us to the boat, took us snorkeling at three different reefs and Sting Ray City and then drove us back to the ship! No taxi fees at all! They also gave us a discount at their store and a free rum cake too. They were all very pleasant. From what I gather the tour through Princess didn’t do any snorkeling at all, but they did stop at Sting Ray City. The people who took that tour had to taxi back to the ship! Boo Hoo! Our next port was Costa Maya. We had booked a trip to the Mayan ruins at Chacchoben. Although we were late getting into port, one of the generators went down in the night and we could only make 13 knots, not the standard 22.5, Princess made every effort to assure us that out trip would be great. And it was! We got off the ship with our tour group, walked to the busses and departed within 5 minutes! Nice clean busses, air conditioned and roomy. Our Guide, Luis, was fantastic. He had been working at Chacchoben since 1994 and is very knowledgeable. The ruins were more that I expected, three large pyramids and quite a few other buildings. Luis showed us some ruins that were left in their natural state. If you didn’t know what you were looking for you would walk right over them! The jungle had totally covered them and they looked just like small hills and ridges! Wow! Don’t miss this tour. The next day we were at Cozumel. We had booked a snorkeling trip to the Pelancar Reef. We met the Captain of the boat on the pier, loaded up and departed all within 15 minutes. The trip to the southern coast of Cozumel took 40 minutes and was very scenic. The crew gave us some excellent instructions and advice for our trip. The water in Cozumel is spectacular! The color can’t be described in words, and pictures don’t do it justice! The snorkeling was more than we expected. We drifted over Pelancar reef in around 15 to 20 feet of water for about 30 minutes then we moved over the wall. This is where the reef drops down to a depth of 2300 feet! It was awesome! The variety of sea life and fishes amazed us. Our dive masters pointed out many fish that we had never seen before. After we got back on the boat for our return to the cruise ship pier, the crew started pouring Marquritas, sodas, punch and beer for us. I’ve got to say this about the people of Mexico. Every one of them worked hard to ensure that we had a good time and they were very friendly. They made the trip much better with their great attitude! Thank you very much! After shopping at the pier, Nancy and I took a taxi to downtown. We shopped for a couple of hours, bargained for some nice jewelry and Tequila then met some friends for late lunch at Carlos and Charlie’s! Yee Ha! Of all the tours that we took I think we enjoyed Cozumel the best. It was kind of a party atmosphere from the start. I think we needed a wild day to let it all hang out. That evening was the second formal night and we went out with 5 other couples. It was a large happy group that entered the Michelangelo dining room that evening. The lobster, although small, tasted great. And they gave you as much as you could eat, I had 6, oops! The Beef Wellington was marvelous and cooked perfect! Nancy likes it medium rare and that’s what it was. The food on board was tasty and prepared well. We happened to be spoiled by living close to the best Mexican restaurant in St. Louis, so we thought The Painted Desert was okay at best, but Sabatini’s is not to be missed! The courses are small but they keep coming and coming. Don’t be afraid to try something new. My wife thought she would never like Escargot or anchovies, now after our cruise on the Grand Princess she is looking forward to them. The best part of out trip was meeting all the new friends that we have made. Being able to sit down with total strangers and have a meal and get to know them is quite a treat in the rush, rush world of today! Being able to try new foods and adventures and not feel obligated to eat it because you paid for it is a luxury. I think Princess does a commendable job of caring for their passengers. There were some minor irritations about the trip, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a change in attitude. I think next time we travel with Princess; we will find a different airline. Delta really doesn’t have it together. Too many people missed connecting flights because of their policies and I don’t think they should be allowed to provide this service for the Cruise Lines if they are not up to the standard. Delta was barely apologetic and left us with a bad taste in our mouths after we had just enjoyed the Princess treatment. Too bad! We are looking forward to our next cruise, next time to Alaska. Maybe we will choose a smaller ship with a balcony. If you can afford one, it really is a treat that we missed out on this time, but not next time!

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Apr 10, 2004

Western Caribbean

What I Loved: Quick embarkation and debarkation. Shuttle from airport required no porter since the driver assured us he would handle everything. The ship has many Jacuzzis and pools (my favorite was the one at the back of the ship overlooking the ocean. I also enjoyed the “swim against the current”). Princess offers the BEST Caribbean party afloat! Princess has the most beautiful nightclub afloat and they play everything requested

including LATIN!! Room service is prompt & will bring anything including things that are not on the menu. The ship is classy. The pizza is yummy! What I Hated: When in port, they give preference off the ship to those who have booked tours through Princess. We waited a long time to get off the ship and missed a self booked tour (no one cared). Had I known, I could’ve at least slept in. Some of our friends missed breakfast and lunch on 2 occasions because Princess changed the tour time and made an announcement 15 min. prior to when they expected tour guests to meet! How rude! Expect no towel animals, dining room entertainment or bill update on your TV. The atrium is… not really an atrium.  Shops are limited. Comedy and nightly entertainment is kind of cheesy and not well rehearsed (with the exception of the comedian/juggler and “Curtain up.” Buffet line has no order and the food is not too good (not even dessert). No free ice cream, lemonade, punch or a fancy midnight buffet. Activities are limited and somewhat boring. The Capt’s cocktail party was cheap. I took 1 drink and then they disappeared. Loungers are very limited and so is the gym. Advise: Go with Royal Caribbean or Carnival. If you are trying to book the most affordable room, book a guarantee and let them surprise you- we’ve been pleased every time. Bring a small alarm clock and your own liquor, juice and coke. We’ve disguised liquor in the past using water and apple juice bottles but this time, we just packed them in our luggage. Princess Cays: Ship didn’t stop because of high waves, refund of $15 on my account. Costa Maya: Beautiful! Shop at the port not town, it’s cheaper and better selection. If you go to town $3 cab per person or a nice 20 min. beach walk. Cozumel: Beautiful! Paid $6 cab and $12 entrance to Chankanab Park. It’s a nice beach (good snorkeling), tropical atmosphere with dolphin swims and man made little ruins. Saw the park in 2 hrs. Had fun, a cruise is what you make of it but will not cruise Princess again. Princess responded to my letter in mid May. The only thing they had to say was “Sorry.”

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Apr 10, 2004

Western Caribbean

We just returned home from our seventh cruise. This is the second on princess. We went on the Golden Princess several years ago and it was Grand. This years cruise on the Grand princess was quite a different tale. First day out princess Cay island was not landed due to incliment weather day two landed in costa maya on opposite side of the island due to high winds. Terrible time with crowds and taxis that treated each member as cattle. Cost

was supposed to be $4.00 each way each, but cabbies never had change...Day four Cozomel arrived 4 hours late cutting our day trips in half. Cruise ship it self was rough at least. P Needed Painting, tiles up off floor, rust all over steel on balconys, Electricity to room lost several times a day. Hot tubs not working...Ship needed entire overhaul.To give us a real slap in the face the princess line decided to give each cabin a $ 15.00 credit. We just missed 3-4 days of a cruise and we get $15.00...We also had a 18-19 year old youth next door to us who managed to wake us up out of a sound sleep 6 of our 7 days onboard. Security always got there after I called, but did nothing to stop the problem...I was also very disappointed in the food. Especially the mid night buffet. There was NO mid nite buffet. There was a banana fosters cart adjacent to the buffet which was the same basically all week, but no Royal caribbean buffet. I must say by day 5 of 7 the food was getting better at dinner time. Either I was extremely famished or they actually listened and prepared food to our order...Over all I would NOT recommend the Grand Princess. I am going back to Royal Caribbean... Carnival hasn't ruined them yet.....

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Mar 28, 2004

Western Caribbean

Here's some background information: I was 16 on this cruise, my second one, i had been on the Disney Wonder when I was 14. I was traveling with my best friend, we were sharing a room, and my mom and her friend were in the next room. Getting on the ship was fairly quick, there was hardly any line up and we were still one of the first ones on the ship, compared to the Disney which was at least an hour wait, it was very fast. Our room

was an outside room on Emerald Deck, it had a partially obstructed view. The room was really nice, but I wish they had a clock in the room, in order to find out what time it was you had to go to the phone. Bathroom was kind of small, but everything was nice and always clean. Our room steward was very nice too, very friendly and helpful.   The Horizon Court buffet was one of me and my friends favorite places. We both love to eat and loved the food. I'm a very picky eater and always could get a full plate of delicious food. And I loved how it was always open, breakfast was my favorite time though. The dining rooms were nice, the food was fantastic, and the waiters were always really nice and the food always came quickly, and were always willing to take something back and get you something else if you didn't like it. One evening we went to a special dining room, The Painted Desert I believe, I think it cost us $8, but all of us agreed that it was the worst meal we had on the cruise. It wasn't bad, but we enjoyed the other meals much more. The Pizza place and the Grill were both really good. It was all delicious, but we were upset that you had to pay for the ice cream. But on one of the last days we realized they had a ice cream bar in the Horizon court for an hour or so, and it was free! Ports of call: Day 1: Princess Cays This was by far everyone's favorite port. We had to wait to get a tender to shore, and the ride was a little bumpy but it was definately worth it. We walked down the beach a little bit and had to get move chairs to get 4 together, but we were right by the water so it was perfect. My friend and I spent almost the whole day snorkeling. Compared to Castaway Cay (Disney's island) the snorkeling was much better! There were so many fish and the water was beautiful. The waves were a little big and if you didn't swim you might end up on shore, but it made it all the more fun. The BBQ was fantastic, it was really hot in there, but we went back twice and filled our plates. We also ordered daiquiris on the beach. Day 2: At sea This day was beautiful, nice and sunny and hot. We had breakfast, and then went for a little swim in one of the pools. It was a little crowded and we didn't stay in long. We walked around for a bit trying to find chairs, there were empty chairs, but we wanted ones overlooking the water. We sunbathed for a couple hours in the warm sun before getting ready for a our first formal evening. Day 3: Grand Cayman We booked the Stingray City excursion, and we all loved it! The guides could have made it more efficient by explaining things while we were getting there, because when we pulled up they explained how to interact with these wonderful creatures for 20 mins while we watched other people interact. We only had about 40 minutes there, and we all wanted to stay, but it was fantastic, I would definately recommend going there. Day 4: Costa Maya We took a taxi to a beach, the beach was a little dirty, but the water was nice and clear. There were some shops there, some of the owners were a little aggressive. We enjoyed this stop a lot too. Day 5: Cozumel We just went shopping here for several hours, you could take a taxi to a beach but we decided against it. This port was all right, but not our favorite. Day 7: At sea My friend and I spent most of the day packing, except for the morning when we had hair treatments done. They were really nice, and very relaxing. They didn't try to force me to buy anything, but my mom had had a pedicure earlier in the week and they really forced it on her. Pools: The pools during the day were busy but at night empty, so we always went swimming then, and the spa pool had a swim against the current which was fun. Service: Most people were very friendly, especially one waiter we had one night. Entertainment: We saw two shows, both were very well done, and we always found good seats. We saw several comedians, most of them were really funny, and one was just all right. They also had some games that were fun. Overall: The cruise was fantastic, we all loved it, and was much better than teh Disney cruise I had been on previously. We are going on another Princess cruise and we are all very excited!!

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Mar 7, 2004

Western Caribbean

The embarkation process went fairly smoothly, although the gentleman waiting on us seemed to be less familiar with family situations in multiple rooms, so took a little longer. We were directed to our rooms as opposed to escorted, but it was easy to find our rooms. The airline had lost some of our luggage, and Princess helped to locate it and get it delivered. They even offered a discount when one bag did not arrive until 3 days into

the cruise. We had not booked our air through Princess, so this was not something they would have had to do. (The unthinkable of not having all your luggage arrive CAN happen, so it would be wise to not pack all of one person's belongings in one suitcase.) The Horizon Court buffet had non-stop food. The variety was good, but the quality of the food was not overly exceptional. My 3 children ages 13 - 22 commented several times that "I like Mom's better. We had selected a set dining time for the evening. We were in the Botticelli dining room. The waiter was very nice, but did not offer a lot of explanation of the dishes and made several errors in mixing up our orders. Her assistant was rarely around, so I think she was working with a handicap. Again the food was very good, but not exceptional. The staff was polite, but didn't seem to have the enthusiasm or friendliness I've experienced on other cruise lines. Entertainment was weak. The singers and dancers, comedian, comedian magician, comedian juggler were OK. Not much variety in the lounge bands. Princess seemed to be lacking in that respect. The pool band was good, but did not play until afternoon. During the day the music was recorded DISCO! Hours of disco. Let it die! Prior to going on our cruise, I had read several reviews that others were disappointed with the Ports. Since we weren't there for barhopping, but for sunshine and outdoor activity, we were not disappointed. Princess Caye had a nice sandy beach and activities available as soon as you arrived on the dock. You had to take tenders from ship to shore. We took a stroll down the beach, and there was not sand available everywhere, but it was peaceful. The water was a little rough that day, so the snorkeling was tough for the less experienced. No one even offered to provide instruction, which might be bad for someone who had never done it, but good because you didn't have to stay in a pack and "follow-the-leader". Due to the rough seas, the kids didn't attempt the clear-bottomed kayaks, which they had planned. There was a barbeque buffet on shore, with lots of food, but they don't grow sweetcorn like in Michigan. Our second port was Grand Cayman. This is another port where you take tenders in. We were at Scotts Caye rather than George Town due to rougher seas, so getting to George Town required a taxi. Lots of them waiting - $6/person. My son and I went to the Rays and reef snorkeling. The reef was gorgeous - so many different types of coral and fish. I followed this beautiful large parrot fish. One of the guides pointed out a very large green moral eel. They allowed you to explore on your own, directing you away from areas where you should not go. Then we went over to the stingrays. It was crazy there, with a dozen different boats with their load of people. I guess I found this a little disappointing, (and they said this was a QUIET day as far as the crowd). The stingrays were graceful and awesome, not at all scary. We had only 2 pictures left in our underwater camera, so I was disappointed to not get more photos. We were able to feed the rays pieces of squid. Very interesting, but I enjoyed the snorkeling on the reef the most. My husband and daughter had gone to the Reef and wreck snorkeling. Due to the rougher seas, they could not go to the designated area, but they still saw many, many types of fish and coral. My oldest daughter went to George Town, which she said she would never go back to, as everything was very, very expensive. A couple girls on our ship said they had a fish dinner and a drink, and it cost over $50/person. Our third port was Costa Maya, or actually the "town" of Mahahual. It took a long time for our excursion to assemble and depart. The bus was very comfortable, but a 2 hour ride to the ruins of Dzibanche and Kahunlich. The guide was very nice, but occasionally a little difficult to understand. The excursion provided a "light snack" which, for an 8 hour trip, was very light. A smashed muffin, a smashed banana, a children's fruit drink, some crackers, cheetos... Fortunately, I had taken along some mixed nuts and water. The tour also provided a cup of coke or beer twice on the ride. The ruins were fantastic! but, perhaps due to our late start, or just the way it worked, we were not given any time to look around on our own. We were allowed to climb on some of the ruins. There were no souvenir shops there (which was refreshing) so take lots of photos. The palms were better than those we saw later at the botanical gardens. After we left the first set of ruiins, the tour guide became concerned that the number of tickets did not match with the number of people. She had never done a headcount when we returned to the bus. She discovered that the numbers DID match, but after leaving the Kahunlich ruins, once again, she never took a headcount. We were running an hour late in returning to port on this excursion, but since it was arranged by the cruise line, they waited for us. One other comment on this port. The cruise lines and the Mexican government are hoping this builds into the next Cozumel or Cancun. The tour guide was very proud of the development that had occurred here, with education from the government with the locals to preserve the historic culture there - Many still uncovered ruins. But along the road, there were houses about 10 x 10, doors open, and it appeared there was very little inside. I think it impressed the kids to see how others live, and makes one feel humbled or guilty to return to the oppulence of the cruise ship. Our last stop was Cozumel, at Puerto Mayo, which is about 3 miles from Cozumel, a $4 taxi ride to town. We went to the dolphin swim at Chakanaab Park. We waited while everyone got their equipment handed out. Then we waited some more. Then we waited after they took us out on the dock. Each person in a group of 10 was given a turn to have the dolphin come up and give them a "kiss" (the dolphins were penned). So you waited while each person had their turn and their photographer took your picture. You also swam out and would then grab on to the dolphins fins and they would pull you back to the dock. Another photo opportunity. This is so they could later charge you $20 per photo. I guess you could get 8 for $68. There was also a video you could buy for $25. It was very neat to be able to come that close to the dolphins and touch them, but I think we were all more excited when we saw wild dolphins swimming in front of the ship coming into port. The nice thing about this excursion was that you were then allowed to spend as much time as you wanted in the Chakanaab Park, which was not indicated in the tour description. We viewed the botanical gardens, which as mentioned earlier, were not as fantastic as the trees and foliage at the ruins. There were large orange iguanas, which seemed to be in some sort of mating ritual, bobbing their heads up and down, and fish including parrot fish, in a small lake by the gardens. We went into Cozumel for some contact with the vendors, and again saw the guy who spray paints art. Pretty amazing technique. A little tiresome to have so many people clammoring for your dollar, but gives you a feel for the culture. Disembarkation seemed to go smoothly. Although we were some of the later people to depart, we weren't the last, and caught the last bus shuttle going to the airport. Overall, it was a wonderful trip, nice to see some sunshine and feel the warmth of 80 and higher degrees. But I would like to return to the Celebrity ship Century or Mercury, as I felt the service, food and entertainment was better on those ships. However, the Grand Princess would win over the Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas.

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Feb 29, 2004

Western Caribbean

To Whom It May Concern: Here is a copy of the complaint I made to Princess after our stay. Their reply was a $200 credit on our next cruise which expires April 2005. Not good enough if you ask me. I would like to formally submit a complaint regarding the Grand Princess cruise I took February 29th to March 7th, 2004. My room number was Dolphin 610. Ever single night of our vacation the ceiling in our Mini-Suite creaked so loudly

we barely slept. The first night we just let it go thinking it was due to rough seas… by the second night of our seven night cruise the creaking had kept me up for two nights. I contacted the Purser’s Desk and they sent someone up. The maintenance man said there was nothing he could do at that time, that he would return the next day. At that, I attempted another nights sleep unsuccessfully. The Purser’s Deck offered us a down-grade to an inside cabin on another floor. Insulted by this offer as I’d looked forward to waking up to my balcony, we declined. We were provided complimentary earplugs for the remainder of our voyage. By the third evening we had several maintenance people coming in and out of our room while we were trying to relax, we asked the maintenance crew to come back later. Upon our return the creaking continued. By the fifth night we were told there was nothing else that could be done, the creaking would continue even on calm seas. I don’t know if you can even begin to imagine my frustration and stress while sailing on the Grand Princess. I had looked forward and counted down the days till we would be at sea. We traveled all the way from Vancouver, BC to venture aboard the Grand and see the Western Caribbean. We left our two young children for a romantic vacation of our own. To our dismay the vacation was far from romantic and relaxing. The persistent creaking from the ceiling was so annoying that it kept us awake several times throughout every single night. Both of us were in bad moods come morning and more tired than ever come the evening. I was really looking forward to the ship as I liked the feeling of being rocked to sleep by the motion of the water, but that did not happen for us. We booked this cruise because we loved cruising. We first sailed the Carnival Destiny last year and were overwhelmed with the comfort of our room and the relaxing feel of having an outside cabin balcony. We didn’t think twice about cruising the second time, especially after hearing Princess was a step above. I no longer have any desire to risk cruising again. We spend our hard-earned savings to afford the mini-suite and were assured it was one of the best rooms and locations on the ship. And so it seemed in the booklet. Your cruise line came highly recommended from my parents who are frequent cruisers and affiliated with corporate cruisers that used your line in the past. I did read many positive reviews about the Grand Princess before setting sail. Because of the amount of research I did, the last thing I expected were sleepless nights, I assumed the ship would be solid enough to deal with such noises. We just feel really let down by the whole experience, your slogan, “Where I Belong” didn’t ring true. We are very disappointed with the lack of service and compensation received while aboard the Grand Princess. Once we lost our sleep everything else just seemed to get worse… By the time we arrived back in Ft. Lauderdale we were first off the ship and couldn’t wait to get home to our own beds to relax and sleep.

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Feb 14, 2004

Western Caribbean

For those who haven’t been there, the Princess terminal is a huge warehouse type of building with cement ramps leading into it. There are signs all over stating that the porters are salaried and do not require tipping. I met up with the four breakfasters with no problem when their taxi dropped them off. The line-up ahead of us could only be described as controlled chaos. Dragging your suitcase and lugging your carry-on, you had to

show your Princess ticket at the door, again with your passport or ID at the next checkpoint, and then straight into the well-marked line for your deck. As our party was in two different cabins, one on Dolphin (Deck 9) and one on Plaza (Deck 5), we split up. You must produce your Princess tickets, passport and a credit card in order to receive your Princess cruise card. Since Tom and I are used to having to wear security tags at work, I had purchased neck chains and clear plastic envelopes for all of us for Christmas so we could wear our cruise cards around our necks. It was one of the smarter things I did and was very easy to remember as you just put it on in the morning and took it off at night. I even attached my lip balm to mine so that it was easy to spot on the desk amidst all the papers and I had one less thing to carry in my pocket. The tagged luggage was taken away by a porter and, just with our carry-ons, we went through security twice more before actually going up the gangway, having our photo taken with the fake palm trees for posterity, and finally stepping onto the ship. The total time from door to ship was 15 minutes! It was amazing, to say the least. Princess has crewmembers stationed at the gangway to take your computerized photo and activate your cruise card, then point you to the elevators. Again, a crewmember was there to greet you at your floor and point the way to your cabin. We had a mini-suite on Dolphin, amidships (D329). It was very clean, well laid out and the three of us had no difficulty occupying a relatively small space for the 7 days and we aren’t the tidiest folks on the planet. We were hot, sweaty and utterly exhausted by then and Tom said “Cost be damned” and downed the huge $2.50 bottle of water in the fridge. In spite of completing the cruise preferences section of the Princess web site, the robes were not in the cabin, the beds were in the wrong formation and there was no fruit. Our cabin steward, Bricchio, took care of those items very quickly and is one of the most charming and efficient people I have ever met and took very, very good care of us all week. Tiny color-coded (they match the color of the carpet for that deck) ship maps in hand, we set off to explore and get some lunch (or, in my case, breakfast). They have a tables strategically set up all over the ship for you to purchase your soft drink stickers (I think it was $22 each) and get a bonus metal thermal coke cup, so we purchased ours at that time. It was one of our better investments as we used them constantly! There was another deal for the “hurricane drink of the day” with fancy glass included, but we didn’t partake of that deal. We had an amazing buffet lunch in the Horizon Court and I felt much better afterwards. They had everything there you could imagine, for any type of diet – high carb, low carb, vegetarian, ethnic, you name it. I settled for the chicken wings and cold cuts with salad and was content. We left Tom to his own devices after lunch and went to the spa to book our appointments. Our timing was great as we arrived just as a tour of the spa was beginning. Good thing we booked right then as appointments were almost impossible to obtain on later days! Spa appointments booked, we rendezvoused back at the cabin in time for the muster drill at 4 p.m. Our muster station was in the Hearts and Minds Wedding Chapel of all places and, when the announcement came over the PA, off we went, lifejackets in hand, down the forward stairs. They kept telling folks not to put the lifejackets on and to ensure that the straps weren’t dragging behind, but nobody really paid attention to that part and there were people tripping on the stairs from the trailing straps of those ahead. There are smaller lifejackets for children, but since nobody was aware that they should request them from their room steward upon boarding, most of the kids had the wrong size. The demo of the lifejacket and a briefing from the Captain takes about 15 minutes, was well conducted and actually kind of fun for us newbies. I had arranged to meet a group from one of the message boards in the Wheelhouse Lounge after muster, so I headed there but nobody seemed to show up. Of course, I couldn’t really tell because I had no idea what they looked like (should have exchanged photos before we left home) and since I didn’t want to miss sail-away, I waited about 20 minutes then left. Tom wanted to watch the sail away from our balcony, but I had been told by experienced cruisers to go higher on the ship for the best view. I dragged him up to deck 15, overlooking the Dolphin pool and outside the teen area. Music was blaring, the drinks were in abundance and everyone was very excited. Various staff members, including one young lady in a navy blue suit and high heels, were positioned around the pool and hot-tubs below, enthusiastically doing the Macarena and encouraging everyone to join in. It was a wonderful and very happy sight and put a smile on everyone’s face. The sun broke through briefly as we left the pier, the horn blew in celebration, the band began to play reggae music and the party really got going. The folks who live in the condos at the end of the channel really put on a show with air horns, megaphones, flags, flashing lights, sirens, bells, etc. and we all got a real charge out of their participation. Once out to sea, we wandered around the ship a bit more. I was specifically looking for any signs of wear or disrepair, which had been noted by others, but saw only minor things and you really had to look for them. The sofa in our room needed cleaning along the bottom edge, but all of the carpets were in excellent condition and everything was spotless. To my disappointment, the aft pool, which I had admired on the web so much, was closed while they sanded and refinished the wood surround, and there were painters doing touch-ups in various locations around the ship. I must say that my mother and I were successful in managing to stick with three meals per day and, with a nod to our diabetes, no snacking at all except for one scoop of Hagen-Daz coffee ice-cream on the last full day so that I could say I tried it. We had breakfast and lunch every day at the Horizon Court and usually ended up near the aft pool to sit and eat. For those coffee aficionados, since my mother and I only drink decaf coffee, the Horizon Court brew was fine with us and Tom didn’t comment at all on coffee quality, so I guess he was okay with it. We knew that we could have used the dining rooms, but with everything we could ever want at the Horizon Court for those meals, why bother? The weather continued to deteriorate and there was a bit of noticeable rocking of the ship. We didn’t mind as none of us are easily seasick, we discovered, but a lot of folks had Dramamine patches stuck behind their ears at dinner. Sated, we climbed into our nicely prepared beds (although Bricchio and I never did come to an understanding about the tightly-tucked sheets which he preferred and the un-tucked which I prefer). We were gently rocked to sleep by the motion of the ship and I actually liked it once I got used to the movement. Wednesday was cloudy and rainy with a large waterspout approaching, which caused some concern on the Bridge. Instead of anchoring at the main port, all three ships (Princess, Carnival and Norwegian) coming into port that day were sent to Spott’s Bay on the southern, undeveloped portion of the island. Robin and I had planned an early morning trip to swim with Stingrays and the tour of Grand Cayman, so we sat waiting, freezing in the highly air-conditioned Princess Theatre, huddled in our bathing suits and shorts and shivering under our beach towels, for over 2 hours while they tried to decide if we could safely tender to shore. The scuba, golf, snorkelling and flying tours were cancelled outright and they finally decided that the stingray trip was cancelled but the land portion could continue. Robin and I charged up to our cabin, informed Tom about the change in plans and grabbed our raincoats and Robin changed into warmer pants over her swimsuit. While we were gone ashore, Tom did a load of laundry. Robin and I boarded the tender/lifeboats for the trip to shore and no sooner got seated at the uncovered back of the boat than the skies opened up. It poured like I had never seen before. We were instantly soaked to the skin in spite of the rain jackets (I tried to keep my hood on and the rain just ran down my sleeve and soaked my shirt beneath) and there was nothing to do but wait for it to pass. Fortunately, it was not a cold rain, but we were drenched and squished our way to shore from the tiny cement pier. Somehow, the cavalcade of tour mini-buses had made the mad dash from one side of the island to the other and tour operators were trying to sort out all the passengers from the different ships. It was insane, but we managed to end up on the right bus going in the right direction. Our driver was named Newton (as he said, like Sir Isaac or Fig) and he provided a delightful commentary for the morning. Hell was interesting and we did the usual post card thing. We quite enjoyed the Turtle Farm and the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory (yes, we brought back a suitcase full of cake in every flavour). Dinner that night was in DaVinci and was very good, dessert included, of course. I should say that all of our wait staff in the dining rooms was excellent. The sea was still rough, so we called it an early night and I spent a quiet hour or two out on our balcony, just watching the waves before I climbed into bed. Tom went to see a comedian and reported back around midnight that it was quite enjoyable. Thursday was a beautiful day – hot, sunny and with a light breeze. Perfect weather at last! After a lovely breakfast beside the aft pool (which was filled and reopened), we arrived in Costa Maya. No tender required, we disembarked the ship and walked a ways down the pier and climbed aboard the tiny tram which runs from the end of the pier to the ships. We managed to make it to the taxi stand after some confusion (it’s not well marked when you first get off the pier), bought tickets to the fishing village, Mahahual, and waited in line for a taxi. There is a lot of construction just outside the port itself and it’s obvious that there are big plans afoot for the development of the area. We arrived a few minutes later in Mahahual and I have to say, it’s like something straight out of a movie as the road wanders alongside the beach and vendors ply their wares. The place was very busy with our three ships in port and you had to watch for teenage tourists on rented ATV’s roaring past with nary a care for the pedestrians. Residents chatted in small groups under the palms, dogs lazed in the sun and the occasional donkey dozed in the shade. Wanda and I needed a bathroom, so we dodged into the closest formal restaurant to use their facilities. We just howled with laughter when we followed the signs leading back outside to a brilliantly yellow painted three-door lean-to toilet, two marked “hombres” and one “damas”. We were offered a massage on the beach for quite a reasonable price, but I turned it down. We caught a taxi back into the port and wandered around the pier shopping area. There were costumed dancers around the pool and the place was very busy, bustling with the crowd. A young man in Mayan costume stood on some steps in the marketplace, blowing a conch shell. Three male dancers in beautiful, colourful costumes came around the side of the market and did a fabulous dance for all of us tourists and our cameras. Friday was yet another perfect day weather-wise, and our last one in Mexico. Robin and I had booked the trip to Chankanaab Park for the dolphin swim. It was a very well organized trip with a very good guide and in spite of it being our most expensive excursion, was worth the money just for the once-in-a-lifetime experience, including being stung by jellyfish. Naturally, we purchased the video and photographs afterwards for an outrageous sum, mostly to explain to my chiropractor why she has so much work ahead of her. I must say that our pre-cruise trips to the tanning salon were worth the effort because, in spite of the fact that our sunscreen wore off in the water, we were only a bit pink at the end of the day and not in any pain at all. For those who are very fair skinned, I recommend the extra insurance of getting a bit of a base tan before you go. After the dolphin swim, we were free to wander the park for the remainder of the afternoon. We strolled down the paved pathways in the sunshine, then found the big restaurant in the centre of the park, right on the beach. I partook of a big plate of authentic Mexican nachos and, finally, my first alcoholic drink in three years, an honest-to-goodness real pina colada. It was thick, cold and very, very good, with just the right amount of pineapple and coconut, and went down oh, so smoothly. Robin had a coke and a burger with fries and the bill came to about $15.00. We wandered the beach a bit more and while Robin wanted to try the anti-gravity trampoline and I really wanted to see the botanical gardens, we just didn’t have time, so we headed back to the taxi area to grab a cab to Señor Frog’s in downtown Cozumel, near the other docks at the opposite end of town away from the Grand. On the way to downtown, my daughter had a religious experience. As a relatively new driver, she was in shock that the taxi was doing 120km about a foot from the bumper of the car ahead, with another taxi about a foot behind us. Her eyes were the size of saucers and I think she was praying under her breath. Purchases made, we wandered around the shopping area a bit more, then grabbed a taxi ($6) back to the ship. Robin had yet another religious experience in the heavy traffic on the way back, and shakily announced when we arrived safely that her life had passed before her eyes about a dozen times en route. As this was probably our last opportunity, Wanda, Tom and I went to the Princess Theatre at 10:45 to see “Curtain Up, A Salute to Broadway”. It was a very nice performance and the music and dancing were very enjoyable. I was starting to nod off towards the end, as it had been a very full day, so we called it a night after the performance, and headed off to bed. We passed by the main lobby in time for the champagne waterfall, being held two decks below, but there were so many people gathered around the railing that it was impossible to see anything. Saturday was our final full day on board and was a beautiful, sunny sea day. It was impossible to find a lounge chair and several arguments broke out when, in spite of the notices posted all over, folks reserved chairs and then rarely occupied them. One man, who was obviously an insurance attorney, had quite the loud “discussion” with the deck staff when they stopped him from removing chairs from the teen area so he could have six chairs together for his group. He then tried to argue that, since he couldn’t remove the chairs, he would and could park himself in there. When the deck staff told him that there were insurance issues involved in having adults in the teen area, he attempted to challenge them to an insurance liability debate. He even tried to argue that he was a teen - to no avail (not many teens have a receding hair line and facial wrinkles). Eventually, he grabbed chairs from someplace and put all six together on deck 15, right at the top of the staircase leading up from the dolphin pool, obstructing traffic. He placed his towel and tube of sunscreen on one chair, told his teenaged daughter to occupy the end one and then sat at the bar for the remainder of the afternoon, periodically strolling over and wiping his face on the towel. His wife showed up occasionally and used one of the middle chairs and a couple of others from his party made brief appearances, but otherwise, the chairs sat empty all afternoon. We made sure to comment on the chair-reserving situation on our comment card at the end of the cruise as it spoiled an otherwise perfect day. On disembarkation day, we were up, showered, dressed and off to breakfast in the Horizon Court by 7 a.m. We found seats in the lounge on deck 7 and waited for our tag color to be called. There were periodic and repeated calls over the loudspeaker for certain passengers to come and clear their account at the purser’s desk (how embarrassing!) and about 8:50, we were called to disembark. My mother and Wanda had different coloured tags and Wanda needed a wheelchair, so they waited in the lounge area on Deck 5 for a chair to be freed up. They were amongst the last to leave the ship at about 9:45. Tom made for the pay phones outside the terminal to call the Plantation Hampton Inn for their shuttle to come and pick us up, but every phone was occupied by a Grand crewmember calling home. Eventually he was able to get through, and we had to wait an hour for the shuttle to bring departing passengers and pick us up for the return trip. The Hampton Inn in Plantation is a well-appointed hotel, located right behind the Broward Shopping Mall. We had to wait in the lobby for an hour while our rooms were readied, but our reservations were correct and at a special reduced rate of $99 (with special thanks to Debbie Coté). Our room was spacious and very clean but we were surprised to find that there is no coffee shop in the hotel, just a small area in the lobby where they serve their complimentary breakfasts. I headed with Robin to the shopping mall and were joined by the others later for dinner. We didn’t realize that the mall closed at 6 p.m. on Sundays until we noticed the security guard locking the doors near the restaurant as we finished our meal. I went over and asked if he could unlock a door for us nearer to the entrance we had come in as Wanda was very tired and I didn’t think she could walk all the way around the outside of the mall and back to the hotel. Nothing doing, he pulled out his walkie-talkie and summoned one of his co-workers driving a utility vehicle. He put the two of us with all our parcels into the truck and his partner drove us around the mall and back to the hotel, while the other three walked. Now that’s customer service extraordinaire! The limo was waiting for us when we emerged from the airport back home and it was a quick drive home to drop everyone off at their place of residence. Too soon, our vacation had come to an end. Budget-wise, we didn’t do too badly. We underestimated the large expense for Princess photos and for spa treatments, but the remainder of the expenses were about right. With a few minor refinements, our personalized packing lists worked like a charm and I will re-use them for all of our future trips.

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Jan 18, 2004

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.

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Jan 11, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was my first cruise. My father-in-law was offered a great price and asked if my wife and I would like to go, without hesitating we said yes. Never having cruised before we weren’t sure what to expect at embarkation, I had heard that Princess had this process down to a “T”. I was extremely disappointed with the process, we had filled out several forms

via internet and had all of our other paperwork ready to go so we hopped into the express line thinking it would be a matter of a few minutes and we’d be boarding. The two ladies behind the desk seemed to have problems with every passenger, the regular line with more people moved much faster. When we got to the head of the line and attempted to check in they didn’t even look to see what tickets we handed them. We tried to explain a simple cabin change we needed to make and they couldn’t grasp what we were trying to say. Eventually we got it straightened out and were able to board. I’m not sure quite what I expected in the Atrium area of the Grand but I was a little disappointed. It was nice but I was expecting something stunning. I should mention here that I occasionally have to use crutches due to a partially torn Achilles tendon. Once I got used to the lay out of the ship I was able to easily able to get around, even on crutches. Due to a mix up with our travel agent my wife and I had a mini suite on Dolphin near the bow on the starboard side of the ship, my in-laws were near the stern on the same deck and side of the ship. Having read several reviews I was expecting a fairly small stateroom. I was quite surprised at the size. At one point our whole family was in the stateroom 5 good sized adults and we had plenty of room to move about. Our steward Norman took wonderful care of us for the week. Always ready to help with any question or request we had. We chose personal choice dining for the freedom of being able to eat when and where we wanted. On the evenings we decided to eat in the dining room we never had a problem with a wait. When we ate in the Michelangelo dining room our waiter was kind enough to introduce himself and his assistant, I can’t remember his name but he did a great job. We ate in the DaVinci dining room once and were not as impressed with the staff there. The only dining experience that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy was when we ate at the Painted Desert. The food was barely average and the staff didn’t impress me. On the other hand we ate in Sabbatini’s and that was one of the best dining experiences of my life. The food was very good, I even tried some foods that normally I would not eat. What made my experience at Sabbatini’s special was the service of Michelangelo our waiter and his staff. I highly recommend it to anyone sailing on the Grand. Our first port was Princess Cays, it was an enjoyable day at the beach. Especialley when you are escaping January weather in Washington State. We did a little snorkeling and some sun bathing. A quick note for people who have bad eyesight check at the dive locker onboard they have magnifying masks, while not prescription they certainly enabled my wife to snorkel and see the fish, and my wife has pretty bad eyes. Also you can rent snorkel gear by the week and save a little money. Next was Grand Cayman. They have great rum and of course Sting Ray City. We considered booking a Princess excursion, but decided to take our chances when we got to port. I’m glad we waited. It only cost $35.00 a person and there was eleven people on our boat. We had very personal help from our guides and weren’t crammed in with eighty other people. I would recommend Sting Ray City to anybody. At first it can be a little intimidating when a good size Sting Ray comes up and bumps you looking for food but you soon get used to it. After Grand Cayman it was off to Costa Maya which is basically a shopping mall built by the cruise lines. We shopped for a little bit, then went on the only excursion we booked through Princess. We went to the ruins at Chachoben, it’s incredible to walk on 1500 year old cobble stones. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and spoke pretty good English. Cozumel was our last stop. We shopped some more, I bought some loose gems for my wife and had them set at a little jeweler we had heard about. D’Arce jewelers they did an excellent job and were done right when they said they would be at a reasonable price. Debarkation should be worked on, I understand that trying to unload 2500 people and their bags is a time consuming project, but they kept calling more groups to debark while previous groups were backed up onto the stairs. Gathering our baggage and leaving the port went fairly quickly once we got off the ship. All in all we had an excellent trip. I was impressed with the number of activities and services available for those who wished to take advantage of them. The staff were great, always helpful and cheerful. I certainly plan to cruise with Princess again in the near future.Also I would certainly recommend Princess and the Grand to anyone.

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Jan 4, 2004

Western Caribbean

Princess Cruise Line Was Horrible We recently had the displeasure of celebrating our honeymoon on Princess Cruise Line. We were on the Grand Princess from 1/04/04 to 1/11/04 without our luggage or adequate help from your Purser’s staff. On 1/04/04, we arrived by bus, a bus transfer that was offered by Princess Cruises, at the Princess Pier with our luggage. A Princess representative who greeted us told us to take our carryon luggage

to check in and told us that the rest of our luggage would be delivered to our room. We checked in and waited, but our luggage never arrived at our room. We visited the Purser’s desk a dozen times the first evening and each time we were treated as if we were bothering them and our missing luggage was a waste of their time. The last time that evening we visited the desk was at midnight and the man told us he could not help us and if we were that concerned we should check outside each door on each floor for the luggage. I explained to him that this was our honeymoon and we did not have any clothes to enjoy it with so far. He said again, there was nothing he could do. We asked to fill out the missing luggage form mentioned in the cabin book, but he said we should come back the next day to fill it out. The next day we docked at Princess Cays. My husband and I started our day putting on our dirty clothes and revisiting the Purser’s desk. The gentleman we spoke to on 1/05/04 was much more helpful and allowed us to fill out the form. He told us we should had filled out the form the night before and apologized for the laziness of his colleagues. We were told that the Senior Assistant Purser would look into it and we should go and enjoy ourselves. Unfortunately, we only had jeans and sweaters and the store would not sell us anything. Since the staff delayed explaining to us where our luggage could be or help us in finding information, we were unaware that we would have to buy clothes from the store before we docked. Luckily, a nice passenger on board offered us clothes since the staff was brushing us off. The passenger told us she was appalled at the behavior and attitudes she saw us getting from the staff. In order to enjoy ourselves we had to buy all new clothes at Princess Cays. Throughout the cruise, we had to cancel excursions because we did not have proper clothing, we had to go to dinner in the same clothes repeatedly, we could not enjoy some of the activities on board since we did not proper clothing, we felt dirty and sad throughout the honeymoon, and we were angered at the rudeness we received due to the cruise line’s mistake. Three days into the cruise, we were offered free laundry service; before that, we were not offered anything. My husband was offered a tuxedo for formal night, but I had to spend $200 more on clothes to wear. We are extremely disappointed in the way were treated throughout the whole ordeal. It was our honeymoon; we spent a lot of money to be there yet the Purser’s staff treated us as if we were coral at the bottom of the ship. My husband mentioned, to Elizabeth Williams, that he had read the 10 commandments of Princess Cruise Lines in the cabin book one of the first commandments said something similar to this, “A Princess Cruise Line Representative would never tell a cruiser no, but would find the answer out if s/he could did not know the answer.” This was not the case for us unfortunately. From the moment we entered the ship all we heard was no from the Purser’s staff. They were surprisingly unwilling to help us out in finding our luggage, clothes to wear, or a honeymoon to enjoy. As representatives of Princess Cruise Lines it was up to them to keep us in the know regarding our luggage and to make our stay more comfortable. We were left feeling as if our lost luggage was a nuisance and we were the shipwrecked honeymooners aboard the “Black Pearl.” The cruise line lost our luggage and we still do not have it. We were blamed, the airlines were blamed and finally four days into the trip the manager from the Purser’s admitted that Princess lost the luggage; however, she could not locate the luggage. She supposedly worked on finding it without any success. Unfortunately, she did not keep us posted on the results and she would not return our phone calls throughout the trip. We met with her once, but she would not meet with us again. All together, we spent at least a $1000 on new clothes in order to enjoy ourselves. We lost our shoes, our casual and work clothes, along with other irreplaceable items. All we got in return was a disappointing honeymoon and rude customer service. To top it all off, the last day there we asked if they could give us a complimentary bag in order to get our “new” clothing home (since they admittedly lost our luggage) and we again heard their favorite word, NO! My husband and I had to bring our clothing home in a plastic bag from the boutique that did not close. The Purser’s would not even give us rope or string to tie the bag with in order to keep it closed. I was astounded at their ignorance. This was supposed to be a wonderful honeymoon that was ruined by the uncourteous and obnoxious Purser’s staff of Princess Cruise Lines. I am disappointed in the treatment we had to endure from them as well as the fact that we still do not have satisfaction, or a conclusion, in our search for our luggage.

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Dec 14, 2003

Western Caribbean

Hi! We sailed with Grand Princess on Dec.14 2003 and this was our first cruise. Embarkation was very nice, as it did not take a lot of time. We then went to our room to find out that we had been upgraded, instead of an inside cabin we had a outside cabin with a large window looking out the ocean. A couple minutes after we entered the room,

someone knocked on our door to deliver a complementary bottle of wine, courtesy of Cruise.com (we booked our cruise online within 7 days for 444$). We had already brought one bottle of wine in our suitcase without any problems. While waiting to sail away, we enjoyed a nice buffet onboard. The food was pretty good. But I will get to that part later...Let's talk about the ports... Princess Key: really relaxing My husband and I were really tired when we got on the cruise so we really enjoyed that day at the beach... There is nothing to do but to relax. You can snorkel a little around the rocks. We had brought our own snorkeling equipment, it is pretty expensive to rent it. We enjoyed pretty good weather. Grand Caymans: Excellent time at Sting Ray city. When we got out the ship we booked an excursion with one of the people holding signs at the port: Sting Ray City and Snorkeling 35$. It was a lot less expensive than the Princess excursion that sold for more or less 60 $. We had a blast at Sting Ray City and saw a lot of beautiful fish while snorkeling. After that we went back to the town, don't expect to see a nice island like Key West, the architecture is absent. There are just a lot of jewelry shops and rum shops. You can buy diamond and tanzanite. Costa Maya: excellent excursion There is nothing to see at the port is it just a modern port with not much Mexican culture in it. We saw a nice dance show. We took a taxi to the little town of Majahualt. This is a small village that probably looks more like the real Mexico, we think it is worth seeing. The best part of the day is when we did an excursion to the mayan ruins of Chichoben (something like that) we had a wonderful Mexican guide (Diana). We had booked this tour in the ship with princess for about 60 $. Seeing the ruins was breath taking. We arrive late at the ship, but since the excursion was booked with Princess we had no problem. Cozumel: Good time! We had booked again a tour with Princess to see Tulum and Xel-ha for around 125$. These two places were great but we did not have time to enjoy them that much because we only spent about 1 1/2 hours in each of them. If you can I would visit only one. Tulum was my favorite. In Tulum we saw other mayan ruins, very different from the others we had seen in Costa Maya. In Xel-ha we snorkeled in a beautiful lagoon. The only thing I did not like is that we were rushed back to the ferry to go back to Cozumel because apparently there were too many ships and we might not be able to take one later. It was about 3:30. I think we should have been able to spend more time in our excursion and come back a little later. Food: Excellent! We had all our dinner in the dinning room with personal choice dinning. We shared our table one night and then ate just the two of us the rest of the nights at the time we felt like eating. We had a lot of good food: seafood, lobster tail, veal, duck, shrimps, snails, .... My favorite dinner was the one with the French theme. We did not eat at the two restaurants where you pay extra because the menu at the dinnig room was always appetizing. We ate most of our breakfast at the buffet as well as lunch. It was always very good. Pictures On the ship, they take a lot of pictures of you, we bought very nice 8*10 black and white pictures of us on the formal night. A good thing to know is that I went to Wal-Mart to get them scaned and make copies and apparently there are no copy rights on these and you can make as many copies as you want after you come back... What else? We wore little patches behind our ears the whole trip, we did not feel sick at all. Don't believe people who tell you that you don't feel the ship moving. You feel it. The only really bad thing about this cruise was disembarkation. It was a nightmare!!!! I don't think this happens a lot after talking to a woman who did 20 cruises, but in this case is was really bad... We had the bad idea of leaving our car at a friend's house in Hollywood to save on parking. We were going to take a taxi from the port to his house. Bad idea!!! 15 ships were disembarking at the same time, that is about 30 000 people. We had to wait in the parking lot for 2 1/2 hours for a taxi... We did not get one, after that time, a lot of people were about to miss their flights home, so Princess made us take some buses which brought us to the airport. From the airport we finally were able to take a taxi... Next time we will pay the parking. We talked to a lot of people on the ship who had done many cruises. Some of them told us that they preferred Royal Caribbean, while others told us that Princess was the nicest, I guess we will have to do more cruises to know! One more thing, we felt dizzy for about 3-4 days after we had come back, you feel like the floor is still moving... But it is bearable. I would really recommend this cruise! Sorry if I made some spelling mistakes since English is not my first language! I hope this was helpful! Hasta la vista! Buen crucero! Julie Pomerleau

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Dec 13, 2003

Western Caribbean

Western Caribbean Dec 2003 Grand Princess. From Fort Lauderdale. My wife and I traveled from the UK to experience this super cruise on a grand ship. I would give this cruise a rating of around 8 out of 10. If I had to criticize anything about the cruise it would be the general entertainment in the very impressive theatre. There were too many comedians,

and unless you have an American sense of humor the jokes are not very funny. The British sense of humor is based on sarcasm. The second criticism would be the ports of call. I would think the eastern Caribbean ports of call may be a better choice. I will find out next time. I also would say the price of the photographs on the ship are way too high. $9.99. There was only about a 20% purchase rate at this price. I would say if they charged $2.99 everyone would buy and they would make more money.

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Nov 4, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our 1st 7 day cruise and we loved every minute of it. My only regret is that I gained 7 lbs. The staff on board was top notch. The Lotus Spa was heavenly and the fresh water pools are the only way to travel.

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Nov 2, 2003

Western Caribbean

Recently returned from a lovely experience on the Grand Princess, Western Caribbean. It was my 2nd cruise (Celebrity Infinity) and my girlfriends first We felt we got a great deal on vacationstogo.com.........a category AA mini-suite, nice balcony for about $1700 total, excluding airfare............ It is indeed true what many reviews say----large

enough and laid out in such a way that you never feel that there's 2000 something people on the ship........Highlights were the great dining service, the staff is very well-trained probably more along the lines of the European tradition. The food was good but not great and i think its simply a matter of there's only so much you can do in terms of quality on a ship that large. A good comparison would be a large hotel; one usually would usually find better food in a neighboring restaurant than the hotels' food........Don't miss Stingray City....way cool. Snorkeling in Cozumel was awesome.....in addition to fish, saw a huge lobster and one of the dive guides actually caught with his hands about a 50lb green sea turtle and brought it to the surface for all to see. I cant quite remember the name of the other Mexican port, but it was pretty uneventful, although we did go into town and some great cerviche.......... We opted for open dining and that worked well, sometimes a 15 minute wait but we were always able to get a table for two.......Complaints were minor: DJ in the disco was playing Bad music from 15 yrs ago (super freak, thriller) and just couldn't play anything to get anyone dancing....he had no clue...... One little money saving tip if you have a balcony.......do your socks, underwear, t-shirts, etc in the sink then turn your outside table upside down and with the breeze and the sun they will be dry in no time Anyway, overall a great time and best of luck to all

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Oct 25, 2003

Western Caribbean

CRUISE SHIP SIMILARITIES, DIFFERENCES My wife, Barb, and I decided to use some of our tax refund money to cruise the Caribbean on the Grand Princess, having given the Mexican Riviera a go last fall on the Star Princess. Both ships are exquisite. The Star Princess is the newer of the two and, therefore a little spectacular. We had been told

prior to boarding that the ships were “identical”. They had similar floor plans but the Star Princess had a much more spectacular atrium with fine tropical bas-relief sculptures adorning the elevators. We had inside staterooms on both ships. There again, the ships were not identical. The Star Princess had far more storage space which gives the Star Princess bragging rights but in our case proved somewhat irrelevant since we only had one large suitcase, two small suitcases and two totes, one containing my camera gear. Small as the closet was, there was plenty of suitcase storage under the beds. YOU CAN LOSE THINGS IN A STATEROOM A word about those bureaus in the staterooms. I had brought along an apple peeler because I like my fruit peeled. It disappeared after the first day and I thought perhaps someone had confiscated it, although I don’t see how an apple peeler could possibly be threatening to anyone. As it turns out, it had been sitting high in an upper drawer. When the drawer we re-opened, it got scraped off the top of the drawer and fell down under the bottom drawer. When I removed the bottom drawer I not only found the peeler, but a pair of men’s black shorts. So if you’re missing your passport or other valuables, check under the bottom drawer. WORRIED ABOUT SEASICKNESS? One thing we had worried about in advance prior to booking a cruise was the possibility that one or both of us might get seasick and spend the entire cruise in bed. We purchased and wore – religiously – on each cruise those elastic motion sickness bands, one for each wrist. We never got sick once and on each cruise we hit very rough seas on the last one or two days at sea. The bands ($5.99) have a small half-marble that places continuous pressure on the underside of the wrist. The box says it uses the “science of acupressure” to relive all forms of nausea…We called it voodoo. But it works. THE FOOD IS DELICIOUS We’re not connoisseurs of fine food. In fact, I’ve never had a bad meal at Denny’s, I liked airline food when they still served it, didn’t mind hospital food and even liked Army food. Heavens knows I prepared enough of it on K.P. at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. So you wouldn’t be surprised to know that we thought the food on the Grand Princess (and the Star Princess for that matter) was superb. We can’t help comparing in our minds the value difference between airlines and cruise lines. “Flying Pretzel Airlines” will charge $500 for a round trip and give you nothing but a beverage and a bag of pretzels. A cruise line will charge, say, $500 for a seven-day cruise and give you a week of comfortable quarters, daily housekeeping, a chocolate for your pillow, free stationary, unlimited soap and shampoo, unlimited dining, excellent entertainment, your own stage and professional technicians if you want to do your own entertaining at karaoke or at talent night and, not incidentally, transportation from port to port. It’s almost cheaper than staying home. How do the cruise lines do it? Why can’t the airlines offer more amenities and still make money? ANYTIME DINING We opted for anytime dining because we enjoy meeting people, sharing stories and getting cruise tips. Most of our fellow diners had a lot of nice things to say about Princess cruises. But one couple had been on some Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships and couldn’t think of anything good to say about Princess. After riding on two Princess ships, I can’t imagine where there could be any difference between a three-star ship or a six-star ship. The food was good. The service superb. The staff friendly and efficient. What do they want? Godiva chocolates? EXCURSIONS We were on a limited budget so we didn’t sign up for too many excursions. However, I wanted to get in some snorkeling but my wife doesn’t swim; an excellent solution to that problem was the semi-submersible Nautilus undersea tour and reef snorkel at Grand Cayman at $49 a person, booked through Princess Tours. The Nautilus is basically a deep-hulled boat with many windows on each side of the hull, which puts the viewer perhaps a dozen feet underwater. The ship is comfortable and air conditioned. The tour passes over a couple of wrecks and the narrator offers an informative description as you ride. PHOTO HINTS A couple of photographic hints are in order here: If you are trying to take pictures through that thick glass, you need a camera which either does not have a flash or one on which the flash can be switched off. Otherwise the glass will just reflect light back into your lens and you will get no picture. It’s a good idea to use a fast film, at least 400 speed, with 800 probably better. By the way, if you need photo supplies while on board, the Photoshop on Promenade 7 has film, cameras and will sell prints of formal and informal photos taken by photographers on board. I needed a little battery for my Elph APS camera and they had one for several dollars, which was comparable to stateside prices. By comparison, their prices on underwater one-time-use cameras were around $16, as compared with $6 or $7 at Wal Mart. AIRPORT X-RAYS: They claim it won’t hurt film but all the articles I’ve read in professional photography magazines say otherwise, especially where higher speed films (ASA 800) are repeatedly X-rayed, as they are coming and going. For that reason, I always carry a lead-lined bag and make sure all my film is inside. I not only had room for more than 20 rolls of film but also crammed in my Fuji one-time-use underwater camera and my little Elph camera. Here’s a little trick I stumbled onto that probably saved me hundreds of dollars. I’m extremely near-sighted and can’t see much through a mask under water. I couldn’t fit my regular glasses under a mask and if you went to purchase a mask with a specially vision-corrected lens you’d be looking at some big dollars. I went to the Goodwill and found a pair of glasses for $1.99 that were close to my prescription, removed the bows and popped them into the mask. (I brought the mask into the Goodwill to test the fit). They worked beautifully, well enough for me to read the camera settings on my Minolta and to change focus. Besides an old Minolta underwater flash camera I also had a Fuji one-time-use non-flash underwater camera with ASA 800 film that I carried in a zip-lock bag tied to my side until I was ready to use it. SALT WATER IS MORE BUOYANT One thing I for which I was not prepared. I am used to swimming and snorkeling in fresh water. When I’m ready to dive to the bottom, I just dive and go down. No problem. At Grand Cayman I wanted to dive down to get a closer view of the coral and some views of fish other than those looking down at them. I could not dive down more than a foot or two. I don’t know how anyone ever drowns in the ocean. Next time I snorkel in the ocean, I’ll bring along a weight belt to achieve a zero-gravity situation. COSTA MAYA I saw some reviews that considered Costa Maya a so-so stop. Actually, since we were limited on excursions, we considered Costa Maya a pleasant surprise. It’s the most user-friendly shopping area we visited, certainly much more than Cozumel. Since we planned to spend the day browsing around the shops at Costa Maya, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the local Mayans staged some excellent and colorful shows in the open amphitheater. I would highly recommend you bring along plenty of color film because the costumes are a real treat for photographers. And come to think of it, the Costa Mayans very generously provided a beautiful, fountained, tiered swimming pool smack dab in the middle of the plaza. You can either splash in water about a foot deep around the various fountains, or move down a few dozen feet to water about three feet deep or continue another few dozen feet into deeper water. There is also a swim-up bar if you get thirsty. Get tired of the pool and you can wander over to the ocean area a few hundred yards away and take a dip. On one side of the pier the shore has a lot of sharp coral reef and it is posted for no swimming, a sign a lot of people ignore. On the other side of the pier is a nice sandy beach. You have to be careful walking on the “no swimming” shore, especially where the waves crash in over the reef. Wear some of those beach shoes, which I did. They are made for walking in water and for walking on rough beaches. However, I wasn’t careful enough while walking where the waves were splashing in and stepped into what I told my wife was the world’s largest, deepest gopher hole. Fortunately, I didn’t hurt myself but it was embarrassing standing there with one leg completely in the hole and the other straight out. COZUMEL We didn’t book any of the Princess excursions because we thought they were a little beyond our budget. And we figured that Cozumel would offer a situation similar to what we ran into at Puerto Vallarta where swarms of tour guides and cab drivers and shuttle buses would compete at very tempting prices for your excursion dollar. Didn’t happen. There weren’t any swarms of cab drivers and tour guides so we just browsed the shops, sweated a lot and watched some of the entertainment. You might want to bring a video camera into Cozumel to get some footage of those crazy Mayans who fly around upside down on that big May pole. They sit around at the top of the post for 15 or 20 minutes while one of them blows a whistle and a narrator talks about the significance of what they are doing. Probably praying. Awhile later they tie their bungee cords to their ankles and start whirling groundward. Unfortunately, I left my video camera on the ship so I had to settle for still photos. You won’t see much difference between the souvenirs in the shops at Cozumel than in the shops at Costa Maya than in the shops at Princess Cays; the cheaper souvenirs are all made in China, anyway. I bought a matching set of cufflinks/tie clip for $10 that most likely came from the Orient. But what the hey, it had a rhinestone and none of the Mexican silver cufflinks come with rhinestones. MUSIC? Entertainment – In general, we liked the shows we saw, enjoyed the comedians and thought the musicals were very professionally staged. But there’s a big however, here. However, we’re 65 years old and the music to us sounded mostly like teenie-bopper music. It’s the sort of stuff we switch off on the radio and usually go hunting for some Broadway tunes or easy listening. A very large percentage of passengers were seniors and many of them had the same opinion about the entertainment and the music – it all seemed geared to the younger crowd. And the karaoke and talent shows are so late. I’m usually in bed by 8 p.m. So are a lot of other seniors. Karaoke doesn’t start until 10:30 or 11 p.m. And the talent show was held late on the last night of the cruise. Couldn’t they have that just as well in the afternoon? What’s the big deal about midnight entertainment? We really enjoyed participating in the karaoke and in the talent show. There again, the karaoke music catalog was geared to the younger audience. You won’t find many Como, Crosby, Nat King Cole, Carpenters, Ames Brothers, John Denver, Mills Brothers, Four Lads, Four Aces or Kingston Trio melodies in those karaoke catalogs. You’ll more likely find “Born to Be Wild” “Crocodile Rock” or “YMCA.” I brought along costumes and my own backup disks thinking I might do Sinatra’s “From Here to Eternity” or “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” I also brought along a monster mask with a ferocious, angry look that was going to wear while singing “Put On A Happy Face,” for which I also brought a disk. I also brought along an audio backup tape of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.” They either couldn’t or wouldn’t accommodate any outside CD disks or tapes, so you were stuck with their kiddie catalog. I did an Elvis number instead, “American Trilogy,” which was well received. While it’s true that karaoke and talent shows often bring out the worst of singers they sometimes ferret out the best as well. One of the things that first attracted me to karaoke was the fact that, for the first time ever you could sing along with a real professional fully orchestrated backup. And on a ship like the Grand Princess, you have much more professional sound systems than in many other venues. A word about the passenger talent show: My wife wanted to do “You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun” from “Annie Get Your Gun.” We couldn’t very well bring a gun on board but she needed some kind of gun prop. I didn’t want to get security up in arms by even bringing a toy gun. So I took a toy gun prop that looks like a real six-shooter, scanned both sides of it into the computer, cut out the pictures and traced the pattern onto a piece of Styrofoam. Then glued to gun cutouts to both sides of the Styrofoam. Voila, a gun that looked real on stage but didn’t alarm anybody. Toward the end of the song, a stage assistant came out with a very real looking rifle for her to hold. I sang a Perry Como number in the talent show, “And I Love You So.” It was wonderful performing in such a professional environment as the Vista Lounge/Theater in front of an enthusiastic audience of several hundred. It was standing room only. I am not used to working with spotlights since most of our shows are at functions that raise money for Meals on Wheels. I was planning to step down and work the audience, shaking hands with the ladies when the song hit the part where it says, “the day you took my hand.” But when I stepped off the stage, I realized all I could see was the spotlight and all the heads had disappeared into blackness. No one to shake hands with. AIRPORT SECURITY We got in and out of Customs coming and going without problems. Airport security at Fort Lauderdale was quite another matter. Although Princess Cruises got us to the airport with a couple of hours to spare before our flight, the airport security people paid no attention to departure times on people’s tickets. We were held up with checks and double checks to the point where they were announcing that our plane was boarding and we were still being checked by security. A guy ahead of us in line refused when ordered by security to leave the line he was in to go to a longer line, since he had already waited 20 minutes. Barb and I, like sheep, went to the longer line as ordered; we later found out the guy ahead of us still had two hours before his plane was to depart. Why don’t those security people check departure times on tickets?

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Sep 20, 2003

Western Caribbean

Background My husband and I are both medical residents from Albany NY. I am 26 and my husband is 28. This is my third cruise and his first. I chose Princess because I’d heard such good things about it and we got a good price. Although we were worried because September is hurricane season, the weather was perfect! PreCruise A We booked through vacationstogo.com and they were very helpful with getting us a great deal. They told

me that Princess offers airline tickets as well. However, their price was over 50% more than I had found searching online sources such as expedia or orbitz.com, so we just bought the tickets through travelocity. I would highly recommend researching flight costs yourself or through a travel agent rather than buying airline tickets through Princess. Princess sent us information and tickets a few weeks before we departed. We did not buy travel insurance and fortunately our flights were on time and we had prearranged through our travel agent to take a shuttle from the airport to the boat for $5 per person. We had no trouble finding the Princess cruise representative, and the baggage carriers charged us an extra $1 per bag to take them to the bus. I know the cost is insignificant, but that was the beginning of the little “extra” fees. Embarkation B+ I was surprisingly disappointed with the embarkation process. I read numerous reviews prior to booking this vacation and filled out all of our information online, including a credit card to charge our onboard account to, emergency contact info, passport info, etc. However, when we arrived, everyone still had to fill out a form with passport info, etc. We arrived at port at approximately 12:15pm and the lines were quite long. We waited approximately 10 minutes and we were in a short line. When we got to the counter, the gentleman swiped our credit card for our onboard account (I’m not even sure if it was the one I’d entered into the computer weeks before), and gave us our onboard card that doubles as a room key and onboard credit card. The process was relatively quick, but not as fast as I’d expected. Prior to getting on the boat you must pass through a metal detector and scan your handbags through an X-ray machine just like at the airport. The Room A- I have cruised on the Carnival Sensation and Norwegian’s Norway before and found this room to be good sized. We were in L256, an outside room with a balcony, on the same level as the pools. The beds were put together to form a queen bed and the room had a small unstocked refrigerator, mirrors everywhere, a TV, ample closet space, and a very small bathroom. Thank goodness we’re small people because the shower was TINY! We had plenty of hangers but I brought extras just in case. They provided towels for the room and striped towels for the pool/beach. We didn’t even have to ask for bathrobes; they were laid out for us the very first day. We absolutely LOVED having a balcony and spent quite a bit of time on it. Of course, we could hear everything people were saying on the balconies below us, but with the door closed it was completely quiet in the room. We ordered room service almost every morning and ate it out on the balcony. Food/Dining A We selected Preferred Choice dining and ate anytime we wanted between 5:30and 10pm in either the DaVinci or Michelangelo dining rooms. The Boticelli was for those with regular seating. There were only 2 nights that we had to wait in line. Peak hours are from 7-8:30pm, and they give out beepers similar to the one at the Olive Garden to tell you when your table was ready. Most of the time we chose to sit with a group of people, and a few nights we ate by ourselves. It was nice to talk to people and hear what they thought of the trip. We were always the youngest people at the table. One night they seated us with another couple our age, which was nice. Otherwise people were anywhere from 45-75 yrs old and had cruised many times before this. There were also numerous honeymooners on the ship. The food was absolutely superb! The dinners included an appetizer, soup, salad, main course, and desert. All were delicious and the portions were small enough that you were still able to enjoy the main course without feeling stuffed. Plus, if you wanted to try two entrees, or order another soup, the waiters were more than happy to oblige. The service was amazing, as always. The only thing I regretted was that my husband did not get the full “cruise dining” experience because we had a different wait-staff each night and we didn’t get to know them. After speaking with other people, I learned it was possible to request the same table every night, and to make dinner reservations to avoid the lines. Breakfast in the main dining room was uneventful; they had almost the exact same foods as the Horizon Court (buffet). We only did that once. Lunch in the main dining room was nice and had approximately 3-4 courses depending on the day; appetizer, salad, entrée, and dessert. I frequently got lunch from the Pizza place on Deck 14 after returning from our daily excursions. The Horizon Court is open 24 hours a day and has many small buffet lines with plenty of food to choose from. Afternoon tea was served in the DaVinci dining room from 3:30-4:30 and included coffee, tea, desserts, cookies, small sandwiches, and scones. All of the food was amazing and we enjoyed this a lot. “Extra Fees”/Tipping D The ship had two extra dining rooms that served food for a nominal fee- Sabatini’s was $20 per person, and The Painted Desert was $8 per person. We chose not to eat at either since the food in the dining rooms was so good. However, we did hear wonderful things about Sabatini’s. The ship charges approx $20 for a soft drink sticker and that covers all sodas on the ship except on Princess Cays. We don’t drink enough soda to warrant buying the card, and simply drank ice tea, water, coffee, or hot tea. There was also a charge for ice cream near the pool, and of course, all alcoholic beverages. There’s a $10 uncorking fee for drinking your own bottle of wine in the dining room. Tips for the waiters and room stewards are automatically charged to your onboard account. If you have any problems or want to change how much you’d like to tip it can be done at the purser’s desk. I can’t remember how much they automatically tip for each waiter and room steward but I believe our total tip bill came to approximately $85 per person for the entire week. Be careful how much money you spend on drinks- they add a 15% gratuity and it all adds up. We heard about one couple who cried when they saw their bill on Sunday morning. Princess Cays A- This was a typical “private island” that only Princess ships go to. When we got off the tender, we walked right, over the bridge. There were significantly less people over there, and no bar service. We swam in the beautiful warm water and explored the small tide pools with little colorful fish in them. In the water the ground is quite rough and water shoes would have come in handy. There were more than enough beach chairs in the sun and shade. The barbeque lunch on the left side of the island was good. Grand Cayman A This was our favorite port. I highly recommend swimming with the stingrays. We knew that the prices through the cruise line were excessively high and therefore waited until we got on shore and booked an excursion there. There was a group of people holding up yellow laminated signs charging $30 per person for stingray city and the reef, including snorkel gear. There were 12 of us on the boat, as opposed to the other boats that had upwards of 50-100 people on them. Our tour was much more personalized and we had a great time. We got to feed the stingrays, hold them, and get a “stingray massage”. The snorkeling was also very nice. Costa Maya B+ This is a very primitive port only used 2 days per week by Princess cruises. Right off the ship there were beaches with chairs and hammocks, restaurants, snorkeling, tons of shops, and pools. We went to a booth on shore and negotiated $40 for 40 minutes on a wave runner and $30 for both of us to snorkel for an hour, including gear. It cost $5 per person for a roundtrip taxi ride to the small fishing village (population 250) a few miles from the ship. The snorkeling was very nice; we saw a lot of coral and different types of fish. The jet skiing was ok- we own a jet ski but wanted to see if it was any different on the ocean as opposed to a lake. The waves were the same size, the water was much warmer, but the jet ski didn’t do 360’s like ours does. The fishing village was poor and people kept coming up to us trying to sell us various trinkets or food. It was worth going out there to see. Most of the people only speak Spanish and my husband learned that most of them drive ~5 hrs from Cancun or other places to come and sell stuff or work there for the 2 days that Princess boats come. Cozumel B+ Cozumel was very touristy, and there were at least 3 other cruise boats there while we were. There were plenty of shops right off the boat but no available beach. We split a taxi with another couple to a nearby beach. I can’t remember the name but we ate at a restaurant there and went swimming. Some people we spoke with had a great time at Senor Frogs, or the party boat. Pools A There were 4 pools on the ship with the one in the front and the back adult only pools. Most of the pools had 2 hot tubs next to them except the pool at the back of the boat. All were warm freshwater and even on sea days they weren’t too overcrowded. They are all open 24 hours a day. Entertainment A- We saw most of the comedians but none of the musicals. The newlywed show was hilarious. We also went to the cooking show and tour of the galley which was unimpressive. The galley was perfectly clean and shiny but I would have liked to have seen it during dinner with all the food and waiters running in and out. Many of the nights were just too exhausted to stay up for the shows and went to bed early. In addition, the theatres were often quite chilly and I had to wear pants and carry a sweater with me if we went to any of them. Debarkation B+ We put our suitcases outside the room the night before leaving so they could be taken off the boat. We left the room at 8:30am for breakfast at the Horizon Court and sat in the lounge until our color was called. It took at least 30 minutes from when we left the boat until when we got on the bus back to the airport. I would advise that if you’re in a rush to get to the airport that you take a taxi rather than the bus because they had to load all the luggage then make numerous stops at different airline terminals. The customs people didn’t even look at our customs card, only our passports. Things to Bring Do not forget sunscreen, small bills ($1) for tipping, watershoes (but we did fine without them), formal wear for the 2 formal nights (men wore tuxedos or suits, women with nice cocktail dresses- nice, but not overly dressy), bottled water (they charge you for the bottle of water in the room), over the counter medications (dramamine, pepto-bismol, tylenol, etc). Although the rule is that you are not allowed to bring hard alcohol on the ship, they actually let me on with it and no one gave us a problem. However, the official policy is that they keep it until the last morning when they’ll return it to you. You are allowed to bring wine and soft drinks on but there is a $10 uncorking fee if you choose to drink your own wine in the dining room. You do not need to bring soap, shampoo, or conditioner- they are all provided. Overall Impression A- The ship was meticulously cared for and it never felt too overcrowded. My only complaint was that the atrium was not very “grand”. It was only 3 stories high and very unimpressive. All of the rooms- the lounges, dining rooms, etc had low ceilings and made it feel warm and cozy but never “grand” or overwhelming. There were very few children on the ship and not many teenagers or singles, mostly older people and younger couples. We had a wonderful, relaxing time and didn’t want to leave. I would highly recommend this ship, but the itinerary could have been better

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Sep 13, 2003

Western Caribbean

Let me begin by telling you that we LOVE cruising. This review is written from our perspective. We cruise 3-4 times a year and look for bargains on our seven day cruises. Princess sent me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so we booked the Grand for our second cruise on this beautiful ship and our third cruise on a Grand class ship of Princess. Other lines we have sailed include Celebrity (8), RCCL (3), NCL (2), Costa (3), Carnival

(1), Premier (1), and Commodore (1). Since we were sailing during hurricane season, we knew that there was always the possibility of being re-routed – but we had sailed many times before during hurricane season and never had a problem – not this time!!! We booked an Eastern Caribbean route and actually sailed a Western Caribbean route. To say that we were disappointed would be an understatement – but we were on a cruise and what better place to be – so we made the best of it and had a wonderful time! Since we live in Naples, Florida, we have the ability to cruise often. We take the bus to the port and it works well for us. The doors opened at 11:15 am and we were on the ship and in our cabin by 11:45 am. Princess has one of the best embarkation processes I have ever experienced. We went up to the Horizon Court for lunch and then re-acquainted ourselves with the ship. I had resisted the Grand for many years thinking that she would be too big with too many passengers – but succumbed last September and we fell in love with the Grand class ships – sailed the Golden in February and now the Grand again. These ships are laid out so well – they never feel crowded – there is plenty of deck space. With four pools to choose from, two of them mainly adults only, there really is never a feeling of a crowd around the pools. The itinerary was day at sea, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, day at sea and Princess Cays. I love sea days – am up early to have coffee and watch the sun come up and swim. Costa Maya was a pleasant surprise – right at the dock was a complex with a saltwater swimming pool, shops, places to eat and a beach just a short walk from the ship. There were also shuttles for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t walk. Cozumel was Cozumel – it’s not my favorite place, but we got off and walked and shopped for three hours. Grand Cayman is a lovely place – but five ships were anchored off and tendering in that day (many had been diverted) so it was a bit crowded – but we enjoyed the town. We aren’t much for beaches since we live on one but we love to shop. We enjoyed the next sea day and we did not get off the ship in Princess Cays – enjoyed the quiet while everyone else was ashore. We had been there twice before and it’s a beautiful place – but we preferred to stay aboard. We really enjoy Personal Choice dining – we go to the dining room for breakfast every day and some lunches. We used the Michaelangelo dining room on Deck 5 every evening – we felt it was quieter and we liked the service there. The food was exceptionally good – we really enjoyed the Rack of Lamb, the Lobster, the pasta dishes, the soufflés, and other deserts. Everything was very good and the service was excellent as well. It is nice to be able to choose the time to dine. Our cabin was an inside cabin on Aloha deck forward – a perfect location for us –the inside cabins are laid out very well with lots of storage space. Our stewardess was always happy to tend to any needs we had. Our philosophy is that we book an inside guarantee and see where we land. We have never been disappointed in our cabin and that way we are able to cruise more often. Some changes we noticed since the Carnival merger are espresso and cappuccino are not gratis in the dining room anymore. Brunch is no longer served at Sabatini’s on sea days – it is the regular dinner menu and drinks are not included as they were with brunch. There is no longer a separate wine steward/bar waiter in the dining room – the regular waiter has to take care of this service and it cuts down on his efficiency since he has to do the paperwork for wine and drinks as well as serve the food. The crew on Princess, however, is one of the friendliest we have ever sailed with – the Captain is readily available and very friendly. It was our second sailing with Captain Guiseppe Romano and we enjoyed him thoroughly. We went to the comedian and magician shows and they were excellent. We didn’t go to any production shows and we don’t gamble – so I can’t speak to those. The ship itself was in beautiful condition. All in all it was an excellent cruise. We wouldn’t hesitate to sail with Princess again at any time. Melinda and Bob Kazmer

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Aug 23, 2003

Western Caribbean

My family took the 7 day Western Caribbean cruise with stops at Princess Cay, Grand Cayman Island, Costa Maya (Mexico), and Cozumel. Though this was a first cruise for our children, ages 20 and 14, it was the 2nd for my wife and I as we had previously sailed on Celebrity's Galaxy. Despite the increased security since 9/11, embarkation went smoothly. An early morning flight to Ft. Lauderdale only resulted in a (1) hr. wait

for our transfer to the ship. Princess officials were both friendly and efficient in our processing and we were able to board the ship at 12 noon. Our staterooms were fine accommodations. I would recommend, if possible a stateroom with a veranda as my wife and I had. Our children were just across the hall in an inside cabin which was also quite nice. Our steward experience all week long was absolutely wonderful. We could not have asked for better service. Actually service at all levels on the ship were commendable. (This had also been our experience with Celebrity.) The (1) down side, at least for me, were the numerous offerings of drinks while on board. At one point I was approached 8 times in a 5 minute period with such offers. Being a non-drinker, this was not something that appealed to me although I am sure others may have a different view. It is a minor critique. My 14 yr. old son and I took advantage of the unlimited soft-drink option which cost $22.50 each for the week. It was quite worth it. The 24 hour buffet was a fine addition although I did miss the midnight buffet which seems to have been abandoned. Offerings all day and evening were numerous and quite tasty, with the exception of the late night when things seemed somewhat scarce. Grand Princess also has a Hagen-daaz Ice Cream Bar which sells servings at $4. I found this a bit pricy and un-necessary. The 24 hr. buffet offered Ice cream make you own sundaes each afternoon after 3:30...this became very popular. Our dinner choice was the late traditional seating which we liked a great deal. Other passengers availed of the Anytime Dining option but everyone I spoke with expressed a negative comment or 2. Anytime Dining required an 30 minute wait, and seating with different people and waiters at each meal. Our traditional dining was for us a great choice. The food was fabulous, with something of appeal to just about any taste. Our waiter service was fantastic. The ports of call, gave us some fun times. The stop for a beach day at the Princess owned island of Princess Cay was well done. Snorkeling was better than expected. The beach was beautiful and with more than enough lounge chairs etc to accommodate the 2,800 passengers. A provided beach barbecue was great. The Grand Cayman stop was one in which we booked an excursion of Island Highlghts and Stingray snorkeling. We could have skipped the Highlights part which was very touristy.. but the Stingray snorkeling was an awesome experience.. Highly recommend.!!!!! The stop at Costa Maya on the Mexican coastline was interesting. In several yrs. I think Costa Maya will be visited by numerous cruise ships. Their Americanized shopping was a plus as were the salt water pools and Mayan entertainment. The nearby village of Majahual however was not such a wonderful time as we were besieged by many street vendors.. I would hope that this high pressure selling atmosphere will be toned down as more ships visit... Very afforable snorkeling however could be had at Majahual (according to Snorkeling Tour folks at Costa Maya). We were unable to try this, but wish we had. At Cozumel we unfortunately were subjected to torrential rain all day. Our visit to the Mayan Ruins at Tulum was greatly impacted. I wish we could have visited Tulum in decent weather. My wife and daughter, took advantage of a lull in the rains to do a little shopping at Cozumel which they enjoyed. Overall I must say that Grand Princess is a top notch ship. Though there were approx. 2,800 passengers aboard we never felt crowded. The house band, a group from Trinidad/Tobago were very talented. We enjoyed listening to their varied musical offerings. Dis-embarkation was as smooth and efficient as the embarkation. Princess had us at the airport with a little time to spare for our 11AM return home flight. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being awful) I would rate this ship and cruise with a solid 8. I highly recommend Princess and would not hesitate to book with them again.

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Aug 9, 2003

Western Caribbean

Choosing the right cruise for our family was very important to us - we wanted to avoid the g-string/wild party crowd. A great help to us was Frommer's Caribbean Cruise and Ports of Call book - gave detailed descriptions of ships' facilities, assigned a 'theme' to the cruise lines, ie: known to be a party boat, more for a senior citizen crowd, etc. A very helpful and informative tool. From the start Princess was most accessible by

phone, the operators really taking the time to help us through the process. Having looked into the excursions on the internet site I reserved the two that were most important (via internet) to us before we received our cruise package. We received a large and informative package in the mail - detailing embarkation system, etc., so it all went very smoothly. We opted for the Embassy suites Ft. Lauderdale the night before our cruise. Although a nice hotel - I was unhappy with the party scene in the lobby, and as our flight arrived very late we had a hard time finding somewhere to eat. The fun thing about staying there was that we could see the ship from our room the next morning (it arrives in the wee hours of the am). For the same nightly rate (Auto Club discounted) we stayed at the Lago Mar Resort our last night in Ft. Lauderdale - it was fantastic, a one-bedroom suite (the teens slept on the sofa bed which offered two separate twins which fold out of one couch) - delicious food, and a great beach. From there you could see the ships arrive or depart from the harbor. My husband says he would probably opt for the nearby Holiday Inn Express for the first night next time, and stick with the Lago Mar for the last night because of the shuttle to the port in the morning, which the Lago Mar doesn't offer. Embarkation was a breeze. We have two teens, but were unable to get attached rooms and opted for two mini-suites next to one another. We had the balcony door unlocked and kept it propped open. This allowed my husband and I privacy while still giving easy access for the family. The rooms were great - large bathrooms, comfortable beds, roomy seating area... On my first cruise I was often sea-sick and had to rely on ginger tablets daily...it was a smaller and much older ship. I took the tablets with me, but never had to use them this time. It took me a couple of days to get used to seeing the sea gliding past (I have experienced vertigo so am sensitive to certain motion), but no sickness. We chose late night dining and were very happy with that choice. It seems that we would just be getting back to ship from port and others would already be having to be clean and dressed for dinner...we still needed our refreshing pool swims and deckside naps! Yes, we would be hungry, but we would get 'first' dinner - usually at the pizza parlor (which has really yummy pizza) or we'd pick up the onion rings from the buffet - I determined that I would use the stairs rather than the elevator to keep the cruise pounds down - no matter how many floors! The dining room food was delicious every night...to my great disappointment we never were offered creme brulee for desert. The buffet offers a good variety for breakfasts and lunches...we were quite disappointed with the desserts from the buffet though; pretty - but all bark and no bite. The ship itself is beautiful, if you wanted to find the party scene you could by the outside middle pool - but it was easy to find a quiet deck spot anytime. For the number of people on the ship it was surprising how it usually seemed uncrowded...the adult pool in the back of the ship was usually pretty empty - it is almost always in the shade and is cold - but refreshing. Entertainment was easy to find, we are pretty conservative and were disappointed that much of the comedy or music acts would eventually hint with sexual innuendo. Most movies offered in the theatre on TV (and in the teen program) were PG-13. There is an arcade and we made much use of the air hockey table...we were also great fans of the ping-pong tables. We were happy with the service - it was fine...they're just real people doing their jobs. Ports: Princess Cays is a waste of time and the fact that almost all the Princess' Caribbean cruises stop there would encourage us to choose another line. Grand Cayman - we didn't select an excursion, although I heard that the Sting Ray swim is fantabulous. We caught a taxi bus (very easy to find at the end of the pier) to 7 mile beach - paid a couple of dollars for beach use. Finally found some good smoothies at that port. Wish we had more time to explore this port. Costa Maya - Chacchobean ruins...I was so looking forward to climbing the steps to the top like the excursion book and the internet said I could...but when we got there the policy had changed. It was a good tour, very hot and sticky - the bus ride was comfortable (although the driver played chicken with some poor little white car!). There's a 'Disneyland fakish' kind of shopping area at the pier. My husband and I rented a golf cart ($12p/h) and took a drive to the nearby fishing town...pretty coral reef, poor town. Some local vendors have predictable wares for sale. Cozumel - my favorite shopping stop. I wanted jewelry and this was the place. Be sure to get the VIP cards that the shopping expert will hand out on ship...at Gold Mark they really give great discounts with that card...and you have the ability to return any purchase via mail to a New York office if you have buyers remorse. At this port our excursion was for the kids to do the dolphin swim. I honestly can't say enough about how wonderful it was for them (I wish I had done it) we two parents paid the observers fee which allowed us into the park and the ability to closely observe the kids with the dolphins on a sort of raised boardwalk. Skip the encounter - but pay the $$ for the swim (unless you have young kids who are afraid. There was a young girl who was petrified the whole time. She would have probably enjoyed the 'encounter' instead). We also bought tickets to then transfer to Playa Sol - but it ended up there is a nice beach right at the dolphin swim park and we just hung out there all day. There are restaurants, bathrooms, and lounges with palapas, snorkeling. The last night you pack all luggage and set it outside of your room, just keeping a carry on for your next days wear and make-up stuff, etc. Disembarkation is smooth. It's necessary to be out of your stateroom by 8:30 and we were a bit silly thinking that we had to be dressed and breakfasted at that time. We should have just slept, dressed, left at the last possible minute and gone straight up to the breakfast buffet to then listen for our number while enjoying a leisurely breakfast. Oh well, live and learn. Only when we returned did my husband find that bit of info in the Frommer's! Finding the luggage was a breeze - we actually missed our first call, so when we got to the luggage area for our ticket number group ours were some of the last bags left - making it very easy to find! We will definitely cruise again, but will be mindful of taking our teens. There were kids who were asking adults to buy them liquor - groups that were drinking and taking advantage of the freedom that the impression of safety gave their parents. While our kids were just on the young side of the social activity (15 and 13) we will be cautious about exposing them to pressures or temptations that too much freedom might offer. While they were still innocent and wide-eyed at what was happening around them, we will have to be in-tuned about where they are in attitude before booking another cruise.

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Jun 28, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was my husband’s and my first cruise ever. It was our 5th year anniversary and we were very excited! Since we live in Florida, we didn’t need to get a flight or hotel for the trip, so it saved us some time and stress. We found the Grand Princess to be a very big ship and very beautiful. We were both impressed with the service (very friendly and helpful). We booked a mini-suite and found it to be quite roomy. Loved the

balcony. I used the balcony every day. I would recommend the mini-suite if you like room. My husband and I are both tall, so having the extra square feet helped us to stay comfortable. Especially when you’re living out of that room for a week. We also like the fact that tipping was charged at the end of the trip so we didn’t have to worry about it. Our Maitre’d was Jorge (worked in DaVinci dining room) and he was fabulous!! For our anniversary he had the chefs cook us up a special Indian cuisine, which was not on the menu. We were very impressed. Entertainment We found the entertainment to be quite enjoyable. After reading some (not-so-good) reviews on other company ships, we weren’t sure what to expect. However, there was a variety to choose from every night. We really enjoyed the singers and dancers. They did an excellent job! I also decided to enter into the talent show on the last night, which turned out to be a lot of fun. I sang The Way you Look Tonight. I have to give the dancers a lot of credit for being able to do all their routines when the ship happens to be rocking a lot! Ports Princess Cays Definitely a waste of time. We felt there was another port that would be more interesting than that. Nothing really to do but relax (although it was really hot that particular day). The hammocks, however, are nice to lay down in and take a nap. Grand Caymen We loved The Grand Caymen Islands. We booked a sting-ray snorkeling tour with Nativeway Watersports. It was only $25 per person and 12-15 people on the tour. I would suggest to anyone that they book a tour through private companies rather that through the ship. It saves you a lot of money. We loved the snorkeling adventure. It was my first time and I didn’t want it to end! My husband grew up in Florida snorkeling, but he had never gone with the sting-rays. We also paid $15 to take a tour of Grand Caymen Islands with a local taxi. We stopped in the town called Hell and also at the Turtle farms. Majahual We decided to go see the ruins while we were there. It was half the cost to see them through the local taxi and tour groups than through the ship, so we went with a local company. The ruins were nice, but it was hot and humid that day. But, I was glad that we went. They are historical. Cozumel We booked a dolphin swim and snorkel through Princess. My husband and I both had a lot of fun doing that. I would recommend that if you have extra time and money to have that experience. After the swim we still had some time so we stayed in the park and did some snorkeling. It was very beautiful, really colorful fish. We didn’t really do any shopping, so I can’t say much about that. Since this was our first cruise, we wanted to do a lot of activities that we don’t get to do at home. One thing I have to say my husband and I noticed about Grand Princess is that even though there was 3,000 people on board, it never seemed like it. You had the bid ship, but with the convenience and privacy of a small ship. We would definitely book through Princess again!!

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Jun 14, 2003

Western Caribbean

After an early flight from New York (JFK) on Jet Blue, that arrived early in Fort Lauderdale, it was a cheap and fast cab ride to the nearby ship terminal. Check in was already in progress although it was not yet noon. Lines were short and check in was better that expected. They check in by deck. Lunch was in main dining room, not only available at the buffet. That's good. Departing ten minutes late because of a tardy passenger,

we had a smooth ride and a spacious cabin with a balcony. Our travel agent got us a significant upgrade and the balcony room was appreciated. We found the ship clean and the crew trained and courteous. Food quite good, sometimes better than expected. Princess seems to be as good as Celebrity, who I have used many times. The terry cloth robes were provided, along with the slippers, quickly after my request. Shows mostly good. I still can't understand why parents bring their kids to the late night comic show when they must know that the material will be adult. There are "adult' pools (two available). Why not have "adult" cruises? land excursions were good and reasonable well run. Prehaps they could be a little more organized, but that's the price you pay for traveling with a group. One woman fell and needed medical attention. And that was at the pier before we even got on the bus to the submarine. Ship services all professional. Even ships photographer was competant. Not many stupid and inaudible ship's P.A. announcements. Thanks, Captain Ahab. No, there was no water skiing or gold coin bounty for whoever spotted the white whale first. We did win a bottle of champagne for a dance contest (everyone does) and I won the golf tournement while wearing flip-flops. Overall. good food. Good entertainment. Good crew. Good service. Good organization. Good value. Great ship. It's amazing how 2,800 passengers don't seem to be an unmanagable crowd. Yes, I'd use Princess again.

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May 24, 2003

Western Caribbean

this was my first cruise and I was very excited. the cruise took of From Fort. Lauderdale embarkation- I personally thought that everything went as planned it took us an hour to get on to the ship and by 1:00pm we were already on the ship the first thing I noticed was the cleanliness of the ship which I can not say about my first cruise on carnival legend everywhere you went there were people fixing things painting even vacuuming.

ports of call- St. Thomas was very interesting I enjoyed the safari beach and also all the shopping St. martin- there I did some jewelry shopping and then went to the beach with my daughter and husband as we got on the beach I realized how beautiful it was it was crystal clear my whole family went on the banana boat I suggest you do to it was really good Princess Cays- it wasn't that good because we only spent 3 4 hours there. overall- I really enjoyed this cruise and I already ordered tickets for my next cruise on this ship. enjoy your trip.

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Apr 18, 2003

Western Caribbean

My partner and I recently returned from our first cruise on the Grand Princess. We are both professionals from the San Francisco Bay area in our 30’s and 40’s. We chose Princess after researching all the cruise lines and itineraries offered through both Cruise Review.com and other related web sites. We booked our cruise through the online provider Orbitz. We were not really sure if cruising was the right vacation for us but

wanted to try it out as it seemed to be a good value. We were thoroughly satisfied with the experience and can’t wait for our next cruise. I did quite a bit of research before booking the cruise and yet I made some big errors that I hope others can avoid. Do yourself a favor and find a good travel agent that specializes in Cruises. I booked through Orbitz and found that they were really uneducated on the processes of Princess and that cost me time and money. For some reason that I can’t begin to remember I booked my airfare through Princess. This was probably the biggest mistake I made and it caused a lot of frustration before we even embarked. I had been told that I could make my own arrangements and receive a flight deviation before I was ticketed which they said would be 21 days before sailing. The people at Orbitz actually told me to call back approximately 30 days before departure to finalize the flight arrangements. Flying from the West Coast I had hoped to get into Ft Lauderdale 1-2 days early to be rested for the first day of the cruise. About 40 days before the cruise I received my tickets from Princess which had me flying out at 12:50 am in the morning on the day of the cruise and making multiple stops before arriving in Ft Lauderdale at 12:00 the afternoon of the cruise. I immediately contacted both Princess and Orbitz who were very nice and apologetic but would not allow any changes to the flights. To add injury to insult, I paid $599.00 x 2 for a flight readily available on the web for 234.00 round trip. So I figure even before I left the dock they made an extra $730.00 on my partner and me. I felt a little ripped off and thought the customer service was lousy but I decided to let it go even though by the time we arrived in Ft Lauderdale we were so exhausted we slept through the ship leaving port which I was looking forward to. Embarkation was quick and painless but remember to do the work on line and get express check in. The ship itself really exceeded my expectations. I was impressed with not only its design and attention to detail but also thought it was really in good shape. The ship was full and it is true that very rarely did it even feel that crowded. You could literally find yourself alone in areas at most times. We had booked a Balcony cabin with a Category guarantee and received a bump up about 2 levels onto the Aloha deck near the front that we really liked. We spent every morning having coffee on our deck and spent a lot of the sea days reading from our chairs rather than fighting for a chair by the pool. We found the room to be a nice size given our expectations and loved our cabin steward – Lenie who always greeted us by name and took very good care of our needs. In general, we found the service to be superb and enjoyed talking and meeting the people from around the world who work on the ship. We chose to do the Anytime dining feature and it worked out really well with our schedule. We never waited more than 20 minutes and we had great waiters and good service. The food was good when you take into consideration the number of people they are serving. We ate at Sabatini’s on one night and although I enjoyed the experience, the constant bringing of small courses does not make for a leisurely meal. The Horizon Court was good for breakfast and raiding for a late night snack. Princess Cays was our first port of call and was really the first time we felt really crowded. We did not rush to make the tenders and by the time we arrived it was a zoo. If you go to the right from the tenders it is less crowded and we eventually walked down the beach and perched under a tree. It’s really rocky in the water so you need water shoes if you want to swim. The snorkeling is kind of a joke. The island is well designed for kids of which this cruise had many, very many. Costa Maya would have been disappointing if not for the tour we took of the Mayan ruins with a great tour guide named Lalo. We had lunch in the complex right off the pier and went into the town for about 15 minutes which was about as much time as it took to see it all and buy a souvenir. Grand Cayman was by far the highlight of the trip and we booked a snorkeling trip through Captain Marvins as many had recommended. One of the smarter things we did as we saw the group from the ship sponsored tour all crammed on this boat with about 100 people and our group was only about 30 with plenty of room. The water was crystal clear, the snorkeling great and the stingray sandbar was an experience not to miss even if it is really crowded with other tours. Cozumel would have been an awesome port and I can’t wait to get back but we scheduled an all day tour to both Tulum and Xela Lagoon that met at 7:00 am. We boarded a ferry for an hour then a bus for 2 hours and we finally got to do something at 10:00. The whole process was unorganized and rushed leaving little time to enjoy the Xela Lagoon which had great snorkeling. I probably would do something on my own in the future. As I mentioned there were a lot of families that was probably due to the time of year. Princess has a lot of activities and areas set up for children and also for adults but they don’t enforce the adults only policy so it was kids everywhere but they were pretty well behaved. They have a lot of good policies like no bathing suits in the dining rooms but again they don’t really enforce them – what’s the point. It was great people watching. Although we were one of the few gay couples that we saw on board we never really felt out of place. People just kept asking us when are wives were coming. Not in this lifetime was all I could reply. We played the slots and lost but enjoyed the casino. And we were impressed by the calibre of the show that we saw. We really enjoyed the whole experience. The crew of the Grand really makes the difference. As we both have stressful jobs (doesn’t everyone) we felt immediately relaxed, well taken care of with very few decisions to make. We did talk to some other people in port who were on the Holland America Zuiderdam who said we were lucky to be on the Grand. They liked their ship but thought the service and food were lousy as compared to a previous cruise they had on the Grand. We would cruise with Princess again and probably also try Celebrity with this cruise as a point of reference. Yeah we are hooked.

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Apr 6, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise to celebrate our 30th anniversary. My wife chose this ship after reading some articles and other message boards. She did pick a great ship and we had a great time. We stayed one night before our cruise at the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale. After reaching the building where you go thru the boarding process, we were onboard this ship in less then 5 minutes. We did use their website to fill out all

of the various paperwork to speed-up this process. Princess has this process down to a science and they got high marks from many people I talked to about this. Our cabin was A610 on the Aloha Deck. We chose this cabin for its location to the 24 hour buffet and the pool area. The cabin was just as expected. Very clean, small bathroom, tv, desk and two beds put together to make a queen. We loved the balcony and spent loads of time out there after getting up in the morning and before hitting the sack after all of the entertainment that the Grand had to offer. If your the type that wants privacy then select a cabin on either the Aloha Deck or Baja Deck. They are private and you can also look down on the other balconies that are not private. You also have a cover above your head that will provide you with shade on those hot sunny days at sea. We chose personal choice dining and we only had a 10 minute wait just once on the first formal night. We always asked for a first available table so we could meet new people about this great ship. I don't think I ever heard a bad remark about the Grand the whole time I was on her. We usually went to the Horizon Buffet for breakfast and then switched off between the other two dinning rooms for lunch and dinner. All of the meals were great and the service from the waiters was always with a smile. Many of waiters seemed to be from either Poland or Romania. Hats off to them for their hard work to make us happy. Entertainment was very good. You could watch a Vegas style show in the Princess Theater or take in a hyptomist show in the other lounge. Don't miss the London Pub Night and the Passenger Talent Show on the last day of the cruise. You will be amazed at some of the talent that is on your ship. We also played a little bingo and lost a few bucks in the casino. The machines did seem tight but with so much to do on this ship we really didn't spend that much time in there. A hint to you gamblers out there. Between 10 and midnight you can get 2 for 1 drinks in the casino as long as they are the same drinks. The price for drinks not really that bad. I think a Miller Lite was $2.75 and a mixed drink was $3.50. The overall appearance inside the ship was very clean and very easy to navigate after the first day. All even numbered cabins are on the portside and odd numbered cabins were on the starboard side of the Grand. I never saw any carpet that needed repair or bad spots that needed painting. The topside of the Grand has all the pools and hottubs. The pool in the fantail and by the spa area had the least amount of people. Although our ship was fully booked this cruise we never had a problem finding a lounger or a drink attendant. They always seemed to be around when you wanted a nice cold drink on a hot day at sea. Every day that they have a drink of the day with a special price. My favorite was the Pina Colada. WOW, that was a good drink! We made stops st Princess Cays, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. All of these ports had some small shopping nearby, except Princess Cays which is like a small island beach area. When you stop here you use their tender service to get to the beach. When you get there they will have a very nice bbq buffet set-up. The food there was also nice. You can use your cruise card there for your drink orders, either by going to the bars or by using one of their drinks runners. They disembark passengers by using a color code system. You then find your luggage in the terminal when you leave your ship. You must have your luggage outside your cabin before 10 o'clock on the last night of your cruise. We had breakfast in the Horizon Buffet before we heard our color called to leave the ship. Everything went fine during this process with no problems. You will not be disappointed with the Grand Princess. We already are looking forward to another cruise with Princess next year.

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Feb 16, 2003

Western Caribbean

We like independent travel. That is why we resisted a cruise vacation for years. We thought we’d be confined to a ship for days on end with nothing to do, then herded about on excursions. Happily, our fears were unfounded. We had a wonderful, romantic, relaxing vacation on the Grand Princess. It was the best vacation we’ve had so far. Reviews are subjective. What we liked, you might not like. What didn’t bother us might bother

you. Our goal in writing this review is to help others prepare for their first cruise. Finally, a big “thank you” to all who write reviews (especially Tom and Mary Milano – you inspire us). We wouldn’t have done it without you! Prior to the Cruise: Lessons Learned Do your homework! Spend time researching the different cruise lines and ships. Read the reviews (cruisereviews.com helped us enormously) and message boards. We thought about what was important to us: Delicious food, good wine, a touch of luxury, not a lot of children running around, not a “party all the time” atmosphere, a good mix of age groups, an interesting itinerary. By process of elimination, we chose the Grand. Gratuities are a part of travel. Read your ship’s guidelines for tipping and build the tips – and extra for superior service – into your budget. (If you don’t get good service, you can always adjust the suggested amount downward.) We feel that if you can’t afford to tip, you probably can’t afford to travel. We made our own air travel and hotel reservations. We arrived in FFL the afternoon before the cruise. This turned out to be a good thing because a blizzard hit the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast a few hours after our plane took off from Baltimore-Washington International. If we had waited until the day of the cruise to fly into FFL, we would have missed the ship. If you don’t make your air travel arrangements through Princess, consider arriving in FFL the day before the cruise; you never know about weather, aircraft mechanical problems, or terminal evacuations. We waited until 3 weeks before the cruise to make hotel reservations. This was a mistake; all the hotels/motels near the port were completely filled. We spent the night at the Holiday Inn By the Sea (about a 15 minute shuttle ride to the port). It was an older hotel, which was fine for a one-night stay. The hotel’s private beach was filthy – full of cigarette butts and soda straws. On Saturday night we walked a few blocks to Commerce Street. There were several restaurants, bars and shops there; it was quite lively. We watched a cruise ship, probably out of Port Canaveral, sail by. Consider carefully what you want to pack because stateroom closet and storage are small. We mixed and matched basic colors to expand our wardrobe without packing a lot of extras. This strategy worked well for us. Pack water shoes. There are exposed rock and coral on the beaches and in the water. Bring sturdy sneakers or walking shoes if you book an excursion to the Mayan ruins. The ground is uneven and rocky; some sites require a strenuous climb. Pack over-the-counter medicine, sunscreen and personal hygiene products as needed. You can buy these items on the ship, but you’ll pay a high price. A package of 4 Bayer aspirin, for example, cost $1.09; a box of 10 Tampax cost $3.75. We’ll gladly spend money for a nice bottle of wine, but not $1.09 for 4 tablets of aspirin! Review your cruise documents carefully when they arrive in the mail. We completed the Cruise Personalizer on the Princess web site, but found errors and omissions on the documents. For example, we live in Virginia; our documents showed that we lived in New York. Our passport numbers and emergency contact information were missing. Make corrections and fill in the blanks before you arrive at the terminal (you’ll board the ship faster). Bring plenty of small bills ($1s, $5s, $10s) for purchases and tips in the ports. Vendors accept U.S. currency, but they don’t have a lot of U.S. dollars to give in change. In Grand Cayman, change was given in the local currency (another reason to carry small bills with you). Excursion guides and motor coach drivers expect tips. Passengers are permitted to bring bottled water, soda and wine on board. Leave hard liquor at home; if discovered, Princess will take it from you and hold it until you return to FFL. Bring a change of clothing, medicines, toiletries, and bathing suits on the ship with you. Our luggage was delivered to our stateroom by 3:30 p.m., but others did not see their luggage until after 6 p.m. Sail Away Day Embarkation was a breeze! We arrived at the terminal at 12:30 p.m. It took 15 minutes to check our luggage with a porter, fill out the required Bahamian customs form (have a pen handy), present our cruise documents to an agent, receive a security card, have our pictures taken by the ship’s security personnel, and pose for an embarkation keepsake photo ($9.95). Speaking of pictures, most of the keepsake pictures are $9.95 each. Formal night photos are $21.95 each. You are not obligated to purchase pictures. If you don’t want to pose for one, just say “No thanks.” Take care of your security card. You will need it every time you embark/disembark. It’s your room key, your onboard credit card, and your entrance into the duty-free stores. John lost his card on the third day. He reported it immediately to the Purser. John reviewed a printout of our account to make sure there were no unauthorized charges, and another card was issued right away. Almost everyone advises that you check out your table assignment immediately after boarding. We did not do this because we opted for Personal Choice (“anytime”) dining (more on that later). The first thing we did after inspecting our stateroom was head to the Horizon Court buffet for a light lunch. The Trident Grill (burgers and fries) and Poseidon’s Pizza were also open, as well as a few of the bars. Afterward, we read the Princess Patter and the port information sheets that we found in our stateroom, then went on a tour of the ship conducted by a member of the Cruise Director’s staff. If you booked excursions through Princess, your tickets will be in your stateroom when you arrive on board. If you can’t find them, or if you discover errors, visit the excursion desk (Deck 5) ASAP. Carefully consider how much soda that you and your family will consume before you purchase a Coke sticker on the first day. The sticker costs $22.50; it entitles you to all the soda you want on board (not in the ports) during the cruise. Sodas are free in the dining rooms during meals, but you must purchase them in between. Glasses of soda cost $1; cans cost $1.50. I purchased the sticker, but didn’t drink enough to break even. John doesn’t drink soda, so he was no help here. Next time, I’ll use the $22.50 to purchase a bottle of wine at dinner! Coffee and hot/iced tea was available free in the Horizon Court. Bottled water was sold at the bars. Tap water tasted just fine. A mandatory muster (30 minutes) was conducted at 4 p.m. The drill acquainted us with our life jacket and where to report if an emergency arises while at sea. Sail Away was scheduled for 5:00 p.m., but we didn’t leave the dock until 7:00 p.m. due to late arriving flights from the snowy North. A Sail Away party with lively Calypso music was in full swing on the upper decks. Our stateroom balcony had a lovely view of the harbor, so we had our own Sail Away party there. We regret not ordering a tray of hors d’oeuvres ahead of time (the ship requires 6 hours notice). There was a ship-wide count down to 10, the horn blasted, and we pulled away from the dock. At that point, the theme from the Love Boat, Celebration Time and Sail Away were broadcast throughout the ship. We passed three condos on our way out to sea. The residents flashed their balcony lights, rang bells and sounded air horns. The ship blasted its horn three times in acknowledgement. The Harbor Pilot turned on his boat’s siren and flashing lights and urged us, through a microphone, to “eat the lobster.” Sail Away was a lot of fun. The Ship The Grand’s size is intimidating at first, but directional signs are everywhere. In addition, a pocket-sized map of the ship’s interior is placed in every stateroom. It took us only a day to find our way around the ship. Think of it as an adventure! The ship was beautiful. It was clean the entire trip. We didn’t see evidence of serious wear and tear anywhere. There were 2,800 passengers on our cruise, yet the ship never appeared crowded. We always found a chair by the pools, even on sea days. (An “adults only” pool is located on Deck 14 aft.) Self-service laundries are located on most decks. Washers ($1.50) and dryers ($.50) take quarters. There are $1 change machines and vending machines for detergent and fabric softener. Built-in ironing boards and irons are available free of charge. We used the laundry room once. The washer filled and drained slowly, so it took over an hour to wash one load. I washed T-shirts and bathing suits in the bathroom sink, using shampoo for detergent, and hung them in the shower to dry. If you don’t want to wash your own clothes, the ship will do it for you (for a fee). Dry cleaning services are also provided. Stop by the Purser’s Desk every night for a printout of your account. It’s a good reality check. All purchases on board are cashless; it’s easy to get carried away. Besides, mistakes happen. You’ll want to catch and correct them as soon as possible. Tips for our stateroom steward, waiter, waiter’s assistant, and Maitre D were automatically charged to our account. We didn’t have a problem with this practice; it saved us from writing out little envelopes and making sure we had enough tip money on our last day. Our friendly, efficient stateroom steward provided superior service throughout the cruise, so we gave him an extra tip (in cash) every other day with a short “thank you” note. He always remembered to thank us for thinking of him. Stateroom Our stateroom, A256 on Deck 12, was the size of a very small hotel room. It was quite comfortable, though. Our balcony was covered and relatively private (no one could look down on us). We spent a lot of time on that balcony. We ate breakfast there every morning, napped, had cocktails in the evening, and watched the sun set. Our stateroom steward, Cenin, introduced himself to us right before the mandatory muster on Sail Away Day. We asked for robes; they appeared almost immediately. Cenin was a wonderful stateroom steward; if you are fortunate enough to be assigned to him, you will be well cared for. Because we were on a high deck, we felt the ship roll when we hit rough seas. I wore Sea Bands during those times. They worked! Our closet was adequate because we packed light. It contained plenty of wooden hangers. A bedside table and desk had several drawers for T-shirts and underwear. We stored our soft-sided bags under the bed. The bathroom was small, but not impossible. We had a shower (no tub). There was no vent system in the bathroom; after a shower we had to open the door to let the steam out. Soap and tubes of shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion were refilled without us having to ask. Bathroom towels were changed every morning and evening as needed. Your steward will give you fresh beach towels every evening if you leave the used ones on the bathroom floor. We heard that passengers were charged for missing towels, but I can’t verify that. Each stateroom has a hair dryer, television, mini safe, and mini refrigerator. The dryer doesn’t have much power; if you have long, thick hair you might want to bring your own. Your steward will fill your ice bucket every morning and evening. Your steward will turn down your bed every evening and leave chocolates on your pillows. He/she will also provide bathrobes, upon request, for you to wear during the cruise. (If you like the robes, you can buy them in the gift shop.) There were two couples in adjoining staterooms a few decks below us who were constantly loud. They yelled to one another across the balcony partition. They yelled when they stood right next to one another. We learned where they were from, what excursions they took, who was in the bathroom, what their spouses did to drive them crazy, what time they ate, and much more just by sitting on our own balcony. Please respect others and talk quietly. If you don’t feel like walking next door to visit friends, please use the phone or rent a walky-talky from the Purser’s Desk (or bring one from home). Dress Shorts, no matter how neat and clean, are not permitted in the dining rooms. You may wear them in the Horizon Court. Beach/pool attire is not permitted in the dining rooms, Horizon Court, or public areas (Atrium, library, etc.). Princess suggests that passengers wear “smart casual” dress in the dining rooms. What “smart casual” is a matter of interpretation. John and I enjoyed dressing up for dinner. Some passengers didn’t, however, and wore jeans, capri pants, and cropped T-shirts in the dining rooms. This didn’t disturb us; we were on vacation and vowed not to let little things bother us. The majority of passengers dressed up for formal nights. Men wore either tuxes or dark colored business suits; women tended to wear black and glitter. John wore a black business suit, white dress shirt and dark tie; I wore black velvet pants, a glittery red top, and black velvet heels. Again, we saw all manner of dress from black tie, to business suits for men and women, to casual slacks and shirts. Most of the time we wore T-shirts, shorts, casual slacks, or just a bathing suit and cover-up on the ship and in the ports. Dining Aboard the Grand The food was surprisingly very good. I say “surprisingly” because we didn’t think it was possible to prepare great tasting food for so many people every day. During a galley tour and cooking demonstration, we discovered that food is prepared from scratch daily, including the bread and rolls. We chose Personal Choice dining and were pleased with it. No, we didn’t have the same waiter every night, nor did we eat with the same people. That wasn’t important to us; the freedom to chose when we wanted to eat and with whom (if anyone) was far more appealing. We received great service from every waiter we encountered. In fact, it was fun to meet new ones every evening. Everyone had his/her own style. One night we had a waiter from Mexico; he gave us a mini-lesson on Mexican history in between courses. Personal Choice diners eat in the Da Vinci dining room or the Michelangelo dining room. The Botticelli dining room is reserved for the “Traditional” diners. The Da Vinci had tables for 2, 4, and 6; the Michelangelo had tables for large groups. We rarely waited more than 20 minutes for a table for two in the Da Vinci; most nights there was no wait at all. Maybe we were lucky, or just picked the right times (usually between 6:30 and 8:00 p.m.). We heard you could make reservations to dine at a certain time every night, but we never did. Room service is available 24 hours a day (no charge, but tip the server). We ordered room service for breakfast once and it never arrived. From then on, we picked up breakfast in the Horizon Court and brought it down to our balcony. The Horizon Court is open 24 hours a day. It becomes a “bistro” (waiter service and a menu) after 11 p.m. We didn’t try the bistro. We did not eat at the Trident Grill, but we had a slice of pizza from Poseidon’s on the last sea day. It wasn’t bad; it just looked better than it tasted. The “I Scream Ice Cream Bar” served Hagan Daz (plain, soft-serve, sundaes, floats, ice cream-and-alcohol combinations). It was expensive (prices beginning at $2.50), but the bar did a good business throughout the cruise. If you don’t want to pay for ice cream, order it for dessert in the dining rooms. There is “open seating” in the dining rooms during breakfast and lunch. The menus offer eggs, toast, cereal, eggs benedict, pancakes, chicken pot pie, pasta, salads, and sandwiches. We didn’t eat breakfast or lunch in the dining rooms because we didn’t want to (or be tempted to) eat three large meals a day. We went to the Horizon Court and ate light breakfasts and lunches. It’s possible to eat in moderation during a cruise. The Horizon Court has plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, green salads, soups, vegetarian sushi (on sea days), lean meats, fish, and sugar-free desserts. The dining room dinner menu has a healthy choice section with appetizer/salad, soup, and a simply prepared fish. The regular dinner menu features a 5-course meal, but you don’t have to eat all five. John has to watch his salt and fat intake. I follow his diet. Some nights, however, we splurged on the fattening stuff (lobster bisque, pasta, prime rib). We shared a dessert every night and never felt deprived. The soufflés (especially the Love Boat Chocolate Dream) were heavenly! I gained only 1-1/2 pounds during the cruise; John actually lost a little weight. One night we couldn’t finish dinner, so the waiter wrapped it up for us in foil (in the shape of a swan) and we put it in our refrigerator for lunch the next day. On another night, a waiter refused to give us the leftovers. He explained that we could get sick if we didn’t refrigerate them properly. I don’t know if Princess has a policy about leftovers, or if the waiter was acting on his own. Again, we were on vacation; leftovers weren’t worth an argument. If you order a bottle of wine with dinner and can’t finish it, ask the waiter to store it for you for another night. Better yet, bring it back to your stateroom! We enjoyed our “leftover” wine on our balcony as we watched the sun set. The Grand has two alternative dining rooms, Sabatini’s (Italian) and the Painted Desert (Mexican). Reservations are necessary. Both are open for dinner every night, and for brunch on sea days. I heard both restaurants fill up fast so if you’re interested, make reservations ASAP after embarkation. Sabatini’s cover charge is $15/person; it has an extensive menu (over 15 courses!). The Painted Desert’s cover charge is $8/person and includes a margarita. We didn’t eat at these restaurants, but the food looked and smelled delicious. Bars, Entertainment and Other Shipboard Activities There are many activities aboard the ship, especially on sea days. Examples: Card tournaments, an island deck party, bingo, horse racing, a belly flop contest, port and shopping discussions, wine tasting, trivia contests, champagne art auctions, gaming lessons, a cooking demonstration, galley tour, makeovers, ice sculpting, and snorkeling lessons (to name just a few). Check the Princess Patter (newsletter), delivered to your stateroom each evening, for times and costs (if any). Virtual reality golf costs $20 for 30 minutes of “play time at any course in the world.” Miniature golf and shuffleboard are free. The ship had supervised activities for children and teens. We don’t have children, so I don’t know much about these programs or what they cost. Yoga, aerobics, spinning, and other exercise classes are offered every morning. There is a charge for some classes, but most are free. The ship has a gym; you must sign up to use the machines (there are not, naturally, enough to go around). If you like to do your own thing, you can walk around the Promenade Deck three times (to equal one mile), use the running track on the top deck, or walk up and down the stairs between decks instead of using the elevator. The Grand has a full service spa on board. Prices were high ($40 for a manicure, $55 for a pedicure, and $150 for a hot stone massage). I decided spend my money on other things. If you want to indulge, wait until the last day or two before the ship returns to FFL (the prices drop then). Some bars open at 9:00 a.m. A different rum-based drink is featured daily. We didn’t care for them; they were too sweet. The Mai Tai was awful. Have a margarita instead, or a vodka martini. Small drinks cost $3.25; medium-sized are about $4.75; and large are about $6.25. Drinks served in a Princess souvenir glass cost more. In the evenings you can dance at the Wheelhouse Lounge. Other bars throughout the ship feature Country Western music, theme nights (like a 50’s sock hop), and piano music. One bar, Snookers, is a sports bar. Skywalkers is located on Deck 17 aft, then up a moving ramp to the very top of the ship. If you like DJ music (a different theme every night) and dancing, this place is for you. It opens around 10 p.m. and closes in the wee hours of the morning. We enjoyed going early for a nightcap, and watching the ship’s wake far below. A very good Calypso band plays on Deck 14 every afternoon around 3:30 p.m. A classical music quartet or piano player performs in the Atrium in the early evenings. The Princess Theatre and the Vista Showroom were the venues for hypnotists, jugglers, comedians, dancers, special events (like London Pub Night), and movies. We did not attend any of the shows; none of them interested us. We preferred to spend our evenings in the casino, on our balcony, dancing, or listening to music. The casino was crowded in the evenings. Slot machines were much tighter than the ones in Las Vegas. I heard a rumor that they loosen up just before the ship returns to Florida. John played several games of blackjack during the cruise and lost about $30 overall. I played Roulette one night and made $75. The casino claims to follow Las Vegas rules, but it doesn’t. For example, in Las Vegas, there are 8 decks to a shoe in blackjack; on the Grand there were only 6. Also, there is no surrender in the ship’s blackjack game. The library has a wide selection of books that you may borrow for the duration of the cruise. Needlepoint kits are sold there for $7 each. A writing alcove has desks overlooking windows; it’s stocked with stationery and envelopes for you to use free of charge (you buy stamps and mail letters at the Purser’s Desk). The library and writing alcoves are quiet corners of the ship to which you might want to escape at some point during the cruise. Ports This was our first time in the Caribbean, so we felt it was necessary to disembark at every port just to say, “we were there.” Some ports were better than others; if we cruise there again, we’ll stay on board at Costa Maya and, perhaps Grand Cayman (although we really didn’t see much of Georgetown the first time around; more on that later). Don’t be afraid to stay on the ship if the ports don’t impress you. We found the ship to be very enjoyable on port days. Most people disembark; the ship is quiet, the pools are not crowded, the gym is practically empty, and you can enjoy a drink or lunch in peace! Whatever you do in port, keep an eye on the time! You must return to the ship 30 minutes before it sails for the next port or you could be left behind. We saw passengers running down the pier in Cozumel, waving their arms and screaming “Wait, wait” while dockworkers removed the gangway from our ship. Luckily, those people were able to board; if they were just 3-5 minutes later, they would have missed the boat. The ship waits only for those passengers who are delayed on excursions booked through Princess. We had to board tenders at Princess Cays and Grand Cayman. Tenders run between shore and ship continuously, up until 30 minutes before the ship sails. We docked at Costa Maya and Cozumel. We did not like the tender experience; it was the only time that we felt “herded.” In some ports, however, there is just no way around it. Princess Cays (Day 1) – A nice beach on which to spend a few hours. It has two bars, a few souvenir shops, and locals who sell straw baskets and hats (they also braid hair). There are no excursions available on Princess Cays. You may rent water toys on shore (sailboats, paddle boats, kayaks, and snorkeling equipment), or go on a 15-minute banana boat ride. Unless you have a compelling reason to be among the first on the beach, don’t be in a rush to board the tenders. Tendering began around 10:00 a.m. We went to the Explorers Lounge to get our tender tickets at 10:30 a.m. and discovered there were hundreds of people waiting ahead of us. We had to wait 45 minutes to board a tender – and you have to stay close to the lounge to hear your number called. Our advice is to remember that you’re on vacation – sleep late, have a leisurely breakfast, and tender ashore after the first wave of passengers. There were plenty of empty lounge chairs in shady spots when we disembarked around 11:15. We noticed, however, that chairs were harder to find after 12 noon. Large water coolers and cups were placed in several locations around the beach. Bring your own water; the water in the coolers had an unpleasant aftertaste. At noon, the ship’s staff served a BBQ lunch on shore (hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken and ribs, baked beans, green salad, and corn on the cob). The chicken and ribs were the best of the bunch. Georgetown, Grand Cayman (Day 3) – We tendered ashore around 10:30 a.m., allowing those passengers with excursions to disembark first. We made a big mistake by not booking an excursion. There was not much to do in this port except shop or head to the beach. Unless you really like cigars, china, glassware, T-shirts, trinkets, coins, and jewelry, shopping will get old fast. We couldn’t even find a restaurant close by (we returned to the ship for lunch and stayed there). Our advice is to book an excursion with the ship or an independent contractor, take a taxi to Seven Mile Beach, or remain on the ship. The streets in Grand Cayman are narrow and very congested. Don’t expect the cars to stop for you – if you see an opening, dash across the street at once! Car rental agencies are located across from the tender dock. If you rent a car, factor in gridlock when you make your plans. (We heard the worse time to be in traffic was between noon and 3 p.m.) Costa Maya (Day 4) – This port was ok. Located near the Mexico-Belize border, it is a “developing resort.” We heard that some of the cruise lines are heavily invested in it, gambling that it will become another Cancun. Right now, it’s just very small area carved out of the jungle. Shops, two small restaurants, an amphitheater for Mayan folkloric shows, a saltwater swimming pool (with a swim-up bar), restrooms and lockers, a bar and two man-made beaches are located in an open plaza at the end of the pier. The beach to the left as you face the plaza was crowded; there was no one on the beach to the right. We sat on the beach to the left. It was pleasant; there were comfortable chairs and thatched roof structures to keep out the sun. There was so much exposed rock, however, between the beach and the water (and in the water) that it was impossible to wade, let alone swim. If you want to swim and snorkel in Costa Maya, book an excursion or take a taxi to another beach. We did not pay to use the beach, bathroom/changing room, or the pool. The folkloric show was free, too. All facilities were clean and well maintained. You can rent bicycles and hire taxis in the plaza. The closest town, Mahajual, is a 10- minute drive from the port. I don’t know what’s there; I heard it was a fishing village. A couple from another cruise ship told us they taxied to Mahajual, looked around, saw nothing, and returned to port. We found refuge in the Taco House during another thunderstorm. We ordered margaritas and Sol beer, ate burritos, guacamole and chips. I thought the burritos were quite good; they were smaller and lighter than the ones served in the U.S. John thought they were just ok. The salsa was the hottest I’ve ever had (and I love hot salsa)! Sol, for those who haven’t tried it, is a light beer that is much tastier than Corona. Most of the shops sold jewelry and overpriced trinkets/souvenirs (like huge sombreros covered with glitter). We were not impressed with the quality of the jewelry, which tended to be silver-plated instead of sterling silver. Other shops sold liquor, rugs, leather bags and boots, and medicines that require prescriptions in the U.S. John purchased mini bottles of flavored tequila for $5 each as souvenirs for friends (the ship didn’t take the bottles away from us). The clerks in the trinket shops were not very willing to bargain; if they felt so inclined, they knocked $1 off the price and that was it. We saw passengers put items back on the shelves and walk out. Cozumel (Day 5) – This was our favorite port. We docked at the Punta Lagosta Pier at 7 a.m. Luckily for us, the pier was located across the street from the main shopping street, Carlos N Charlie’s, Senor Frogs, and an easy 15 minute walk to the Plaza at San Miguel. Other cruise ships were docked at the International Pier, about 1-1/2 to 2 miles away. We booked an excursion through Princess to the San Gervasio Mayan ruins, followed by a beach break at Playa Sol. We boarded an air-conditioned bus at the end of the pier. Our guide, Margarita, was knowledgeable and very proud of her Mayan heritage. The ruins, located at the edge of a jungle, were once a temple complex dedicated to a fertility goddess. All Mayan girls were required to make a pilgrimage there before marriage. We saw large iguanas sunning themselves on the ruins and in the trees (they won’t come near you). Wear sturdy shoes; the ground is rocky and uneven. The site has a few shops that carry trinkets, T-shirts, and books on Mayan culture. After 2 hours at San Gervasio, we drove around the island on the coastal road (the only paved road). Margarita served bottled water, Pepsi and Sol, and gave us lessons on Cozumel’s history, geography, weather and vegetation. The second part of the excursion was a 1-1/2 hour beach break at Playa Sol. Admission and a voucher for a free margarita (or plain juice) were included in the cost of the excursion. The path to the beach was lined with souvenir and jewelry shops. Margarita showed us how to identify authentic black coral jewelry. Cozumel is known for its black coral, but much of the “black coral” sold to tourists is black plastic or black onyx. If you want to spend a day on a beach, we recommend this one. The beach was clean; the water was crystal clear. The facilities were well maintained. Several bars were located around the beach, as well as an open-air restaurant. Umbrellas were available (rent was $4, and required a $5 refundable deposit). I won a Playa Sol T-shirt in a trivia contest conducted by the beach’s Activities Director. John won a Cozumel T-shirt in one of the shops because he had a “lucky number” on his ID tag. (We heard that Playa San Francisco was a nice beach, too. It’s located next to Playa Sol. Both beaches are about a 10-minute ride from the Punta Lagosta pier. You must pay an admission, unless you’re part of an excursion.) Margarita returned us to the pier at 12:30 p.m. We showered and changed in our stateroom, then disembarked again to explore San Miguel. Our first stop was Carlos N Charlie’s, across the street from the pier. We heard a lot about Carlos N Charlie’s from people who traveled to Cozumel, so we decided to eat lunch there. Well, if you love loud – and I mean L-O-U-D – music, boisterous patrons of all ages, impromptu conga lines, tequila-drinking contests (or watching them), and waitresses who blow on whistles for who knows what reason (we could hear them on the ship), then you’ll be very happy at CNC. We had to practically scream at each other to be heard. John hated it; I tolerated it just to say we were there. The food and margaritas were good, but we both had splitting headaches by the time we left. Next time we’ll try Kiss My Cactus, Pedro’s Backyard, or eat on the ship. Cozumel was the best port in which to purchase jewelry. Look carefully for the shops that carry a large selection of good quality sterling silver jewelry (the junk sold in the trinket shops is silver plated). Most of the clerks were professional and knowledgeable. They were also willing to bargain, especially after 3 p.m. The duty-free shop across from the pier was well stocked with liquor, cigarettes, pure vanilla, perfume, rum cake, candies, rum-filled chocolates, coffee, and lots of other items. A small bottle of pure vanilla (about $3) makes a nice souvenir or gift. We returned to the ship around 5 p.m. and, from our balcony, watched the sun set over Cozumel. Beautiful! Disembarkation It went smoothly, beginning around 8 a.m. The morning before disembarkation, your steward will give you instructions and color-coded luggage tags. The color will determine when you leave the ship. Before you go to dinner the night before disembarkation, you’ll put most of your luggage outside your stateroom. You can place a smaller piece or two outside your door before you go to bed. We woke up fairly early (6:00 a.m.) on “disembarkation day.” When the ship docked at FFL, I cried! We had breakfast on our balcony, then went to the Explorer’s Lounge to wait until our luggage tag color was called (less than 45 minutes). The first passengers to disembark are those with red luggage tags (early flights home and Captain’s/Platinum Circle members), followed by those on Deck 14 (yellow), then Deck 12 (cream), and so on down the decks. Luggage was retrieved in a huge warehouse. It was sorted according to the color of your tags. John found his luggage immediately; a large piece of luggage fell on top of mine, so I didn’t see it right away. A friendly Princess staff member helped me locate it. If you have a bag that looks like a lot of other bags, tie a colorful ribbon around the handle so you can spot it easier. You may purchase an airport shuttle ticket from the excursion desk (Deck 5) the day before disembarkation. Shuttle vouchers cost $5/each; a taxi costs $12. We took the shuttle and had no complaints. After you complete your first cruise aboard Princess, you are automatically enrolled in the Captain's Circle. We received a packet with two ID cards and two pins; we’re supposed to receive a Princess magazine periodically, and e-mails about special cruise deals. After five Princess cruises, you are automatically upgraded to the Platinum Circle (with more perks). Bottom Line The Grand Princess was beautiful, the service was wonderful, the food was delicious, and we can’t wait to cruise again (Eastern Caribbean or Panama Canal next time). The weak spot was the ports. We were not impressed with them. Perhaps if we had booked an excursion or had gone to the beach in Grand Cayman we would have enjoyed it more. Costa Maya… well, there’s not much there right now. If we sail on the Grand to the Western Caribbean again, we’ll probably spend more time on the ship than in the ports.

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Dec 22, 2002

Western Caribbean

As an experienced world traveler and reader of travel logs, I thought I should sit down and write a review for my most recent adventure, a seven day Princess cruise. This was my fourth trip (ever) on a cruise ship and my second ride on the Grand Princess in the last twelve months.  For those of you that have commented about how the ships are getting bigger and the service poorer, my experience may ring a bell for you. 

My wife and I had a rather horrid experience on the ship this trip and rather than attempt to describe it, I am going to insert the letter we are posting to Princess at the bottom of this log. For the trip in general, I will use the pattern others have used and assign a final grade based on the A to F scale to various categories, and then expand on some details.  After traveling in many countries in a variety of accommodation levels, I tend to be critical when it comes to basic and more tolerant of complex situations. I hope that you find the information and tips I provide to be useful. Embarkation: B We live in Florida so we simply drove to the cruise terminal in Ft Lauderdale.  The main surprise in this was the $12 daily parking charge.  We were told $8 by Princess which seemed high for port parking and $12 was asinine.  No time to make other arrangements so we parked.  No help in the garages and no carts either.  For $12 a day, a few push carts would be nice… Once in the terminal, the processing was quick, however the longshoremen handling the bags are rather seedy, rude and pressed hard for a tip even though he just dropped the bag (rather forcefully) on a pallet.  Glad I did not pack anything fragile in that bag… The Ship: A The The Grand Princess is a great vessel. We sailed on her last June and were happy to be back. It’s a big ship but easy to navigate. I read the following from another review and second it! “The layout is pretty good, but there are a few dead-end spots to look out for, like near the dining rooms. The mid-ship stairs stop at deck 7, and it was a pain to wait for the elevator to go to up one floor to our cabin on the Emerald deck. The elevators are slow and patience is required for those people who seemed like using an elevator was a new experience.” Actually, it seemed to us that many of the lifts were shut off at times as they would be on the same floor as you but refuse to open. The Room: B- We had Emerald 317 on Deck 8, starboard side and mid-ship. It had a partially obstructed view with a life boat hanging outside but we could see everything clearly.   Our room was small, however storage space was ok. A TV with A/V inputs (great if you take a camcorder, refrigerator, and safe were included. The beds were not very comfortable since they use thin cots as mattresses, and they have minimal support and in our case, the beds had large sinkholes in the middle. After a few days our backs HURT.  I asked for and got a back board placed under the mattress which helped, but would a 4” mattress really cost them so much in a cabin that goes for $2000 a week. Cabin steward was good and when we allowed, cleaned the room two or three times a day.  These folks can be a little nervous around you.  Try to be nice to them as they work very long hours (15 hrs+ a day for little money) and can be fired on a whim by the line.  I saw many people (ugly American stereotypes) being very rude and nasty to these people for absolutely no reason.  Kids were extremely nasty to them…  while the parents watched…  there are times when I feel like pretending I am Canadian on travel because of the way Americans behave…. The Food: Overall B- Dining Room: B+ The Dining room food was generally good and the atmosphere nice. Service was usually attentive and friendly but there were frequent photographer interruptions and several high pressure sales efforts by the waiter. Horizon Court: B- The buffet area was not really to my liking.  The serving area was cramped and the options limited.  Half of the tables had the same food 24/7 and it was not great.  Get better breakfast at Dennys for $4.  Only up side was that after 11pm, it turns into a sit down restaurant with a menu that is ok. . Fast Food in the Pool Area: C There are pizza and burger areas on the pool deck that are rather horrid.  Worse than high school café food.  They also close this area early in the evening which is bad when you want an alternative to the buffet and it is closed.  When it comes to basic food, Carnival was better and that is a really mean thing to say… Entertainment: B Strange how this worked out.  In June, the Broadway shows were great.  Top notch singers and dancers, but the comedians really sucked.  Over Christmas, the singers and dancers had changed very much to the worse but the comedians (with one very horrid exception) were great.  One was close to getting tossed over the rail by the passengers he stank so badly, but the others were really good.  Only complaint is the short show times.  Spent more time waiting for the show than enjoying the show…  I will throw a salute the entertainment staff at this point.  They really seem to be a good bunch on the whole if a bit strange to look at as a group.  A real collection of strange people, but good at the job and nice to speak with.  While I do not have any children, the parents I spoke with seemed very happy with the children entertainment.  This is a big plus on Princess as you will find a slightly higher class crowd with almost no visible drunken folks stumbling around and an obvious effort on the part of the staff to control bad behavior.  If you just want to get drunk to a band, go to Carnival… Gambling: C- Nasty staff that would not explain the games even during the day when the place was empty and we went through $20 on the slots without a single hit.  Got the feeling from other players that the odds on the machines are not even close to Vegas standards and not worth playing unless you just like to watch the wheels spin…  Heard a lot of people complain about similar experiences (no the losing) with unpleasant staff in the casino.  Also, very poor ventilation to clear the smoke. Drinks & Booze: B- We are not drinkers but I will say that $6 for a small glass of white wine is a bit steep for the venue.  Paid $22 for open tap on the coke which seemed ok… Be careful with this.  I saw some bar tabs at the end of the trip that were bigger than the fare.  Pools: B+ Pools seem to have a problem staying clean, but I guess that is to be expected with the number of people in them without cleaning up first.  Best to swim early before they get bad.    The staff do not enforce the chair hording rules but I just waited for an hour or so in a poor spot and then went and tossed the stuff out of an unused chair in the sun.  Several hours later, people showed up and bitched and I told them the deck boys had come through removing things to the back after complaints.  This shut them up as the sign is right there saying that chair hording is not allowed. Photos: D- The photographers are very nice smiling pains in the ass.  They seem to feel like they have the right to interrupt you at will and order you around.  We tried to bypass some of them only to get pushed and bossed around.  I bit one head off and told her that I don’t remember the contract requiring me to pose whenever they feel like it.  Had several table interruptions on the trip last June.  They just push your food around and do not ask if you want the picture.  The Dec trip we stayed out of the main dinning room due to problems outlined in the letter at the end of this log. Virtual Reality: N/A This is an arcade style game-room with a bunch of video games and motion simulators that you can play, for a price. You need to buy a card for $20 first, and each game may be $1.00 or more. They had an Air Hockey table and a bunch of other games, but no classic games like Pac-Man or Space Invaders. They run ? price specials on port days, so that is usually the best time to go. Internet: N/A Available, but very slow.  Took the entire $7.50 / 15 min session to read just three yahoo emails.  Tried other sites with similar results.  After poking around a bit discovered that the ships offices share the link and get priority on the bandwidth… nice…  Internet cafes are available at most stops for better bandwidth and less money.  All in all, still better than the $5/min telephone that never seems to be available. The Ports: OVERALL B- Princess Cays: B Nice beach area, go early if you don’t want to waste the day in lines waiting for expensive rentals.  Food was nasty and bring bottle water from the ship as the stuff they had in the food area tasted nasty.  Better to have a good breakfast on the ship and wait for dinner.  If you just want to lay in the sun and don’t care for the water, stay on the ship and be comfortable. Grand Cayman: A- Probably the best island that the lines visit.  Requires a tender to get ashore and that makes stopping there a bit unreliable because of weather.  There were 3-5 foot swells the day we landed and the crew really worked to get us tied up and off the tender.  Better late in the day when we returned.  A small plug for Royal Caribbean Line as they had MUCH nicer tenders that handled the seas better and did not throw you around as much. Cozumel: B An ok port.  Getting in and out is a pain because of the shopping plaza you have to go through followed by the row of seedy characters waiting for you.  Also be advised that safety is an issue in this port.  Don’t just wonder off.  Do some homework before the trip and taxi to the places you want to see using the official taxis.  Don’t try any other cars…  The tours in this port were very expensive so do a bit of homework on the net before your cruise and have a map and a list of things to see with you.  Will make the trip much nicer. Jamaica: D- No nice way to say it.  Jamaica is a dump.  One upon a time it was a paradise but after they went independent, it crashed hard.  The locals are mostly out to hassle you and if you are not careful where you go, you may end up without your money and a bump on your head.  Seems like the lines are starting to avoid the place more and more.  Some day Cuba will open up for Americans and Jamaica and Porto Rica will never see a cruise ship again.  Can’t happen too soon for me. Debarkation: B/A Trip in June had us standing around for an extra hour in the morning while the purser folks hunted down the last few unpaid bar tabs.  Really pisses me off that they risked making people late for flights over a couple of bar bills.  Goes to show that customer service is not on the top of the list for the purser folks.  In Dec we got off quickly as everyone was paid up, however there were other problems with the purser folks that I have in the letter at the bottom.  Suffice to say that everyone on that ship outside of management worked hard for us but the hotel management folks only care about getting the money and the passengers are just not that important to them… unless there is a bill to collect. Cruise Insurance: D I know they tell you for cruises to buy insurance…  I would stay away from the Princess care.  It is expensive and while it claims to offer medical, in June they spent an entire day trying to get a simple Band-Aid for my wife when she got a blister on her heal.  Ruined one of our port days as she could not wear a shoe without it and they would not let us take one from the shop as we were in port.  Can you imagine, an entire day trying to get a 5cent bandage out of the hotel and medical staff.  They simply did not give a damn and said wait until evening when the medical staff returns.  (closed shops and med facilities in ports) Buy fare insurance and emergency evac from one of the travel insurance companies and leave the Princess care alone is all I can say.  We paid a lot of money for it and could note even get a Band-Aid… Overall: B The Grand is a great ship and overall the entertainment was great the dinners top notch.  The only real complaint about the operation is the way the management treats the guests and the constant digging for extra dollars.  The constant harassment by photographers and the excessively priced tours tended to cheapen the experience as did the food outside the main dinning rooms. The entertainment staff was top notch on both rides, but the performances were somewhat inconsistent between the trips.  Still, all in all a good time.  Our June trip was def much better at the $700 per person fare+extras.  Dec ran us closer to $2800 for the two of us and we def did not get that kind of value even forgetting the problems we had with the hotel management.  SUMMARY: If you can get a good deal from these folks, it is a nice trip for the family or a couple not looking to swing with a bunch of drunks.  Entertainment is good and most of the staff was very attentive.  The line management is another story.  If you have any problems with the ship or anything else, you are on your own. The management staff seemed very arrogant and disinterested in passengers or ship problems.  There seems to be a rather large detachment between them and the other staff including how they treat the passengers and general demeanor. Letter we posted to the Line on Dec 30. December 30, 2002  Princess Cruise Lines Attn: Customer Relations Re:  The December 22 sailing of the Grand Princess Dear Sirs/Madam, This letter is a formal complaint regarding the handling of problems that arose during the Dec 22 sailing of the Grand Princess.  My wife and I were assigned to cabin E317 for this seven day trip over the Christmas holiday which proved to be one of the worst holidays I can remember.  On Christmas day, a drain line broke in the hallway outside of our cabin releasing odors and chemicals that can not be described in this letter.  Suffice to say that it was worse than the trash dumpster behind a bar.  The resulting flood of waste water had filled the walls and soaked the carpeting to such a degree that it took several days to remove the water and dry the carpets.  During this time, extremely strong odors and chemical smells filled the halls and entered the cabins and at no time did we see more than one or two people attempting to correct the problem.  At the peek of the effort, there were several sections of walls cut away and equipment left throughout the hall with no workers present for hours at a time.  Even the cabin stewards were avoiding our area. Repeated requests to the hotel staff for assistance were greeted with the highest level of indifference and claims that the problems had been corrected when in fact little had been done.  When I asked that a member of the senior staff come to our section and inspect the conditions, I was told that the accommodation manager would come to our cabin and a senior steward was sent in his place.  A passenger calls and complains about waste and chemical leakage in a poorly ventilated, confined space and they felt that a cabin steward is the appropriate response?  Or perhaps they already new of the problem and did not wish to have to come into that air and speak with us. When we asked, we were told that other cabins were not available which I find difficult to believe and not until the last day of the cruise was another cabin offered which upon inspection had been vacated by someone that was likely ill before leaving the ship at the last island stop.  Not wishing to risk exposure to the unknown, my wife and I remained in our original cabin for the last night.  At this point, we had been living in the stench for several days and there was only one day left in the cruise. Please understand that for several days, in an effort to dry the carpets, the carpets were partially raised and a fan placed on the floor.  This only aggravated the situation by pushing the waste into the air for the passengers to breathe.  I do not want to think about the waste we where forced to breathe especially in light of all of the recent problems with shipboard illnesses.  For several days, my wife and I were so sickened by the smells, we refrained from eating most meals and tried to avoid our cabin.  However, we had to sleep and bathe leaving us no choice but to sleep in the stench and risk whatever we might be breathing.  On multiple occasions, the purser desk informed us that the carpet was being removed only to find that nobody was even working in the hallway on the problem.  We were forced to keep the cabin steward from cleaning the room during those days as he is required to leave the door open while working and that only allowed the fan to blow more contaminated air into the cabin. To think we paid over $2000 for the privilege of spending our holiday trapped in a broker sewer with a desk staff that was very clearly disinterested.  I can only say that we have not intention to cruise with your company again and that none of our acquaintances will have any illusions of how our trip was handled.  Upon my return, I spent time reading travel logs written by people like myself on a number of web sites and have come to understand that while the entertainment staff on your ships seems to have a good reputation, your hotel management personnel are frequently the target of some of the worst reviews I have read and often termed as arrogant and only interested in collecting payments with no regard to passenger welfare.  This is my second cruise with your line and while noticing this callus attitude on the previous cruise, I did not fully appreciate how little interest they have in the passengers until confronted with it directly on this trip. After going through this experience, I have little expectation that your company will feel even the smallest regret about this incident as the shipboard management staff obviously did not.  I am writing this letter in hopes that someone will prove me wrong.  It is currently my intent to post this letter to as many of the travel log sites as possible.  In light of current health issues on these cruise ships, I feel the behavior and attitudes of your shipboard staff should be made known to the traveling public.

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Jan 5, 2002

Western Caribbean

Background: My husband and I were married in October 2002 and waited until January 2003 to take our honeymoon on the Grand Princess (Western Caribbean). We live in St. Paul, Minnesota, so we flew from the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, January 4. We booked our flights, pre-cruise hotel, and excursions through Princess. We realized that this would be more expensive than booking air and hotel independently,

but we didn’t want to have to deal with any stress. On a previous cruise with Celebrity a delayed flight resulted in me missing two days of the cruise, and I was thankful at the time that since I had booked through Celebrity, they were responsible for getting me to the ship. However, that’s another story. Our goal for this cruise was to relax and be pampered. We didn’t choose any strenuous excursions and they all included food and beverages. Pre-Cruise: We flew through Charlotte to FLL and went to the baggage claim area to meet the Princess representatives. We actually had a difficult time finding them as they were wearing blue business suits and weren’t carrying signs like some other cruise line reps. Eventually I saw a lady carrying a Princess binder so we nabbed her and she gave us directions to the bus that was to take us to the Westin Cypress Creek. By the time we actually got to the Westin Scott and I were completely exhausted so we went straight to our room and ordered room service. The room looked very plush with nice bedding, etc., but I noticed that the towel rack was coming unscrewed and the tile was chipped in the bathroom. We’re not fussy, though, so we showered and ate in our room. We both thought the food was great but the next day we heard some people complaining about the food in the hotel restaurant. Neither Scott nor I sleep well our first night in a strange place, so we didn’t sleep well that night but it certainly wasn’t because of noise or an uncomfortable bed. Some people complained about the hotel the next day but I’m not sure what the problem was. We thought it was a decent hotel, with decent food and decent service. The next morning we went to the hotel restaurant for the buffet breakfast. The Westin is situated next to a shortish walking path, so we took a walk after eating as the buses were not expected until noon. It wasn’t warm enough to frolic in the pool. There was a definite foul-up when loading the people on to the buses (300-plus people were leaving on cruises from the West) because the Princess reps were trying to get an even number of people on each bus. By the time they got to the last bus, which we were on, the bus filled up and there will still people waiting. They weren’t very happy. Embarkation: Embarkation was fine. I had filled out all of our information and booked our shore excursions on the Cruise Personalizer so we basically showed up with our printouts and our passports, got our cruise cards and got on board. Waited in line for about 30 seconds. Our cabin was B720, an outside stateroom with a balcony. We ended up taking the stairs to the Baja deck because the elevators were packed. Our cabin was very clean and seemed to be well laid out. Obviously it was small but we didn’t care because we had the balcony, which we basically used as a living room. After stowing our carryon bags we headed to the Horizon Court for food. I had cruised once before on the Horizon (Celebrity) but Scott had never cruised before so he was completely amazed by the Grand Princess, her size, and the overall sense of being on such a ship. After stuffing ourselves (a recurrent theme during our cruise), we headed back to our room where we unpacked what bags we had. We then walked around the ship for a bit and did the muster drill, where Scott sat next to Kenny Rogers. Yes, Kenny Rogers was a passenger on our cruise with his wife. I think they had one of the suites at the back. After the muster drill we went back to our room where our baggage was waiting for us. Lee Ann, our cabin steward, had already introduced herself and produced bathrobes for us. Thanks to cruise-addicts I knew to ask for them. Room: As I said, we had B720, conveniently under the Horizon Court. This was a good location if you wanted to get food from the Horizon Court and take it to your room to eat. We preferred to do this and sit on our balcony rather than eat in the Horizon Court. It was great having a balcony. We are spoiled. Amusingly enough, Lee Ann locked us out on it one day so we hailed a guy a couple of decks up and he came down and told her. She felt bad. One of the other passengers told us she saw a guy in formal clothes and shoes climbing from his balcony to the next because he got locked out. He must have been crazy. Anyway. We got balloons on our door since we were honeymooning and for my birthday (also that week). The only complaint I have with the room is that the vibration when cruising at night was really loud! Our bed was vibrating so much we were joking about the vibrating beds you see in motels on TV! Scott didn’t seem to care, but it bothered me enough that I wore earplugs to sleep. We’ll keep that in mind when picking a location for our next cruise. Scott gets seasick easily so he started on 24-hour non-drowsy Dramamine a couple of hours before we got on the ship, and he was fine the entire cruise. I think he stopped taking them four days in without any problems. Dining: We picked Personal Choice Dining. Some evenings Scott and I ate just the two of us and other nights we asked to be seated as a group. The only time we had trouble getting a table was on the second formal night. We ended up eating in the Horizon Court, which was a mistake because you couldn’t get lobster tail there. I thought we could probably request some from Room Service, but we didn’t bother. We ordered coffee and rolls every morning and ate them on our balcony. Usually we had a second breakfast on the Horizon Court. We ate lunch at the Horizon Court or had pizza/burgers from by the pool area. Finally, we did the English Tea twice, and I only wish we had gone every day. Yummy! Overall, we both thought the food was very good. I got one of the pop stickers for my cruise card. I don’t think the bartenders were very happy when people walked up with a pop sticker. They seemed nicer to me when I was ordering booze. That’s the only example of bad service that I can think of. Princess Cays: This day was actually a little chilly – I think it was in the high-60’s or low 70’s for most of the day. We tendered ashore and went to the less crowded section of the beach. It was nice and peaceful, but we went so far to the right there wasn’t any bar service. Bummer. After relaxing on the beach chairs and taking a walk we went to the barbeque lunch, which was very good. It was a pleasant first day of the cruise and we enjoyed it. Grand Cayman: We had booked a snorkel excursion for this port but bad weather resulted in delayed tendering…so no excursion for us. The weather improved a little and we eventually made it ashore, but since we aren’t big shoppers and didn’t get ashore in time to snorkel through another company, we didn’t really enjoy Grand Cayman. We did buy some rum for some friends. Costa Maya: I’ve read a lot of reviews of this cruise and most of them have not had good things to say about Costa Maya. After reading that the beach was kind of yucky we decided to book the “Unimog/Private Beach” excursion that started at 1:00PM. We went ashore about an hour beforehand and checked out the beach. The beach was tiny, overcrowded, and rocky. We did walk around a little looking for shells and small sea creatures. We also took a quick pass through the shopping area, where I bought a $5 pair of “Mexican silver” hoop earrings. Then we met our guides for the Unimog tour. The guides were two men from Mexico City who had come down to work in Costa Maya. The Unimogs were WWII 4WD vehicles that had been fancied up with padding, yellow paint, and roll bars. We rode them on some extremely bumpy dirt roads and through Majahual. It was actually very strange because the Mexican government is building a resort in Costa Maya from the ground up, so there are four-lane divided highways and so on near the port, but then Majahual is this tiny town. The guides said they had just gotten electricity two weeks ago. Everyone kept comparing Costa Maya to Cozumel 30 years ago. After riding on the Unimogs through the jungle for 1-½ hours, stopping to look at monkeys, iguanas, etc., we finally got to the private beach. It was gorgeous, and only the Unimog riders were there, so it was practically deserted. Water toys (kayaks, floats, etc.), beer and pop, and a Mexican lunch (fajitas, chips, guacamole, etc.) were all included in the price of the tour. We took a two-person kayak out for a while. After 1-½ hours there, we got back on the Unimog and took the paved highway back to the ship. My only complaint was that the ride out got a little long (I had bruises from bouncing around the next day) so we didn’t have much time at the beach. So, most people seem to detest Costa Maya, but we had a fantastic time there. I have one other comment about Costa Maya. Scott and I were sitting on our balcony as the boat left port when we noticed a small boat coming up towards the Grand Princess. Scott pointed out a couple of embarrassed looking people wearing life jackets sitting in the rear of the boat. Yes, they had missed the boat, but fortunately got back in time to be taken out to the Grand before we left the area. Everyone on the balconies cheered for them when they got on board. Cozumel: We signed up for a bike/snorkel excursion. Taxis took about 20 of us to a bike launching station on a highway (that’s the best way I can think of to describe it) where we got on bikes and rode about three kilometers on very flat roads to Chankanaab National Park. We got in some snorkeling, looked at the lagoons, and saw some Mayan ruins. The snorkeling was pretty good. Scott has snorkeled in the Keys and he said the snorkeling was better there, but there were certainly lots of fish to see at Chankanaab. We both enjoyed it and I felt good about the bike ride to and from Chakanaab. A little exercise was needed at that point. Shows: We didn’t go to many shows. We went to the magician/comedian, who was manic but pretty funny, the Weakest Link, and another comedian who we thought was really funny but some of the older members of the audience didn’t seem to enjoy as much as we did. We did go to the cooking demonstration and galley tour on the second at-sea day and found them quite enjoyable. Swimming pools: We tried out most of the pools. On the second at-sea day, they opened up the Conservatory roof (imagine gawking on the part of Scott and I as we didn’t know they could open it) so we sat in there and relaxed for many hours. I had brought a few books to read and Scott read for a bit and chatted with other passengers. Apparently he met an assistant coach to the Kansas City Chiefs while watching the Ocean Princess go by. Workout room: I went up there twice and either rode the Stairmaster or an exercise bike. It was pretty crowded both times. Debarkation: This was such a sad time for us. We had an 11:15AM flight, so we were in the second group to get off the ship. It was very depressing to be sitting in a lounge watching an analysis of the North Korean situation on CNN instead of relaxing on a deck chair watching the ocean go by. However, everything went smoothly, we got to the airport in plenty of time and got home safely. Summary: We certainly achieved our goals of pampering and relaxation! All in all, we had a wonderful time and cannot wait to cruise again. The service was great, the ship was beautiful, having a balcony was perfect, and the weather was a lot better than Minnesota in January! The Grand Princess was a wonderful ship and we’ll happily take Princess again. We’re thinking a Mediterranean cruise next…

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Aug 18, 2001

Eastern Caribbean

Let me preface this mini review by saying that  overall this cruise was both enjoyable and relaxing. From embarkation to debarkation Princess has it all under control. Everything is well organized and moves quickly. This was our first cruise with Princess (my wife and I). Our cabin was a mini suite(D519) on the Dolphin deck and it was spacious and well decorated. Our room had a veranda which seated 4 people and it was one of the

highlites of the cruise. I can't tell you how great it was to relax with a drink in hand and watch the sun set from the veranda. The cabin attendants were there when you needed them and took good care of us. We chose personal choice dining and this worked out well. We cruised with two other families and called each night for a table for nine people. Most nights were spent in the main dining rooms. The food was good but did not compare to Celebrity cruises (Century) which we found to be exceptional. As far as the breakfast buffet I was very disappointed. 7 days and nothing different. They did not have an ommlete chef, the french toast was identifiable by a sign only not by taste, and what really bugged me was the "fresh orange juice" tasted like tang. If you wanted "fresh squeezed" all you had to do was go to the pool bar and they would gladly pour you a glass for$2.50.I guess a lot of passengers did this as there were signs posted at each bar advertising this. An after thought regarding personal choice dinning is the fact that you do not have an opportunity to develop a friendship with the same waiter and bus boy. Each night we had a different group waiting on us. We booked one excursion, Under two flags in ST Martin. It gives you a perspective of the island and the different cultures and unfortunately the poverty that exists. The tour bus made its way to Marigot where we were to spend approx 45 minutes to shop. Unfortunately we got stuck in a traffic jam (can you believe it?) and of course they reduced our time shopping from 45 minutes to 20 minutes. As far as ST Thomas well it rained all day so we spent the day staying dry downtown shopping. They do have some great prices on gold jewelry as my wife can attest to. Princess Cays was relaxing. As others have said when you get off the tender go to the right. There were plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas along with a bar and a buffet hut. One turn off was the fact that they were not renting wave runners even though they were listed on the excursion sheet. We asked why and no one could give us an answer. I would still like to know why. A word of warning is to wear water shoes when going in the water as the corral is sharp. Other than that relax and enjoy. Would we cruise Princess again? We would. Hopefully the food short comings will be corrected. Princess has a way to go to equal Celebrity Cruises food variety, presentation and taste.    

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Aug 4, 2001

Eastern Caribbean - St. Thomas, St. Martin,

Some don't understand English very well.  My friend asked a staff member "How can I get a tour of the Bridge?" and the staff member looked puzzled and replied "did you turn on the switch?".  (This line became our running joke for the entire cruise). We wanted to be in the 1st dinner seating, but it was already full.  So we took 'Personal Choice' instead. This is a Princess dining plan where they let you just show up anytime

and get seated on a first-come first-served, or phone reservation basis.  They have two dining rooms dedicated to this system.  We really enjoyed this arrangement; so much less stuffy than that assigned table;time stuff. They serve the same meals on personal choice as they do at the 1st/2nd seating. The food was excellent.  In addition to the sit down dining, they have a 24 hour buffet restaurant.  We always took breakfast and lunch here, and the food here was also excellent with a large variety. One small criticism; Ice, water, Coffee, Decaf, Iced tea are free, sodas are extra.  If you're a big soda/juice drinker - bring your own, you'll save a lot. The entertainment was generally very good.  We really liked the cruise director Graham Seymor, the musical shows, and comedian Marty Allen.  We didn't care much for comedian Dave Heenan.  And comedian/juggler Dan Bennett was okay, but not great. Be sure to visit the Business Center (on ship) early and sign up for the free Bridge tour.  It's very interesting. As far the stops;  St. Thomas/St. John was pretty nice.  Great beaches, water, and snorkeling.  The shopping is good for diamonds, gold, and tablecloths. St Martin has as nice beach downtown with nice water.  There is less shopping than St. Thomas, and the island is still reeling from the hurricanes.  The people are friendly but poor. Goat stew is a popular menu item here. Princess Cay is basically a 'day at the beach'.  The snorkeling is great here; just 10 feet from the beach.  Get here early, because the chairs (and shade) are snapped up quickly.  Also, reserve the jetskis and banana boat early in the trip.  They sell out quickly. All in all, we enjoyed the cruise very much.  (Much better than Carnival!) I'm already looking forward to my next Princess cruise.

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Apr 28, 2001

Eastern Caribbean

When we arrived at the port for check in, we had not been assigned a room although we had booked in mid January with our travel agent. At the time of booking our travel agent informed us that they always upgrade past passengers (which we were) and they do so much business with their company, she was sure we would be upgraded, as our departure time grew nearer and we picked up our tickets (two weeks in advance) I checked again, do we have a room assigned

at which time she called Princess and was told we should wait until be arrived for check in. Upon arrival we were informed we had no upgrade and no rooms available to upgrade to, what a disappointment, so we were in a very small inside cabin below the exercise room where we could hear running on the treadmill. Other than the disappointment of no upgrade, our service was wonderful, the ship itself was very nice. We elected to have personal choice dining which we enjoyed very much, however, we were told a suit or sport coat were required to dine in the Italian Trattoria only to discover people were dressed in shorts and sport shirts, so the dress code did not apply. Overall, it is a nice cruise, be sure to book a balcony, we would have enjoyed it much more.

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Feb 4, 2001

Eastern Caribbean-St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Princess Cay

    We just returned from our first experience with Princess and wanted to share our experience for the benefit of others.    To start off with, we didn't take the cruise line's air package from Chicago's O'Hare airport.  Instead we booked our own air with United, got a direct flight to Ft. Lauderdale instead of a connecting one, and saved half fare ($181.00 v $369.00 through the cruise line.) This savings allowed us to opportunity

to go down to Florida a day early, and stay a day late, in a very nice hotel.  These extra days gave us the opportunity to get accustomed to the warm climate before boarding, and then to rest and relax before going back to the February cold in Wisconsin.     Going down early also gave us the assurance to know that we would not be subject to any weather related delays out of O'Hare, which can be nasty in February.  (We did talk to several people who had such delays from other areas of the country and who barely made it to the ship before it sailed at 7:45 p.m.)  We found this to be a good idea and will do it again next year when we return.    As most every review has said, Princess has embarkation down to a science.  From the time we left our hotel on Ft Lauderdale beach, to the time we were in our stateroom was less than 30 minutes. Because of already being in Ft Lauderdale, we were able to board the ship slightly after noon.  We were then able to enjoy all of the facilities of the ship for what most people don't realize is the first day of the cruise.    Upon boarding, we first walked into the atrium and were pleased to hear live music.  This was a very positive part of the trip for us.  There always seemed to be live music being played.  You could hardly walk from one area of the ship to another without hearing it in one form or another--from calypso to classical.    No one actually took us by the hand and led us all the way to our cabin.  However, every few feet in the journey seemed to be staffed by another person just waiting to direct you to your final destination.  Even in the stateroom passageways, one room steward would guide you to the area and the room steward that would be yours.    Our room steward was Roy (on Caribe deck aft)a young, shy but totally ambitious Phillipino man who was more than willing to do or get anything that we wanted or needed during the entire trip.  Even one day when I wasn't feeling well, and left a "do not disturb" sign on the door for most of the day, he made extra efforts to call us at 9:00 p.m. and to make sure that we had everything we needed before he went off duty.  He was very kind and concerned for us and kept our room "just so."    The room itself was pleasant and very adequate.  We chose an inside stateroom for several reasons--one being economy (knowing from past experience how little time we actually spent in it-except for sleeping.)  I also like the total darkness that an inside cabin offers, because I easily wake to the morning sun, and we wanted to be able to sleep until we woke up (and not just because the sun was shining.)  We wanted to be able to rest on this vacation, and that's what an inside cabin offers us.    We also learned that while the outside staterooms are larger, the increased square footage is all in the balcony.  So, in reality, we had as much usuable space as they did.    As far as storage goes, at first we didn't think that we were going to have enough room for all of our things.  However, after opening all of the available drawers that were cleverly spaced throughout the room, we ended up having more storage space than we had things to fill it with. (FYI, my wife is NOT a light packer.  We probably had 3/4 of a large suitcase of clothes that we never used.  And it was all stored away with room to spare.)    As far as dining goes, we were only the third cruise that was offered what they refer to as "Personal Choice" dining.  At this time it still seems to be an experiment.  But, for us, it was a very good one indeed.     Out of the three main dining rooms, the Michaelangelo (deck 5)is totally assigned to be the Personal Choice dining room (the other two are still assigned to first and second seating).    Personal Choice means that you can go to the dining room for dinner anytime between 5:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.  When you walk into the room, a maitre'd tells one in the line of waiters, to take you to a certain table.  Once there, you may be seated with anywhwere from one to four other couples.    We liked this feature because you continually got the chance to meet and talk to new people as you dined.    Some people saw this as a disadvantage because they felt that part of the fun of the cruise dining experience is getting to know one particular waiter (and him getting to know you).  However, there is a way around this potential obstacle.     One particalar waiter and assitant(whom we really enjoyed the service of) told us that we could "ask" the maitre'd to sit in his section.  After that, we did so, and for four of the seven days we had a wonderful experice with him.  Yes the other people eating with us changed, but we had the benefit of getting GREAT service from Roberto (from Portugal) and his assitant Gabriel (from Romania).  They got to know what we liked and brought it to us without asking.  They really made the trip enjoyable.   As far as alternative dining goes, we walked through the Painted Desert, but never had the opportunity to eat there, although what we saw looked and smelled great.  People did comment on how delicious their dinner there had been.    However, we did take the opportunity to eat at Sabatini's (the Italian Bistro).  Be aware, there is a now a $15.00 per person surcharge to eat there.  But, after having eaten there, I would pay it again in a heartbeat.    Mind you, I am Italian.  I grew up in an Italian community, with good Italian food, and good Italian restaurants everywhere.  We also live not far from some of the best Italian restaurants in Chicago.  Even so, I have no problem saying that the experience of Sabatini's was "The Best" Italian food and service of any Italian Restaurant I have EVER eaten at.  The service was FABULOUS.  The food--we ate for two and a half hours-does that tell you anything?   They started out by bringing you a huge dinner plate.  They then brought around ALL of the apetizers--four cold and four hot (Fresh plates and silver for each course).  They then had a pizza course (incredibly delicious).  This was followed by you choice of Italian soups and salad.  Then they brought the pasta course, and gave you a sampling of all three pastas.        You then had your choice of 7 different entrees, including: Langoustines Scampi style, Twin lobster tails in champagne butter, Chilean Sea Bass, Italian Sea Scallops, Tiger Prawns in a garlic sauce, Shallot crusted Veal Chops in a wonderful Marsala sauce, and a Rosemary stuffed chicken in a truffle demi-glace.  My wife had the lobster and totally enjoyed it, while I had the succulent Veal Chop.   However, the couple next to us couldn't decide on an entree, so the waiter solved the problem by simply bringing them some of each.  Needless to say, they were overwhelmed.   Dessert came with too many sumptuous items to choose from.  I happened to change my mind in the process, and ended up having both choices served to me.     What a night.  Incredible food, impeccable service, served the way that I'm used to--in true abundance.  ABUNDANZA!     Other highlights include the availabilty of pool space, (our favorite being the aft Terrace pool--for adults only), deck chairs, wait staff on deck, and the quality of the shows.     Skywalkers disco is also worth going to--if for no other reason than to watch the sea go by from 18 stories high.  The sheer size of this ship, the overall quality of everything on board, and the mixed array of people that she carries makes her a destination in and of herself.    There were a few glitches here and there, that--while they didn't really affect us much--are still worth mentioning.    The one that irritated me most was the fact that the entire cruise staff was British.  A week of British accents and attitude can become a bit tiring.     Mind you, the main attitude problems didn't come from the cruise staff but from the Cruise Director Alastair Greener and his assitant James.  Both were (in my opinion) rather flaky, and quite condescending to all of the American's on board, even though it was the American's that were amply paying their salaries.     They took every opportunity possible to let you know that they were British (and thsuly, you weren't).  As such, the whole attitude was of "we're better than you are.   You can't even talk right."  There were quite a few times when Americans were made the butt of jokes--especially concerning linguistic and regional accents.    Another small irritant was the contrast between the wonderful selection and quality of food in the Horizon Court Lido restaurant, and the Melamine platters that were given to you to put it on.  I suppose that this is done from a practicality perspective because you could then take the plates anywhere on deck that you wanted to without the threat of them breaking.  However, it looked rather cheap.  One would think that there must be some type of alternative to plastic plates.    As far as the Islands go, I was surprised to see all of the hurricane damage that still remains on St. Thomas.  There are quite a few buildings that still need repairs as well as quite a bit of land and shoreline erosion.  We didn't go on any tours, so we can't comment on them.     However, we did go shopping, found some very good deals, but were also assaulted by a LOT of very aggressive sales people.  Be AWARE!  Know what you want, and what you're willing to pay for it before you leave home.  The prices change with your ability to dicker and your willingness to fold to the salesperson's pressure.    St. Maarten was pleasant, and the shopping also good.  The belgian chocolate store dowtown has WONDERFUL chocolates which they make on sight, and are well worth the $1.00 each price if you really like chocolate.    However, to us, the place that really typified what we expected to see in the Caribbean was Princess Cays.  I understand that Princess has recently expanded their refinements on the island to also include the beach area to the right of the harbor where the tenders land.     On our visit, there had to at least be two lounge chairs for every guest.  There were NO crowds, and everything went like clockwork.    The ship's staff came to the island and brought all of the food.  They prepared it all, and everything was as top quality as it was on the ship. This was truly a day to remember.    All in all, this cruise was exceptional from beginning to end.  Although you can always find people who can find fault with anything and who can NEVER be satisfied, I know that everyone that I talked to had experienced a wonderful vacation on "The Grand".    Whatever you do, don't let her size intimidate you.  In this case, Princess seems to have really lived up to the hype that says that all size really means is "choice".  There's plenty to choose from on this GRANDEST LOVE BOAT.  Go and have fun choosing something exciting and new every day. John & Debbie Mancusi

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Oct 28, 2000

Eastern Caribbean

Just wanted to express our delight with our Grand Princess Cruise on October 29, 2000. The ship, the guests, the mini-suite and most importantly the staff of the Grand were wonderful. I was concerned with so few ports, but we spent many content hours on our balcony just relaxing.  We will repeat this cruise again or will try one of the new itineraries this year.  We loved the Grand!!!!!!!!  Shirley and Larry Evans Glendora,

California

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Mar 12, 2000

Eastern Caribbean

My daughter and I sailed the Grand during Spring Break...it was definitely filled to capacity but we did not seem cramped. This may be why deck chairs were at a premium as one reviewer mentioned. Food was good. Service good. We had an inside cabin on Baja deck. Adequate for two people. Room enough to a lot of clothing. Bathrooms were well stocked. All in all I thought the cruise was excellent. Weather was excellent with a few windy days but

the Grand can't be blamed for the weather. Captain tried to steer clear of storm on Island night and succeeded. The only problem we had was with the airline (Delta) but that wasn't Princess' fault. I would suggest all who travel from Northeast to leave a day early (this year hubby and I are sailing the Grand and leaving 2 days earlier for FLL)...

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Mar 12, 2000

Eastern Caribbean

The sea ranged from flat calm to 15 footers during our cruise.  The Grand is remarkable.  We never felt seasick.  Matter of fact it was harder  for us to adjust to land once we were home than to the slight movements of the ship.  We did however conveniently blame the ship when we stumbled on the dance floor.  Heading to St. Thomas and St. Maarten our view was seaward from our portside stateroom.  On our return trip we enjoyed viewing

the  islands and having the afternoon sun.  It would be hard for us to book another cruise without a balcony. As midwestern creatures of habit, we quickly developed a routine on the Grand.  We have been waking at five am for the last 20 years so it was difficult for us to even sleep in till six with the two hour time differences.  We found early morning to be an excellent time to walk or run the two tracks.  Deck 7 has the large track, with stairs, that is a third of a mile.  Deck 15 has the smaller track at the bow which takes ten laps to make a mile.  Early in the cruise we met several other passengers on our early walk/run but by the last few days we often tried to work off those calories alone-hard to believe on a ship this size. We ate breakfast in the formal dining room twice and used the Horizon Court buffet style for the remainder of the breakfasts and lunches.  Many seemed to enjoy the poolside burgers and pizza.  On our next cruise we would probably try to use the formal dining room for more of our breakfast and lunches.  We think we would have eaten less had we sat down and ordered rather than walking through and filling our platters.  (Yes we did gain 4-5 pounds even with all the exercising.) Dinner in the Michelangelo dining room was always superb.  We cannot recall a course that we did not like and the variety was phenomenal.  We enjoyed all five courses, cocktails and coffee every night.  The best part was the attentive service provided by Enrique and Manuel.  As the week progressed they began to anticipate our needs and engaged us in conversation when time permitted.  We were at a table for six but two did not return after the first night.  A mother and daughter also sat at our table.  It took us a few days to realize that they had the stateroom right next to us.  They were very nice people and we compared notes and passed on recommendations throughout the week. St. Thomas was absolutely beautiful.  We could have stayed there for several days.  We had an eight o’clock excursion that we prebooked.  We would recommend prebooking because the tickets and specific instructions were on our nightstand when we arrived.  We rode ‘The Wild Thing’ to Buck Island where we snorkeled.  We took underwater pictures of fish and saw the remains of a shipwreck. The boat then sped to a nearby beach where rum punch was in abundance.  Other beverages were available at an additional cost.  We had a blast.  We were fortunate to be the last to board and had to take the last two seats starboard against the pilothouse.  A prime location, we later found out, as the waves came splashing into the faces of several onboard.  We were back to the dock by eleven.  We showered and lunched on the ship before setting out to explore St. Thomas.  We caught a cab for downtown shopping.  Our driver waited and then took us up to the Mountain Top for more shopping and the view.  We then headed to Magens Bay-a beautiful beach!  We literally ran into a family from our home town of 800 people.  We wished we could have stayed at Magens Bay longer.  The cab brought us back to Havensight where we finished our shopping.  It was so convenient to be at port and not have to tender in and out. When we arrived at St. Maarten we took our time and didn’t rush to the tenders.  We did some shopping and decided to save the French side for our next trip.  It is hard to judge St. Maarten/Martin since we did not experience the entire island.  We can say that an hour or two on the Dutch side was more than enough. We especially enjoyed the onboard nightly activities.  We generally took in two shows each night and danced a few dances in the Wheelhouse Lounge.  Steed and Steed played music that we could fox trot, waltz, and swing to!  The entertainers were excellent.  Our favorites were two Broadway and Las Vegas type shows, Glamour and Gotta Sing Gotta Dance.   The Grand Princess Dancers with Kathy and James Taylor were wonderful.  We saw Marty Allen and his very talented wife Karon Kate Blackwell-what a pair!  The Princess Theater seemed to always accommodate everyone wishing to see the show.  The Vista Lounge required that you arrive at least 15 minutes early.  Other memorable moments included on-going music in the atrium and The Captain’s Gala Cocktail Party.  The photography staff provided us with several pictures that we could have in hand as we left the ship.  Each day the Gallery would have several photos available that you were under no obligation to buy.  What a treat for those of us who don’t want to tote a camera all the time. What we enjoyed most was just cruising the Caribbean on a poolside chair under the sun.  Yes chairs on the sun decks are at a premium.  From reading reviews we knew what to expect but we saw many unhappy people when they couldn’t find chairs together.  Princess needs work on this-after all you go on a cruise in the Caribbean for the sun.  Since we were early risers we were always at the pool before ten and generally stayed until two.  Live music poolside definitely put you in the atmosphere of the islands.   The cruise director and staff were always friendly and upbeat.  We often wondered how they maintained their enthusiasm.  We only caught a portion of the Tropical Island Night festivities and dancing but what fun!       We had seven beautiful, sun-filled days.  One day it poured for ten minutes and the sun came right back out so we have dismissed that episode.  The only poor day was disembarkation day as it was overcast as we pulled into port.  Disembarkation was very organized.  We departed the ship based on our flight schedule.  We were given color coded luggage tags and a time to meet in the Explorers Lounge.  Groups disembarked by color in the order called.  We entered an enormous room filled with luggage.  Don’t panic.  We just had to look for our color on the wall to find our luggage area.  We found all five pieces and were out of the area within ten minutes.  It was nice to see several porters available for those who couldn’t handle their own suitcases.  It was raining by the time we were heading to the airport.  We did not have to stand out in the rain as all areas were covered. Our transfers were seamless.  We had to switch planes in Chicago and only the last leg to Green Bay did we experience a delay due to fog and heavy traffic at O’Hare.  This was by far our most enjoyable vacation.  We have never been so pampered.  Seven days to do as much or as little as we pleased made it perfect.  It was our 20th anniversary and we traveled without our teenagers.  Maybe next time we’ll bring them along...or maybe not.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

cruise on the Grand Princess was very nice with a couple of drawbacks. Embarkation was fine and quick. The ship is clean and well maintained and the crew is very friendly, courteous and attentive. We had a mini suite which was always kept clean by a very efficient steward. After reading many complaints about the coffee, we were surprised to see the coffee was not bad at all. The food was good and we had a very attentive waiter. We went

to Costa Maya, Belize, Roatan and Cozumel. Your best bet in Costa Maya is to take a very short ride into town for $3.00 and get you a nice beach chair or table on the beach. There is some shopping there (junk shops of course) and the beaches are nice, you can wade or snorkel and its safe. The return trip is $2.00 by cab with plenty of cabs around. The shops at the actual Costa Maya port were you first get off the ship were kind of expensive, Cokes were each $2.50 and beer $3.50. In town you can get a coke for a dollar and six beers (a bucket) for ten bucks. In Belize we just stayed in the shopping area as we were traveling with our parents who weren't up to diving with the sharks and the sort. In Roatan, we booked our own excursion through Bodden Tours (Internet) and we had a van for six people and the driver for the day. Total was $30.00 per person with the tip and we had him for the entire stay and got to see the entire island as well as get in some snorkeling on a nice beach at West End and lunch at the Lighthouse restaurant. Well worth it and much cheaper than a cruise excursion. In Cozumel, "they" just shopped till they dropped. Best port on this trip to do your shopping. The draw backs: For some reason, this ship "sways" a lot even in what I would call light seas (6') for a ship this size. We did catch some rough weather on the way back and the ship then really rocked. It appears, from what I've been told that the stabilizers really do not work well when the ship is doing above 18 knots. Well, the ship was always doing around 21-22 knots, so go figure. Anyway, I've been on other ships this size that do not even come close to swaying like this ship, even in rougher weather. That's just my opinion. Also, don't look for privacy on your balcony. They are staggered and other passengers can see down onto the balconies. It did not matter to us, but maybe it's something that should be considered by others. If you are into the casino, my better half found the slot machines to be very tight and for the smokers, good luck in finding an ashtray there. We also went to a couple of "comedy" shows and trust me, you are better off sunbathing at night. Disembarkation was a nightmare. We put our luggage out as requested and followed the rules. We were up and about at 7 A.M. and waited for at least 3-4 hours to get called to get off the ship. Once we got off the ship, it took us at least another hour to get out. The luggage was where it was supposed to be, but if you need a porter for your luggage when you get off the ship, then you have to stand in line for a porter as there were only a few around. In all, while on the ship, it was very clean and well maintained and the crew was very friendly, attentive and courteous and better than the crews of most ships we've been on. However, I'm not sure I would return to this specific ship but only due to the swaying.  

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We were very pleased with Princess’ Grand ship to the Western Caribbean. It was our first cruise, and after reading some negative reviews, I was very unsure about what experience we would have. The trip was a gift to my husband from his company, so we couldn’t pick our cruise line, ship or departure date, but I can safely say now, we will definitely cruise with Princess again! EMBARKATION: Again, this was our first experience at

everything related to cruising, so what may seem like a “long tiring wait” to some, just seemed normal to us. When we got to the pier in Galveston, we had to wait in a line, maybe 30 minutes. Didn’t seem too bad though. After we arrived on the ship we were directed to our rooms and our luggage arrived about an hour later while we were out exploring. We had several Princess employees asking us if we needed directions or anything. All very friendly and neat in appearance. SHIP: We thought the ship was beautiful. It was so big and spacious. I am claustrophobic and was worried that I would feel cramped with all the people, because they were full to capacity, but I never at any time felt crowded. I also have a bad sense of direction, but after just a couple of days, I actually knew where I was going! We didn’t swim much, as the water was cold. The hot tubs however were awesome as were the saunas hidden in the back of the ship near the adult-only pool. CABIN: Our steward Raul was awesome. We had an inside cabin (again, we didn’t get to pick our arrangements), but we though it was very spacious, considering we never spent much time in there. Next time, I believe we will get one with a balcony, but we were pleased nonetheless. The bathroom was trifle small, but not unmanageable. FOOD: We ate breakfast at the buffet and were very happy with our decision each time. There were a variety of foods that we loved; it was hard to make one decision, while keeping my waistline in check! Every night we ate in the dining room, I can’t remember which one, but it had any-time dining and private tables. We went without reservations one time, but only had to wait 10 minutes. After that, we would just call to make reservations as soon as we got back from our excursions and we were always seated right on time. The food was totally awesome each night; a wonderful variety. My husband (the beef eater) and myself (the fish eater) always found something to our liking. EXCURSIONS: Originally, when I found about the cruise, I was not very excited because I thought cruising around wasn’t for us. We love “extreme” vacations, and the idea of sitting around on a big boat for a week filled my mind with terror of boredom. However, when we found out about the excursions, we couldn’t wait to try some out. GRAND CAYMANS: We took the Wetland Safari Kayaking and Snorkeling. Since the recent hurricane, there wasn’t much “wetland”, but our guide was very informative and showed us how the island fauna regenerated itself and began the growing process. Kayaking in the ocean was great, a couple of people in our tour turned back because they thought it was too hard, but we have kayaked before and enjoyed it immensely. We kayaked alongside the beach and then turned out to a floating platform where we put on snorkel gear and hit the water. The fish and coral were beautiful. BELIZE: This one was the least of our favorites, as the town looked somewhat sinister. We took the Rainforest Trek and Cave Tubing adventure and had an absolute blast. We left the ship before anyone else because the tour was so long, and we even got back late (tip-if you book through the cruise line, the ship will wait for you!). Trip to the rainforest was long, but our local guide was funny and informative about native religion, local politics and answered many questions. The trekking and tubing were amazing. The water was cold, but so refreshing after a long hike. COSTA MAYA: We took the Chachoban (sp?) Ruins tour. Being a history buff, I loved it. The ruins were beautiful and the pictures turned out awesome. We would have had time for snorkeling after the tour was over, but we just went shopping. We found better prices on everything in Cozumel, so you may want to save your money until then. COZUMEL: We mainly wanted to shop, so we just booked a snorkeling tour. This one did not impress us as much. We were snorkeling just off of a restaurant and there were fishing boats passing by. A snorkel-full of diesel exhaust does not a happy stomach make! Throw in some hot sun and mouthful of seawater and you need to get out and dry off! We hit some shops, our favorite being Los Cinco Soles. They had beautiful souvenirs and Talavera pottery. FELLOW PASSANGERS: I have just a few words to say about our fellow passengers. On the whole, everyone was very friendly and we had a great time, even made some new friends. But, there was one instance on the last formal night that really rubbed me the wrong way. While we were waiting in line for our portraits, there was a “lady” who was making fun of the “cowboys”. Yes, the ship sailed out Galveston, Texas and as a result carried lots of Texans; and a lot of the men were wearing their cowboy hats (my husband was one of them). But I would just like to explain one thing to this “lady”. If you saw someone of Middle-Eastern descent wearing a turban would you make fun of him? If you saw someone of the Jewish faith wearing his yarmulke would you call him “uncouth” (her actual word). For most southern men, they wear cowboy hats. It is neither a fashion statement nor an attention-getter. It is part of their natural make-up as is a woman and her purse. Never did I see a gentleman wear one to the dinner table, because southerners and most of mankind for that matter are raised with good manners. But I understand that this “lady” is the exception. This is not a “diss” to the rest of the nation, I was born in Minnesota and raised in Texas and if there was someone who wanted a red plaid hunters cap with earflaps to wear for his formal picture, so be it. You wouldn’t hear me calling him uncouth. I would probably be wearing the lady’s version while giving him a high-five.

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Nov 30, -0001

12 Days Mediterranean

Our 12 day Mediterranean cruise on the Grand Princess was an incredible vacation in every respect. It met every expectations and exceeded many. I won't go into much detail on the ship itself as others have written some excellent reviews regarding the ship on Cruisecritic.com. I'll concentrate mainly on what we did in the various ports and offer some random thoughts as well. Hopefully, won't be too long and you will be able to garner some

bits of information that you will find helpful. To those of you that haven't started your journey, you are in for a trip of a lifetime. How we wish we were just starting our journey instead of just having finished it. SHORE EXCURSIONS First of all if you want to learn something especially in Europe with so much history to be explained, you are most likely not to hear much when traveling in a group of around 50 or more persons. Then you have no freedom in the ports. PORTS Kusadasi/Ephesus, Turkey Located right on the Aegean, Kusadasi is a marvel of a seaside village the water was a limpid crystal color just like the Caribbean and the air smelled of history. We had a private tour from a local tour operator, recommended by a cruise reviewer. Right on the dock we met our guide, a very knowledgeable one, who studied in the U.S. He made the places we visited come alive. He met the ship on arrival in Kusadasi and we toured Ephesus with him. You can e-mail the tour company directly at ephesustours@yahoo.com Ephesus is beyond description. The library of Celsus is an impressive 2 story facade that has been carefully restored and is one of the most impressive sights in this town. We sat in the seats of the Great Theater that holds 25,000 people. Surprisingly, it is still in use today for concerts. You will walk on a street paved with marble that gives a hint of this city's great wealth years ago. Kusadasi has a bazaar which is the second largest in Turkey and it is situated right at the dock. Athens Athens was our least favorite port. We found the city to be very, very crowded, smoggy and really, in my view, not a particularly pretty city. However, the Acropolis is spectacular and something that everyone should see once in their lifetime. If you have a choice, go as early in the morning as possible. We were there around 10:30 a.m. and it was starting to fill up, and I do mean fill up! We took the tour that included the Acropolis, Corinth and the Corinth canal. It was Ok, but not something that I would highly recommend. By the time the cruise is over, you will have seen both Ephesus and Pompeii. The Roman ruins of Corinth are not nearly as developed and a bit of a let down. However, it does have a great biblical significance and for some that may be worth the trip. My wife on the other hand loved Corinth as to her it was the perfect continuation of what we had seen in Ephesus. She enjoyed it very much. So, as you can see, even in the same family there will be a difference of opinion. The Corinth Canal is alright but not worth the trip. If I (not my wife) had to do it over again, I would take a cab to the Acropolis in the morning and after seeing it back and enjoy the ship in the afternoon. You really don't have a great deal of time to spend on the ship as with only 2 days at sea the others are fairly intensive with touring the various ports. Venice Venice is Venice. It is everything and more than you expect. When the ship pulls in it is as if you are looking at a postcard. Venice is extremely easy to do on your own. The vaporetto's are easy to use although some can be very crowded. We bought a two day pass. I don't recall the cost but it was quite reasonable. Take the #4 vaporetto which completely goes around the Grand Canal and harbor with only 5 or 6 stops. Go to Murano Island. They talk about the glass factory and I almost didn't go because I thought it might be very commercial. We just ignored the pitch to go see the glass factory and headed out on our own. It is beautiful with many quaint colored houses along a small canal. Lovely to walk along. A photographer's paradise. You can take a vaporetto there as well. Quite simple. Mainly we just walked around the small streets in Venice. A hint: leave St. Marks Basilica for the 2nd day. When we arrived, it seemed like the everyone from the ship was waiting in line to get in. Instead, make it your first stop on the second day. It opens at 9:30 a.m. We got there around 9:00 a.m. and while there was a line we got in by 9:45 a.m. Naples In Naples, we took the Princess tour that included Sorento, Capri and Pompeii. It was grand. We loved Sorento and Capri. They are such lovely and picturesque places. Pompeii was unbelievable. It was much bigger than I had anticipated. I am so glad we got to Pompeii. It was more than I expected. While this tour was a bit expensive, I think it was worth it. There is no way we could have seen everything we saw on our own and these are all places I wanted to see. Florence We felt very rushed in Florence. We made the mistake of taking the "Florence on your own" tour. This is the tour in which they take you by bus into Florence, drop you off and then meet you at an assigned spot for the return bus ride. In spite of the fact we docked at 7:00 a.m. the "tour" didn't leave until 9:30 a.m. and by the time we arrived in Florence it was 10:30 a.m. We wasted over 2 hours while many of the other longer tours left shortly after docking. I guess Princess was just taking care of the higher priced tours first. We simply were not given enough time to do the city justice. We didn't make it to any of the spectacular museums because we just didn't have the time to wait in line for entrance. If we had waited in line to see Michelangelo's David in the Accademia, we would have missed other sights. If I had to do it over again, I would take the train as was highly recommended to me by others before we left. Unfortunately, I opted not to do this, because of my concern of missing the boat, so to speak. However, it is incredibly easy and many, many others took that option. I wish I had as well. But, in spite of this, Florence is also a wonderful, picturesque city. Everything is very close together and easy to see (providing you have time). Get a good map. We got a National Geographic map at Borders Books which was perfect for our needs. Incidentally, we also got the National Geographic map for Venice and Barcelona and found them to be very helpful. This is where we said goodbye to Italy. What a beautiful country. Florence and Naples are destinations in their own right and deserving of much more time than a day on a cruise. We will be back. Monte Carlo In Monte Carlo we walked to the train station on our own and took a train to Nice. There is a small little tram that looks like a small train that tours Nice. It is called Trains Touristiques de Nice and costs 35 francs per person. We found a brochure at the train station and followed the map to find it. It took us through some lovely parts of town. This small tram took us thoughout the old city of Nice and eventually up a hill which gave us the most incredible view of all of Nice. The tram then took us back to the originating point where we walked back to the train station to catch our train back to Monaco. Along the way we stopped and had a great lunch at an outdoor cafe. Got back on the train and headed back to Monaco. In the afternoon, we took a tour to the village of Eze. It is a quaint little village on a mountain top. It is pretty commercial and has mainly shops and a couple of restaurants in it. It is quite pretty, but I think I would pass on it and explore Monaco instead if I had to make a recommendation. Barcelona You will love Barcelona! We spend 3 days there after the cruise. What a unique and exciting city. They have a tourist bus that has two routes. You can get a one day or two day pass and these buses cover all the sights. You will see the buses everywhere. The top level of the buses do not have a roof, so when you get a top seat you will have a great view of the many sights. Additionally, you can get on and off at any sight as often as you like. One of the highlights was sitting at one of the many outdoor cafes and sipping a sangria and snacking on Catalan bread which is a bread coated with olive oil and tomato...ummmm, delicious!! This is a great way to people watch. Walk Las Ramblas. It is crazy with people, street artists and vendors. We walked it once and then came back a couple of more times to soak up the atmosphere. Through our hotel we hired a car with driver who took us to Montserrat. It is the sight of a Monastery and home to the world famous Montserrat Boy's Choir. They perform daily at 11:00 a.m. but unfortunately we were there during their summer vacation and we missed their performance. We took the funicular to the top of the mountain where there are several trail. We were short of time so we missed taking a short hike along the top. It would have been spectacular. Montserrat is not to be missed and can be done in as little as 3-4 hours from Barcelona. While there don't forget to take in the small museum. They have an impressive collection of antiquities and paintings by Casa, Pissarro, Picasso, Monet and others. Some other random thoughts.... The evenings were the best. Everywhere we went, we found that the people come out at night. They fill the restaurants (indoor and outdoor), the plazas, and the parks. It is a social time. Don't be in such a rush to see everything that you miss the opportunity to sit at a sidewalk cafe sipping a glass of wine or a cappuccino and watching the world go by. This may well be the highlight of your day. Don't be afraid to get out on your own. There was no place that we could not communicate in English. Some struggled, but as long as you are kind the people there will go out of their way to help you. I am sure that the guy I heard refer to the local currency as "funny money" didn't get nearly as much assistance from the local people as others did. (Come to think of it, he probably didn't get as much out of the trip either....what an idiot!) The cruise documents we received said there would be 3 formal night, 3 semi-formal and the rest smart casual. Forget the semi-formal. They are 3 formal and the rest smart casual. Before we left, I heard this might be the case. I called Princess myself and was also told there would be 3 semi-formal. Well, there were no semi-formal nights. Just thought you might like to know as it might save some packing space. When they say this cruise is very "port intensive" they are not kidding. You are on the go the entire time except for the two days at sea. Expect to be tired and expect to wait until you return home to rest. There is no time to rest on this trip! As far as we are concerned, personal choice dining is the only way to go. It is so convenient to be able to walk into the dining room at any time and be seated. We generally ate between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and never had to wait once. This is particularly important on this cruise as you will be touring all day, get back to ship and there is no need to hurry up, shower and change in order to make a certain sitting time. We liked this so much that we canceled our Eastern Caribbean on another line that does not have personal choice dining and re-booked on Princess. Traditional is fine for some, but not for us. Personally, I did not notice any less service from the various waiters than if we had the same waiter each time. If you are traveling with teens, they are in for a treat. The Teen Center on the Grand Princess is great. Our daughter has a marvelous time and made several new friends that she has been e-mailing with since we got home. They have tons of activities. If it had been up to her, I think she would have just as soon moved in up there. We only used the Internet on the ship on one occasion. The cost is $7.50 for 15 minutes. (Try to tell a teenager they only have 15 minutes to read and send e-mail to her friends!) However, we found Internet café's everywhere along the way so we could send e-mails home and check our e-mail as well. Our family were pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail from the various ports. In Kusadasi there is one a few steps away from the where you board the ship. We used them in Venice also and saw them in other ports as well. The cost ranged around $2.00 - $4.00 for 30 minutes. Considerably less than on Princess. If you plan on visiting some of the Cathedrals make sure your knees and shoulders are covered. We saw one lady from the cruise refused admission to St Marks Basilica in Venice because she was wearing shorts. I believe they are far more strict about this in Italy. Although, out of respect, we always tried to dress appropriately when visiting any Church. Most Churches do not permit photography or video. CONCLUSION! This cruise was definitely a dream. We enjoyed every single day especially in our cruising adventure! Whatever you do, and whatever it is you’re looking for, you’re sure to have a brilliant, audacious, tranquil, and unbelievable HOLIDAY!!!!!

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We parked in the EZ Cruise parking lot, nearby to the dock area and were transported with our baggage to an area of the dock where official porters were available to take our luggage to be screened and to show up in our rooms later that afternoon. Then on to embarkation which was fairly orderly and not prolonged. We arrived around 11:30AM. After standing in line about 15 minutes we met with a very efficient processor and were rapidly on

the way aboard the vessel and to our cabin. Our bags did show up, one of the last sets to find their way to Caribe deck. The cast-off festivities were not appreciated as well as they could have been because the weather--on December 23--had turned cold and wet. We ate a light meal and the evening meal at the 24 hour Horizon Court buffet on Lido deck. Other than a few breakfasts during the week, this was our last meal encounter with this poorly run phenomenon. Although the food was good, poorly trained wait staff, inadequate seating, oddly inaccessible beverage service and other such amenities made this our last choice for mealtime. One thing about Galveston that you should bear in mind is its distance from the Yucatan and Caribbean. You will spend one whole day and a half just getting to the Yucatan and the same amount of time getting back. Although I will admit the weather was not the best, the pitching, rolling, and yawing experienced the first night was far more than warranted by the weather. The instability of this massive ship was our chief complaint for the entire voyage--even when on calm waters. If you are the least bit plagued by motion problems, I don't suggest you choose the Grand Princess!! The rest of our meals and sometimes an afternoon tea were taken in either the DaVinci or Michelangelo dining rooms. The wait staff was impressive, in sharp contrast to the Horizon Court. The selections were excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed our meals there. Breakfasts are fairly basic and not up to the noon and evening meals. Late in the cruise we selected one of the specialty restaurants only to discover that the food and service in the DaVinci and Michelangelo dining rooms was its equal or better. We suggest you save your money as there is an added charge per person to eat in the specialty restaurants. The wine selections, price and service was quite good. So were the bars. On our first day in port, which was Cozumel, we were greeted by overcrowded and confusing conditions when queueing for our shore excursions. Other cruise lines had representatives ashore to help, Princess had none. Even with an overcast sky, we had a pleasurable excursion to Passion Island. Transportation and re-boarding were efficient. On the return trip, the bus will let you off in a place which requires you to walk through shopping areas. If it had not been raining--on Christmas day--this would not have been too bad. The second stop, Roatan, the loading and travel to Coral Cay beach resort went well, but when we got to the location, we were just let out--no directions, no instructions for pick-up time or how the beverage service worked. The resort and its manicured grounds, however was lovely and well equipped with beach chairs, pavilions and all in all was very pleasant. Do take your own insect repellent as the sand fleas and other little critters will pester you badly without it. On return to the ship we did not shop--we went to the cabin to clean up. Other family members and people we talked with did, however, shop in the nearby areas and had very favorable experiences to report. Next came Belize City and Geoff's Cay. Wow!! This was what we had hoped the entire trip would have been like, but of course there is no controlling the weather. The snorkeling, whether walk-in or off-the-boat was superb. The water was like crystal and the excursion staff well-trained and helpful. Soft drinks and snacks were reasonably priced but the chicken, which smelled unbelievably good, was very expensive. This is not a big complaint considering the perfect day had by all. Just remember that if you get out of the water, sit around on benches and towels that you may need to re-apply sunscreen because you rub it off. Shopping in Belize City was first class and the shopping area and clerks a joy to deal with. Costa Maya was last and the weather again was beautiful. We chose to go to Chachoban and had a pleasurable trip to and from the ruins. The expertise of guides appears to be quite uneven but it was well worth it. Shopping in Costa Maya leaves a lot to be desired, much like a Texas border town at its worst. The pool area, however was very nice. Upon departure the water was gorgeous; crystal clear phasing to turquoise to blue. If the shopping can be brought up to a high quality this will be a first-class stop. Then again came the day and a half trip back to Galveston and the stability of the ship, which was never good, again became an issue. The only time we could walk straight down the corridors was when docked. We also had issues with the laundry rooms--nicely equipped with good machines but change machines which never worked, no matter which day or deck. On our other cruises we have been impressed with the constant work, repair and maintenance we have seen. While in port on other cruises, the painters and craftsmen were at work before you could begin your excursions. None of that was apparent on this cruise and it is beginning to show in the appearance of this magnificent vessel. It was rare to walk down a corridor without smelling sewage somewhere along the way--and I do mean sewage, not the smell from a bathroom. Carpets in some areas had a heavy mildew smell. This is in stark contrast to the assets of the ship which include a great crew and well-versed shopkeepers. Another oddity--when a family member discovered a problem with their life-vest during the drill, the vest was taken and not returned till past the half-way point of the cruise! Debarkation was uneventful as we chose the express procedure in which we walked off with our own baggage. Do not believe the stated times for embarkation or, for that matter, debarkation. Go with the flow and you will be just fine. We intend to go on many cruises in the future. I do not think that the Princess line will be high on our list of repeat cruise lines.    

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Nov 30, -0001

UNKNOWN

Hello...I am wanting to remain anonymous, for a few reasons....for most of you have traveled on the Grand in the last few months, will know who I am. I have worked for Princess for 3 years and love it. I was told about this website a few months ago, and thought I would take a look...what a great idea, but I have to say...some people will complain about the silliest things. I have to point out to someone's review....unfortunately, you ended

up waiting in the express line up, and the check-in girls had passengers who didn't have it all together....this isn't Princess' fault...why complain to us about it?!?!? Unfortunately, the weather is not in our hands...sometime we miss ports, and sometimes, we dock in another area...we do this for YOUR safety...why should Princess reimburse that?? Do you not read the fine print? That is very insulting. I would also like to say that the Grand has been a pleasure to work on, and am very lucky to work with such a great crew....the crew is always friendly...ever think to how you are to us? There are some really nice passengers on board, but there are countless of times I have walked by passengers and said hello, and have been ignored...or looked at strangely...these are the same people who come to me later, and tell me to my face that no one says hello to them, or say we're rude....let me tell you...we are never rude first! We always appreciate comments...but please take a minute to think about the complaint you are about to make...is it legitimate? Am I over-reacting? Because even when we're in the right...we're always wrong....and it doesn't look good for us. Keep in mind that we the crew not only work on the ship, we live here too...we are always on...and working with people is NOT easy, but we all enjoy it.Thank you to all of our passengers for kind words we do receive....sometimes, we hate to see you all go....especially since we've been so buys to train you all week! Best of luck to all future cruisers...cruising is a lot of fun, and most of all...if one thing goes wrong....don't let that ruin your vacations....we are human, and we will try to do the best to make it easier for you....if you let one thing disappoint you, then no, you will not enjoy the rest of your time!

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

This was my second cruise on the Grand Princess. I had no complaints at all about the service or itinerary! Crew members were very friendly and professional at all times. Our stop in Grand Cayman was cancelled due to a generator problem, so instead we spent all day at Playa del Carman - a delightful place to spend a day in. Princess also offered all passengers a $75 per person credit for the inconvenience!!!!! I would say that Princess

went above and beyond what they were required to do. The only complaint I had was that someone apparently was sick in the hallway on our deck, and despite attempts to clean the carpet, the smell lingered and it was horrible to walk to stairways or elevators in that direction. So we just went the other way. I don't know how the passengers who had cabins in that area handled it - I would have been demanding another cabin - pronto! Anyway, I have been on the Grand Princess twice - both times on the Western Caribbean trip. Loved it both times - even made friends with a tour guide in Belize that I saw both times! If anyone is looking for a nice, relaxing cruise to the western Caribbean, plenty of room at the entertainment venues, friendly and helpful staff, no hoity-toity attitudes, but then again no wild & crazy party atmosphere, this cruise is for you! Happy cruising!  

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We were on the Grand Princess 12/9/06-12/16/06 for a Western Caribbean cruise. This was our 4th Princess cruise, all on different ships. We are also booked for Panama in April 07 and the Baltic in Sept, 07. Overall, the cruise was excellent and we only have minimal complaints. I have to echo what others have said about the bed. It was a bit hard for our taste, but then, we sleep on a pretty comfortable luxury mattress at home. Haven't

found anything comparable anywhere, hotel or cruise. Until I started reading this thread I wasn't aware of mattress pads being available. I'll be sure to ask for it next time. Regardless, the bed was a minor inconvenience. I also didn’t care for the pillows. They were pretty flat with little “body” to them. Fortunately, my wife brought a feather pillow with her from home. I have found out since that feather pillows are available by just asking your cabin steward. We will try that next time. We felt the food was excellent with the exception of one night where the selections were not to our liking, but the key word here is our liking. Fortunately, there were the usual standbys available each evening so this was not really a problem for us. In all candor, we did speak with a couple of others who felt the food in general wasn't that great. No one said it was awful. I guess it is just depends on what your expectations are. We were pleased overall. I would rate the food an A-. We did not get to know our room steward very well and he forgot to replace a bathrobe that I had spilled coffee on. Had to ask for it twice. Was that a problem? No. What mattered was that with the exception of not changing our pool towel one evening and forgetting the bath robe, he was quite efficient. He was rarely noticed and he kept our cabin in tip top shape. Would we have liked knowing him better like we have known others on other ship? I don't know. This wasn't at all bad. I would rate the cabin service an A-. The stage shows were excellent. They had two different stage shows in the Princess Theater which, when you think about is is pretty darn good considering the logistics they have to work with in a relatively small space. The Motor City Tribute show they held in the smaller venue, Vista Lounge was outstanding. So that meant we had 3 different stage shows. The comedians on board, were good and bad. One bad...really bad (!) and one was very good. We've been to comedy clubs before and seen both good and bad there as well. I would rate these shows an A- only because of the bad comedian. Otherwise it would be an A+. The music provided by the band "Oasis" in the Wheelhouse Lounge was absolutely outstanding. Very dance-able and fun to listen to. The band that seem to always be on deck by the pool (I don’t recall their name) was fun to listen to while sipping a drink next to the pool. We only went into the Wheelhouse Lounge once and found the music there good, not great but fun to listen to anyway. The Princess Orchestra was outstanding. The piano player (Collin?) in the lounge in the atrium was outstanding and it was nearly impossible to find a seat there due to his popularity. The music on the Grand was by far the best we have ever experienced in a total of 9 cruises on 3 different companies. A+++ The ports were just so, so. But we understand that what some like others like and that was confirmed to us by others that we spoke with. We thought Costa Maya was a joke. It is nothing more than a souvenir stop. But some we spoke with enjoyed it as they went to the Mayan ruins, so I guess it is a matter of opinion. If we take this cruise again, and in all likelihood we will since Galveston is a convenient port for us, we will simply stay on board in Costa Maya. Likewise, we didn't enjoy Roatan. The tour around the island was pretty much a non-event for us. But others we spoke to said the snorkeling was some of the best they had ever tried. Again, a matter of opinion. Belize was wonderful, particularly the Altun Ha Mayan ruins and river cruise tour. We saw Howler Monkeys, crocodiles, tons of iguanas in the trees...well, maybe 8 or 9 and all kind of incredible birds. We had been to Cozumel before so our expectations were not great. We just got off the ship and walked around. There were 7 ships in port when we were there. The place was packed. Ports are not of the greatest importance for us. If my wife had her way, she would go on a cruise that consisted of all sea days. I would rate the ports a B-. The ship was in very good condition on the inside. Outside our baloney we could see quite a bit of rust along the rail at our feet. Rust was pretty visible in quite a few areas outside the ship. But we chose to look at the incredible blue water and the flying fish that we frequently saw. We just never seemed to concentrate much on anything else when we were outside. I would rate the ship condition an B+ on the outside and an A on the inside. The ship's personnel from the waiters to the bartenders to the staff in the buffet were exceptional. We are planning an excursion to Poland after the September, 07 Baltic cruise so my wife spoke to each staff member that she found that was from Poland. To a person they were extremely helpful, courteous and loved to talk about their country. What a fun time we had talking with people from other countries, not only the ones from Poland. If there is one thing we learned from this exercises was that in the future, we will take time to say more than just a hello and thank you to these folks. They love to chat with you and given the confines of their job will happily give you as much time as they can.. They are a pretty interesting and professional group. We were impressed, but that has been pretty much the norm on other Princess cruises we have taken. My advice is that on your future cruise, please take the time to get to know these people a bit more. Give them a smile and you will get two back and you will be richly rewarded. I would rate the ship's personnel an A+++ I don't think we have ever been on a cruise where everything went absolutely perfect. On this particular cruise there was a little bad and a whole lot good. The bad was minimal for us and we tried our best to keep it that way. Over the course of the week we spoke to several folks that had preferences for other cruise lines. Some were less enthralled with the cruise, while others loved it. Maybe we just chose to ignore some things and concentrate on the positives. Life isn't perfect and neither was this cruise but the overall experience of cruising is priceless for us. Would we recommend Princess to others? Well, the fact that we have talked my wife's brother and sister and respective spouses plus another couple to join us on our next two cruises should answer that question.    

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

We went to Ft. Lauderdale early and spent two nights at the Marriott Marina, a great hotel with even better scenery at the marina. We left the hotel by taxi at 11:15 AM on Sunday for the short ride to Port Everglades.  Our baggage was checked promptly and we had a short wait until boarding started at 11:45 AM.  We were sitting poolside on the ship only 45 minutes after leaving the hotel!! This was

our 4th Princess Cruise and first on the Grand, and Grand she is! Commodore Mike Moulin, Master of the Grand Princess made his way through the pool area every day, where he never failed to say hi with a big smile. He and his crew did a fantastic job of keeping us away from the rain showers while we were at sea. Our cabin was on Emerald Deck forward (E105), the only negative of the trip.  The walk from our cabin to dinner in the Botticelli Dining Room was a good 800 foot walk. Our Cabin Steward, Ricardo knew our names from day one and never failed to smile and say hello.  He did a sensational job at keeping our cabin clean. The food was excellent, as was our Waiter Hugo and Asst. Waiter Eduardo, who are brothers from Mexico City.  They learned our eating & drinking habits quickly and responded accordingly.  Our Head Waiter Marco was very attentive to our needs.  Maitre'd Beniamino upon seeing us the first night immediately recognized us from our Sea Princess cruise a year earlier and stopped by every evening to make sure we were having a great time, which we were. We decided to eat one evening in Sabatini's Trattoria, and the only comment we have is DON'T EAT LUNCH the day you have dinner at Sabitinis !!!   The food was spectacular and overwhelming.  The Antipasti consisted of eight different items, then came pizza, soup, salad, pasta and the main course, which we could not decide on, so they brought us some of each!!  The lobster was sensational. Although we didn't eat dinner in the Painted Desert Southwestern Restaurant, we did have the delicious home-made Guacamole and the Margarita Grande's made with 1600 Tequila.  Ask bartender Tony, who is from the Philippines for one of his special Margarita's.  They are the best!! The pool areas were well maintained and the service was excellent.  The Caribbean Band, Status, was very good and the drummer Nigel, quickly became our friend. Both of us really enjoy the beach, so our first stop in St. Thomas found us on beautiful, Megans Bay beach.  Although is did sustain some hurricane damage, it is still beautiful. On St. Maartin, we visited the "French Riviera of the Caribbean", Orient Beach.  Orient Beach was, as usual, beautiful.  Keep in mind this is a clothing optional beach, although I wish some of its occupants had decided to wear bathing suits!! Princess Cays is a wonderful destination, with plentiful beach chairs, shade if required and the wonderful Princess BBQ with more than enough great BBQ items. Disembarking was quick, orderly and simple. We had a great time and expect to be back on Princess very soon.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Princess "Where I belong....." Well, we do. We love the product, and wish everyone else did. Sabatini’s once for dinner was a culinary highlight. The main dining room, outstanding. Pizza - best ever at sea, bar none. Hamburger junkies? order them DOUBLE - you'll get about a pound of choice sirloin! "I want to go back........... We do, and are - 10 day Panama Canal on the brand new Coral Princess in February 03. Same length

as the Grand, same 17 decks, 10 feet narrower, AND ONLY 1976 PASSENGERS!!! Now, that’s spacious. If you are not a member of the Captains Circle, join. We enjoy the perks, and the advance notice it gives us, and by booking our next cruise on board the one we just took, our trusted travel agent gets the booking, and Princess gives $200.00 ship board credit, plus any future benefits that come up before our cruise day. So, its May 2, its snowing here, we missed Vermont’s 5.1 and 5.5 earthquake, but, we are happy knowing we are going back to our favorite line, and who knows, some of you may have been on with us, and we may see some of you in the future. Oh, this is the only cruise review site we like and trust for pure passenger review, good or bad. Happy cruising.........

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We decided on late seating instead of anytime dining. We like the other too but just chose this for this cruise. Waiters were wonderful and once again went out of their way for us. We had a table for 4. Other couple had never been on a cruise and we told them they were spoiled. Did seem to have as large of a selection as Holland or Norwegian but always found something we liked. We also tried the other two restaurants with cover charges.

The Mexican restaurant there is an $8.00 charge but this includes a margarita, beer or wine. Hard to beat that! The food was delicious here too and service superb. The Italian restaurant was quite the place. It is a 17 course meal with $15 cover charge....worth every penny. Plan on spending at least 2 hrs of spoiling and waiting on you hand and foot! Food was fabulous and had a great time. I wasn't feeling well a few nights so didn't take advantage of many shows but did go to a couple and they were quite entertaining. I did have someone tell me that one show they tried to get in to people just sat down at 5:00p.m. and never got up until 1:00a.m. show after show so seat were hard to come by. I would say they might want to clear the places out after each show to avoid this happening. We scuba dive so we booked our own excursions but I heard people say they loved stingray city in the Caymans. There is not much to do in Costa Maya and the bus rides they said were long. We stayed on the boat that day. Cozumel has great shopping and diving which we enjoyed. I heard positive comments on the snorkeling trips. The captain of the Grand Princess is a hoot. He loves to talk and tells you lots about the voyage, weather, ports and anything else. Really enjoyed his narratives! I think his name is Cap. Christy. He made the trip special for his comments. The Head Chief loves his job. The special production he had on cooking and recipes was much fun. My husband even enjoyed his humor. The art director and his wife were a lot of fun and very energetic. Enjoyed out time at the art auctions and bought some great stuff. Last but not least.....boarding...the quickest ever!!! Disembarking, the quickest ever!! They make you want to come back. Hope you enjoyed this and feel free to email me with any questions.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Our first cruise was a very pleasant experience and we will definitely sail with the crew of the Grand Princess again. We booked our own flights from Raleigh-Durham NC to Fort Lauderdale, arriving on Sat. the 23rd of Feb. We stayed at the Airport Ramada Inn and we would like to warn others not to stay there. The shower was dirty and the faucets didn't work properly. In addition, the noise lasted all night long with nothing being done about it.

Embarkation was a breeze, it was less than 10 minutes after arriving at the pier and we were aboard ship. Our stateroom was A701, the Aloha deck. We had an outside stateroom with a small deck with an unobstructed view. Our steward was Jose and he did a great job of keeping the room picked up and the sheets clean and turned down. The only problem with the stateroom was the shower drain started to drain very slow towards the end of the cruise. We did report it to Jose and hopefully it was taken care of prior to the next occupants. My wife has a tendency to get seasick but did not get sick on this cruise as the Grand Princess is so large motion is limited. The ship is kept very clean and there is minimal sign of carpet wear in some areas. The 24 hour buffet is fabulous, with a staff that keeps it spotless and the food is very good. We chose dining option "Personal Choice" and were pleased with it. The food was Excellent and the waiters were very attentive and professional. Do get a standing dinner reservation however and try to book it with the same waiter. Outside of one reservation which was "lost" our reservation was on time every night. I do think that next time we cruise we will choose "traditional dining". Getting served by the same crew every night should lend itself to a more enjoyable dining experience. The pools were very nice but we spent most of our time around the "adults only" pool on the fantail as we do not appreciate the yuppies and their wonderful children who can do no wrong and are allowed to run wild on other parts of the ship. Some parents just didn't pay any attention to their children. This was not a large problem if you manage to enjoy areas away from where the little darlings are. We did not book any shore excursions with the ship and really only shopped a little in each port. Cozumel is a Zoo when there is more than one ship in port. Next time I think we will stay on the ship in port as we found the ship nice and quiet when we came back early. My wife did attend some of the shows and found them entertaining. We did go on the cruise with friends, which was nice, as I like to spend some time in the casino while my wife is taking in the entertainment. By the way, the blackjack tables were very good to me that week. There is a dealer named Carole from England who is a lot of fun and can even make losing fun....if that's possible. She was a lot of laughs. We did book a tour of the everglades on an airboat upon debarkation as our flight home wasn't until 8:00 PM. The tour people could take a lesson in organization from the staff of the Grand Princess. Debarkation was a breeze. the crew of the Grand Princess has really gotten it down to a science. Even when you have to wait it's in comfort, not in a slow moving line. Kathleen and I will definitely sail the Grand Princess again, she is quite a lady. The only real downer during the whole week was the Fort Lauderdale airport. The line at American Airlines took forever to get through as they didn't have enough staff and if you arrive 2 hours early like you are supposed to, the people who arrive late for their flights are placed at the front of the line effectively punishing those who arrive early. I would highly recommend the Grand Princess for people looking for a relaxing cruise. We did not find this ship to be a "party" boat full of young all night party goers. Great food, great staff, great amenities, great weather and great company equals one great time on Grand Princess. Many thanks to the Captain and his very attentive crew, they certainly made our first cruise one of many.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean - Princess Cays, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel

First-Time Cruiser – can’t wait to do it again! My husband and I took our first cruise on the Grand Princess on April 21st with another couple who also were cruising for the first time. After looking at Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Princess as our cruise choices we settled on Princess based on price, itinerary, and accommodations. We arrived at Port Everglades on Sunday afternoon at about 2:30PM and were on the ship and in

our room by 3:00PM. Embarkation was extremely fast and smooth. We stayed on the Aloha deck cabin A1429 and had a balcony. The room was decent sized with a closet with lots of shelves and a safe and another closet where we were able to hang all of our clothes. We also had some drawer space available. Our steward, Grace, was very friendly and efficient. The only downfall was the size of the bathroom. I chose to do my hair and makeup in front of the mirror on the desk. Other than that, I found our accommodations to be satisfactory. Once boarded and settled, we started to wander around the ship and had pizza and burgers by the pool. The waiters were friendly, the pizza and burgers were exceptionally good, the music was nice and it wasn’t as crowded as I had originally expected. When we went back to the room our after muster, our luggage was there waiting for us. We then went to dinner at the Horizon Court buffet. The choices were good and the food was fresh and tasty. We were on the personal choice plan for meals and it had its good points and bad points. It was good because we didn’t have to ever rush to make sure we made our dinner seating however, we didn’t develop any relationships with the waiters and we didn’t get a chance to mingle with other cruisers as much. Also, I didn’t find the dining room food to be as good as I thought it would be. It was good but nothing struck me as fantastic or fabulous, except for maybe the desserts. However, I really did enjoy the Mexican restaurant. The food was fantastic and the margaritas were out of this world. Sabatini’s was just OK for me. Being 100% Italian, I found that some of the items just weren’t as good as I expected. However, it was a nice experience. As far as other amenities go, the pools were nice but the main pool was the only one that had music at it and it was always very crowded. The other pools weren’t as crowded but they were also less “fun”. It wasn’t very hard to get a chair near the pools and I never felt very crowded except for the last Saturday at sea. Then it was packed. I really liked the disco and we also liked the British pub night but since my husband and I really like Casinos we spent a lot of time there. I found that the Casino didn’t pay out very well but we mostly broke even. We didn’t lose lots of money. They could stand to add another craps table though since the one that was available got really crowded. On to the excursions: Princess Cays – I had read countless reviews and everyone said that when you get off the tender go right. Well right is Right! It was significantly less crowded, there was a big bar right there and since we were on the opposite side of the BBQ buffet we didn’t have to worry about smelling the food all day. The buffet was OK. We decided to spend this day in a very low key way so basically sunbathed all day and at the end of the day the four of us decided to try the banana boat ride. BIG MISTAKE! I felt like I was on a mechanical bull going full speed. It looked like such a calm ride from afar but we were bounced so hard. Of course my husband and my friend’s husband absolutely LOVED it. I, on the other hand, was so sore the next day. I thought the layout of Princess Cays was very nice and thought they offered a lot of good activities. Grand Cayman – This was our absolute favorite stop. We decided to use Captain Marvin’s (www.captainmarvins.com) for our stingray and snorkel excursion and it was great. They were so nice and professional and since the tour was so much smaller than the ones organized by the cruise lines we had a much better time. We didn’t feel like we were being herded like cattle. They took us to two reefs and then to the stingrays. At one of the reefs, Eric, our tour guide coaxed out a 6 foot long moray eel and we got to hold it and take pictures of it. Once the tour was over we had enough time to relax and grab lunch at a little pub and do a little shopping. Costa Maya – We only got off the ship for about an hour. I didn’t like this port at all. In fact, even the cruise staff jokes about Costa Maya. There wasn’t much to do here. Maybe when it’s built up some more it would be better. You could take some excursions from here but since I had a bum knee we thought we could use this day as one of our relax and do nothing days. Also we got to enjoy the ship because so many people had gotten off. Cozumel – We did the 4 wheel drive jeep adventure and that was my husband’s favorite part of the entire cruise. It was a little pricey but it was really a lot of fun. I had a little bit of a bad experience only because my seat belt wasn’t working correctly so it kept tightening to the point that I thought I would be crushed. Other than that, the scenery is amazing, the beach we went to was very nice and we had the most delicious lunch. However if you don’t like being bounced around this is not the excursion for you. And the Princess staff doesn’t warn you of this. In fact, that kind of bugs me because there was a 6 month pregnant woman on this excursion and once we got off road she and her husband had to detour straight to the beach stop. That was a ridiculous waste of money for them. Once we came back from the jeep excursion, my husband and I headed to the Cozumel Beach Club for the beach break. That was the biggest was of $75 dollars of our entire cruise ($25 ea for the passes and then we had to pay a cab to get there). Supposedly we had use of their entire facilities except food. The drinks were terrible, I couldn’t even get a soda because the fountain was covered with bees, and they didn’t really have any “special” facilities. There was a pool and then the beach. Waste of time and money. We ended up staying ½ hour and then coming back. Since we’re not really shoppers we just walked around and hit Carlos and Charlies. Our friends went there separate ways. My friend shopped and walked around and said she felt extremely safe walking around shopping on her own and her husband went on a scuba excursion that he absolutely loved. All in all, the cruise was very good. We had a great time. I hope this review was helpful. I would recommend Princess for anyone who wants a relaxing vacation with good food and lots of activities. However, my husband and I are going to test out another cruise line for the next time just so that we have something to compare to.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Well I must say the cruise was relaxing. I would rate my overall experience on the Grand Princess to be 6/10. My wife and I have cruised 3 different lines and this experience had more ups and downs than any other cruise we have taken. We did a lot of research about the Grand Princess including reviewing this website extensively. *** The UPside *** The grand is a beautiful ship. The decor, pools, spa and

entertainment areas were outstanding. Personal Choice Cruising is cool. I will say for us we found eating to be a breeze but everything else became a little difficult for us because of Personal Cruising. We would still do it again but the Cruise line will have to do a few things different to make it more accommodating with everything else. See my Downside comments. The food was great but only exceptional on a few nights. See downsides about eating on the ship below. The 24hour buffet was the best of any ship or resort we had been to. The stateroom met all of our needs. It was nice but they really need to get rid of that little annoying round table in the room. Where your knee pads. Stateroom Service was excellent. Best Port of Call was Cozumel. We ditched all cruise sponsored payable and went to Chankanaab Park - 10 minutes from the pier. $10 per person to enter and you have everything for an entire day for any age. It rivals some of the resorts where we have stayed. Biggest surprise was they waited on our every need. I didn't get up to get anything while laying under my free personal canopy. We snorkeled and would have rented scuba equipment if we didn't feel compelled to eat at one of the two decent full service restaurants. All of which is with 1 minute walk of everything. Absolutely a reason to just go to Cozumel. Spending the day their made our trip. *** The DOWNside *** Qualifier: We are critical only because we can't help comparing our experiences. Hopefully these comments will help someone plan their cruise a little better and make wise decisions that meet their needs. Everything you will read from here on was carefully submitted on 3 feedback surveys to Princess: 1. Personal Choice was great for us. We ate whenever we wanted in the dining rooms. However, we never could manage to find anything to do that hadn't already started or was scheduled to repeat at like 12:15 am. So basically we felt as we personally chose to miss almost all of the entertainment because the schedule never had any fun activities lasting for more than an hour (LIKE KAREOKE :(). Gratuity, Gratuity, Gratuity - We never really had much control over anything. We did opt to reduce the auto gratuity at the end (read next comment). Not my idea of all inclusive. And if you enjoy ice cream - enjoy paying for it on this cruise ship!! The most absurd thing I have ever heard of. Soda Sticker Shock - Well the shock wasn't the price (for $20 you can get all the sodas you can stand for the entire cruise) - the shock will occur if you can get anyone to bring one to you within 20-30 minutes from anywhere on the ship. My advice is to buy the sticker and get your own drinks. This fact and the ice cream fees became the early joke among dinner conversations each night among just about everybody we sat with. Biggest Negative - The ship's daily event schedule revolves around traditional seating. Twice as many passengers do personal choice. PROBLEM - The events are for first the family crowd (times as well for early bed times for the kiddies) and for the late night adults who want comedy at 11:30pm or 12:15am entertainment. The ship not once had cool stuff that met our 30 something or our 40 something friend's needs for any duration at all. However, we did go and hang out in the disco ‘til 2 am twice because we wanted to dance a bit. Did I mention they only had Karaoke for 1 hour on 2 nights. That was the way it was for just about everything we would have enjoyed. I must say after all it is a LOVE BOAT and my wife and I did get to spend some much needed time together quietly trying to figure something out to do. We met a lot of great people who were also wandering around trying to find something to do because they were caught in that personal choice time warp thing. We made a lot of great friends and had a great time with a number of couples. Finally - I would consider going on Princess again if the ice cream were free, they had long 4 hour karaoke sessions so we could sing too, Princess let me control whether I wanted to reward someone for providing good service, I could order a cost effective soda and actually get it that same day, etc... you get the point. It was nice we learned we needed to be more informed about what happens on the ship, not just what to do when you get to the ports. Speaking of PORTs One reason not to book Princess Western Caribbean "Costa Maya". Although we had to skip this port due to sea conditions. I went top side to sulk and see what we were going to miss and asked one of the ship employees where was the rest of Costa Maya. He just laughed. I suggest if you do Western Caribbean do Ocho Rios - Forget these cruise ship only money gouging ports. I am sure though that if someone was really hyped to spend $130pp to do an all day tour in the Yucatan looking for stone temples they could. But of course that is only possible if the cruise ship would bother not to cancel and reschedule new tours constantly. I just can't seem to get it all out of me. Let me make one more comment. I felt like Princess in their own subtle way tried to find and capitalize on every dime I was will to spend. I did everything I could to keep my money so I could spend 2 hours in Cozumel trying to power shop since that was the only port that had anything beside cheap tourist crap to sell. The Cayman Islands doesn't count because the CI is worth more the our US dollar. No deals there - I promise!!!

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Check your bill often at the Purser’s Desk. Do Not, I repeat, Do Not wait until the last day for a surprise. One poor man’s bill was $3,000 with no explanation from teenagers…Also, internet charges are high! Four in a cabin (ocean-view, no balcony) is a tight fit but can be done (Storage space is at a premium) The room steward is efficient but gets off work at 2:00 p.m. Our teens were often still sleeping after 2 since

they stayed up half the night. Try to compromise and let them sleep ‘til 1:00… An 18 year old can get off the ship without parental consent – as we found out | An 18 year old can drink on St. Martens Island, as we found out Coke cards are a good buy at $20 for the week There were a lot of hot tub parties for the 13 – 17 age group Take an electrical (octopus) plug for hair dryers, curlers, DVDs, etc Take a plastic box or shoebox to hold hair products, make-up, hairbrushes, etc. Take a small plastic dish for your room keys, change, watch, etc. (the desk area is small) Book Early This was our eighth cruise and our children’s fourth. The Grand Princess limits the number of children, so book early. We booked in January for a July 7 cruise. Third and fourth passengers were $299 plus port charges. When our friends checked into the same cruise in May, third and fourth passengers would have been $1,100! Arrive Early We always try to arrive between 11 – 12:00 noon. Why not get on board and have lunch, check out your surroundings, and start early? Processing and departure with Princess is the best! No hassles. Dining Many people we spoke with chose “Preferred Choice” dining,” (choosing a different dining room and time each evening.) We chose first seating for two reasons. Our kids always knew where to meet us at 6:00 p.m. and our waiters got to know us personally – bringing us tea and extra desserts each night. Our waiters were from Mexico and Hungary; and we would have loved to bring them home with us. We were a little disappointed at not sitting with other people, but I’m sure we could have changed it, had it been a problem. The food was good, but not as good as our Alaska cruise. (Pastas were bland, according to our son, Chef Boy R Nate.) Optional Tours We snorkeled at St. John Island with the New Wave Tour. The trip there was quite an adventure – loud music and a great speed boat ride with two crazy tour guides. Fruit and shrimp were served on the way back – better than most tours we’ve taken. Honeymoon Beach was a beautiful, secluded place with lots of colorful fish. The water is so turquoise! At St. Maarten, we sailed in the America Cup Regatta Race. If you are looking for a relaxing trip, don’t choose this one. All 18 of us had specific jobs: Grinders, Assistant Grinders, Wenches (Rope-pullers), Bartender (not that you can drink while you’re sailing), and Time Keeper. Our Stars & Stripe Sailboat won the race, but I never figured out how…What a great experience for the kids! After racing, you are dropped off in St. Maarten for shopping or underage drinking (as my son preferred). Many people went on shopping trips, buying expensive jewelry with no duty or tax. We prefer to spend money on “adventures for the kids and kids-at-heart!” (Not many places in the Midwest you can race a sailboat or snorkel!) Rooms We were more cramped in this room than previously. I’m not sure if it’s because the children are more adult-like or because the room was actually that much smaller. I do know there was less drawer space and closet space than on Carnival. However, who can’t live with a smaller living space for the price we got! General Space There were lots of places to go to get away from people if you wanted a quite space. Several pools were designated Adult Only, and there was a wonderful spot on the back of the ship that was perfect for reading & watching the water. There were almost 3,000 people on board, but it didn’t feel crowded. What a neat trick. Activities Don & I joined several groups and played Trivia, $100,000 Pyramid, Family Feud, and Ping Pong. The Casino seemed to be a happening place the first night. One man won $40,000 on the $5.00 slot machine. I was extremely happy with the $62 I won the first night on $0.25 slots. Bingo was too crowded to win much and the evening shows were ok. The dancers are fabulous and comedians pretty funny. For someone who is usually in bed by 10:00 each night, there was plenty to do til the wee hours. The disco is a hot spot for late night adventures. It’s like a spoiler on the back of the ship & has a moving sidewalk to take you up there! The lighting is awesome. Comments We’ll definitely cruise with Princess again. What a way to go!

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Nov 30, -0001

Princess Cays, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel

This was our honeymoon cruise and we were very excited to be on the Grand Princess. We opted for a balcony and were very happy we did! We embarked our ship at approximately 12:00 p.m. and found that process to be very pleasing. We came in as soon as the area opened and were on the ship in matter of minutes. My husband who has cruised with another line said this was a wonderful process that Princess had enabled. We were literally one of

the first few couples to embark and were very happy because we videotaped the entire ship (almost) without the hustle and bustle of too many passengers. After video taping the ship we decided to check out our room. THE ROOM We were in C222 (Caribe Deck). We were surprised to find “Just Married” balloons on our door! The room was a bit smaller than your average hotel room. We did however have a large balcony 5x10 that is if I am correct the biggest other than the huge suites. Half was private and half was exposed. Not much drawer space for a female who packs two different outfits a day but I made due. Closet was big enough for hubby and me to hang all/most of our clothes on hangers that were provided. We did utilize the in room safe often, it is very easy to operate and comes in handy. The bathroom was small, no other way to say it but hey how long do you spend in the bathroom. I utilized the desk area for make-up, hair, etc. The TV gets a few channels and shows some good movies but there are so many activities on the ship that you wouldn’t watch too much TV. You do have a tiny refrigerator and a bottle of water is provided to you. CAREFULL.. you pay for that water!!!! Like 5 dollars or something! The room was very neat and clean. Our steward was Alex and he was very attentive and nice. I did however overhear someone mention that the room stewards laid out the women’s dresses for formal night and found that mine had not been done. Not a big deal to me but it would have been nice. Our room was always taken care of. We would go to breakfast and come back to a clean room, and after dinner come back to a room where the sheets had been turned down and chocolates put on our pillow. FOOD We opted for Personal Choice dining and would probably not do it again. My hubby has done both and says that with traditional seating you get more attention and get to know your waiters better and vice versa. With personal choice you had two dinning rooms to choose from Di Vinci and Michelangelo. You would just show up between 5:30 and 9:30 and be seated for dinner. It was just like you would go to restaurant. You could however decide if you wanted to be seated alone or with a table of peers. I would recommend if you do chose Personal Choice that you go to dinner early as the seats fill up and you will have to wait just like in a restaurant with a beeper thing. Formal night gets packed early too! Lunch and breakfast are the same. Food is very good though! If you are a chocolate lover PLEASE get the Princess love boat dream as a dessert is it OUT OF THIS WORLD!! We ate the first night at Sabatini’s Trattoria (if you plan to make reservations do it early like the first night as they get booked fast!!! They I believe are on deck 7 near the Wheelhouse bar) There is a cover charge of $15.00 for this meal. You must as a requirement be very hungry! This is a 17 course Italian dinner! There is just too much food! They do not scrimp on cheap stuff either some examples were: caviar, mussels, lobster, prawns, oysters, homemade pasta, salad, soup and the list goes on and on!! BEWARE!!! You must be an eater and be very hungry!!! The buffet (horizon court) was good not outstanding but good. It was nice to grab a snack every now and then. There is enough food for a person to eat an entire meal there but the quality is much better in the dining room. Trident Grill and the pizzeria poolside are also good for poolside lunch and are free. COKE CARD When you get on the ship there will be employees selling coke cards for $20. If you buy one of these coke cards you can get all the fountain coke you want for the entire cruise. We did and sometimes hubby used my card, which probably isn’t ethically right, but he did. We got our money’s worth! POOLS There are four pools and two of them are the adult pools. The adult pools are located in the front and back of the ship. They generally don’t get too packed like the others do. If you plan on getting a chair directly pool side then you need to get there about 8:30 a.m. However they do have plenty of chairs ship wide, the one’s by the pools go very fast for obvious reasons. BAR There are bars everywhere!! The drink of the day is generally cheaper and is usually a very good fruity drink. We didn’t make it to the disco but heard the first night it is dead. SHOWS We made it to one show and found that it had no point and were very disappointed. It was very charismatic but had no plot. It was “lights, camera, action” EXCURSIONS I can tell you about our excursions. We snorkeled on Princess Cays and found it to be nice but would have rather had done something else. It was crowded and not a huge area was given. Grand Cayman In Grand Cayman we opted to go to the Stingray sandbar and snorkel with them. My hubby is completely infatuated with snorkeling and I am not so much. On our excursion you took a snorkel boat out to the sandbar which took about 45 minutes. Once we got there and got anchored I was not so excited to go in the water. These beautiful animals huge! Anywhere from 2ft wide to 4ft wide. I swallowed my fear and hopped in only to find how docile and playful they are. A word to the wise however if you don’t want them chasing you DO NOT touch the food the tour provides as the stingrays have an amazing sense of smell. I was in the water with them for about 20 minutes when one came completely up on my back and I said well that is friendly enough. It was however a wonderful experience that everyone should see once in their lifetime. Costa Maya We didn’t get to stop here because of a life and death situation with one of our fellow passengers. We did a U turn back to Grand Cayman where he/she could receive proper medical attention as Costa Maya could not offer this to him/her. Cozumel We did stay overnight due to the previous events. I found the city of Cozumel to be dirty and the natives are very pushy trying to get you to buy something. Oh well that is how some of them make a living right? I do understand that! However Carlos and Charlie’s was quite a fun and crazy place that should be visited by any person wishing to have a crazy time! We did some shopping but found that unless you were willing to spend big bucks you didn’t get much but shot glasses and shirts. I did get some silver for a great price. Make sure if you do get silver that 925 is stamped into it. This ensures that the silver is pure. We took the excursion where we visited the Mayan Ruins of Tulum and the continued on to the ecological park of Xel Ha. The ruins were very interesting and very hot!! You will want to take the trolley from the entrance to the ruins otherwise you will have to walk through some stagnate water and it’s not fun! Once you have been given some historical factoids you are free to roam for a few minutes. Bring plenty of sunscreen and bug spray! Watch out not to step on an iguana as there are many beautiful one’s there. Xel Ha pronounced Shell Ha is the most beautiful lagoon and place I have ever seen!! There you can swim with dolphins and have them play with you and stuff. It is $90 dollars but is worth every penny to dolphin lovers! You can swing in hammocks that are placed between he palm trees or snorkel with a wide variety of what my hubby says were cichlids. This excursion was wonderful and is an all day one however it seems you don’t have any time to enjoy each place to the fullest extent! DISEMBARKATION This process was very speedy and organized! We loved our cruise and would definitely sail the Princess and the Grand Princess again! Be sure to sit back and relax, when it’s over it’s over! We miss it and will soon be sailing again! Tiffany Flatt

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Getting there: Went through Princess for flights. Princess had me flying all over the place and that made for a long day. I have since learned if you tell Princess which flights you want, etc. they will book your itinerary for a small fee (I think $50?) and whatever the flights costs. Mental note for next time: Make own arrangements through Princess and pay the extra fee so I’m not flying all over the continent. Transfer to pier

went smoothly, so far as I could tell. Lines at the pier were long but went quickly. When I boarded the ship, there was a set up to have your picture taken by some ‘welcome aboard’ signage. They made it sound like this was your ‘cruise card’ picture until I saw another post up ahead where that was done. I refused the picture-taking and could see the miffed look on the photographers’ face. This was the first of 2 run-ins (?) with the photographer. Grand Princess: As this was my first cruise, I have nothing to compare it to. On the first day, every 20 feet or so there was an employee standing against the wall to usher folks along so they don’t get lost. I LOVED that! Felt like there was always someone to help. Little did I know then they are ALWAYS around to help. Even in the elevator on the first day, a staff ran the buttons to make sure everyone got to where they were supposed to be. Saw the line-up at the Tour desk and sniggered. I booked mine online and the tickets were already in the room. My luggage didn’t arrive at the room until after 3 p.m. so I was stuck wearing my casual pants and dress shirt until then. Meanwhile, folks were already splashing in the pools and bagging deck chairs. Mental note for next time: Pack shorts, bathing suit, t-shirt, lotion, etc. in carry-on for first day usage. Cabin: C251, Caribe deck (10), outside double with balcony. According to the literature, balconies on the Caribe deck are 50% larger then other decks and about 40% covered. Looking down and around, this is very true. The room was very nice and surprisingly spacious. Even the bathroom had plenty of room (I’m not a small person). Day 1: Took a tour of the Spa, read reviews of staff always trying to sell you stuff: True. A polite ‘no thank you’ was sufficient. Signed up for some ‘treatments’, had a free hair consultation which didn’t tell me much other then I needed to buy their hair products. Only time I resisted. Day 2: At the Plantation Spa in the morning, Princess Cays in the p.m. I read a review insisting folks go RIGHT when leaving the tender. Went RIGHT and wasn’t WRONG. If you’re into water sports, loud music and crowds, then go left. Because of a recent hurricane, the deck chairs had to be brought from the ship and I was so late going (noon-ish), I didn’t get a chair at all. That’s OK, I brought a rather large towel from home and lay down on that. Didn’t matter though, as I spent most of the afternoon bobbing in the ocean. BBQ was excellent, same friendly Princess staff. Locals have booths set up so bring cash, there is a Princess store where the cruise card can be used. Day 3: Sea day. Spa in the a.m., napped in the p.m. Jet lag? Sun burn? Fresh air? Puttered around the boat, met folks, etc. Kind of a boring ‘I’m on vacation to rest’ day. Discovered Spa pool and made it ‘mine’ for the rest of the trip (no kids, except once and folks - not staff - took care of that!). Kathryn, the Spa manager, called me by name from day 1, whether she really cared or not, always asked about my day and took excellent care of me. Giant Kudos’ to Kathryn!! Day 4: Grand Cayman. Booked for ‘Island Highlights and Stingray City’ tour. Driver (a local) was pushy and rude, when questioned, he said he hoped to get in 4-5 tours that day as there were 6 ships anchored in the harbour. The whole tour was “OK folks, hurry up, you got 10-15 minutes to see the sight and shop.” I had to laugh when we went to Stingray City: Our driver had no control over how long we would be as the tour is taken over by the staff there. We were ferried out to the glass bottom (side) boat and given the tour spiel. Amazing to watch the diver perform with the Stingrays. We were told how to take good pictures through the glass and mine turn out beautifully, as though I was diving myself with an underwater camera! On the way back, I could see the tour driver pacing the dock, looking at his watch. Too funny! Shopping on Grand Cayman was Hellish! With 6 ships, you gotta figure about 12, 000 people ashore, all wanting to get into the same stores. I’m not an engineer, but I expect a few foundations sunk that day! I was lucky, I researched online and contacted a store (for directions) I wanted to see beforehand. I printed off the email and reply, went right to the counter, showed the papers and got immediate and attentive service…helped that I had a list from their online catalogue with me so it was nothing for the girl helping me to stack stuff on the counter. $271 USD later, I was on my way back to the ship. I will say this much: I fell in love with Grand Cayman and am planning a trip back, outside of a one day stop over on a cruise. Day 5: Costa Maya. No tenders made it easy to come and go. Here’s where I messed up. I read reviews about how pathetic this place is but signed up for the Jungle Beach Break anyway. Big Mistake. Shopped a bit, I think there were 14 stores or so, all stacked beside each other, like a strip mall. Seemed they were all selling the same stuff and prices were ‘fixed’ in most places, little to no bargaining. I got ripped off in one store (bought a white cotton shirt) and when I went to buy the same shirt, with a nicer design on it, in another, the guy gave me $10 off to make up for the competition over charging me, whether he thought I was stupid or whatever, it made me feel like I was getting a deal. Balanced out in the end. Went to the Jungle Beach at 11:30 or so, 30 minute bus ride and arrived and the most dismal, pathetic set-up I have ever seen. The beach itself was about 20-25 feet from the path to the water and sloped down so much when you were lying down, you ‘rolled’ towards the water. The only word I can think of to describe this place is “disgusting.” I’ve been to better beaches in the Sub-Arctic regions of Canada!! I guess they think with the free booze, folks will get so drunk they won’t notice it’s the beach that slopes! Avoid, Avoid, Avoid!!!! Here’s the kicker: There is a small beach to the right of the entrance to Costa Maya, except for warnings about the current, it looked by far better then the ‘developed’ beach I went to. Costa Maya also has a salt water pool that winds part way through the complex. Wish I had stayed there. Day 6: Cozumel. Second ‘run-in’ with the ships’ photographer. Said I had to stop on the gangway to have my picture taken with a Mexican blanket draped over the rails and some ‘I’m in Mexico!” signage. Again, said “no thank you” and was ‘snubbed.’ Maybe it’s because I’m not used to it, but I really, REALLY hated the people standing on the sidewalk insisting you go into their store to shop, (“Lady, lady, go to my store! You get good deals!”)…every 7-10 feet! At one point one of these folks grabbed at my backpack. I flipped out. I have a small luggage lock on it so I wasn’t worried, I just couldn’t take it anymore and headed for the beach. Oh, make sure you go ashore with $1’s and $5’s, about $40-50 worth. If they see larger bills in your wallet when you go to buy something, you can bet you will be charged more. Also, no one will break money down for you, not even the currency exchange place! They want you to buy something to break it down. The ship’s Shopping Director (Steve?) gave a seminar 2 days before about the shopping do’s and don’ts. Very helpful and well worth it. The seminar is broadcast on the Princess TV station (ch. 22?) over the next few days so even if you don’t go the actual seminar, you can still catch it. Playa Sol beach: Don’t know if it’s worth the $25. I learned you only have to pay $6 at the gate if all you want to do is suntan and swim. The $25 package had a lot more included, except food, but I realized I didn’t want the ‘extras’ and could have saved some money. Had to take a taxi ($24 round trip), but could hook up with others as the taxi is a flat rate for up to four people. Because I was by myself, I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, but looked for ‘ship towels’ and asked some people if I could share coming back. No problem. Day 7: Sea day. Bad weather rolled in so most folks were encouraged to go inside to various events. I had a brutal sunburn on my face by this time, eyes were swollen shut, so I figured, as a last resort, I’d better go the medical centre. Went to the spa first to see if they had anything to help and they did. Yup, got rooked for $67 eye cream, but it worked! So I didn’t care. Saved me going to the medical centre. Mental note: Sunscreen doesn’t last more then 15 minutes in salt water, even the waterproof kind. Disembarkation: Again, nothing to compare it to but agree with most it went smoothly. Horizon court was open for breakfast then sat in the lounge, waiting for my colour tag to be called. By 9:30 a.m. was off the ship and on the way to the airport. Dining rooms: Only went once, excellent food (hey, *I* wasn’t cooking so that’s all that mattered to me!). Horizon Court buffet: I rather enjoyed it! Like the idea of ‘stations’ instead of traditional lines, folks could duck around one another to get their preference. I never had a problem finding what I liked and then a place to sit. Note: Don’t look away from your plate once seated: “poof” staff is right there to clean your place! And they don’t care if you make a few trips to the buffet, you never have dirty dishes, cups, or cutlery stacked up on your table! I wanted to take one of ‘em home with me just for that service alone! Pizza/burgers poolside: Dry and tasteless. Went once for each and never again; they are closed by 7:30 p.m. I read reviews the pizza was supposed to be excellent, but I was disappointed. Shops on board: Expensive. Got tired of dragging my backpack around the ship so I bought a Princess Cruise canvas bag: $20!! Special sales on various nights got some good deals on t-shirts ($6 ea.) and a designer watch. Note: Some stuff is only available on THAT DAY, bathrobes, for example, are only sold on the last day. Yeah, I bought one. Shows: Only went to 2. Both good and quite funny. I have issues with….: 1. Folks bagging chairs/hogging them. Saw one couple bag 4 deck chairs so no one would sit beside them! Staff won’t/can’t enforce the 30 minute rule, I don’t blame them, imagine all the fights they would have! 2. No kids means No Kids! Parents who figure no one knows them and they won’t see anyone of us again are just plain ignorant. Adults Only Terrace Pool doesn’t mean “water is off limits but the deck is fair game for running around, etc.” One woman brought her 7/8 year old to an advertised “Adults Only” comedy show. Throughout the whole show the kid kept asking Mom “What’s_____?” Remember, it was an Adult show, YOU do the math. 3. The “Time Share Weekend” feel of the cruise on the last 2 days and the constant ‘flyers’ delivered to the room: Everyday there were flyers delivered, advertising Spa treatments, shop sales, and the inevitable “book your next cruise and save…” I would get at least 3-4 flyers every day, sometimes twice a day. I admit there were one or two I paid attention to but over a 7 day cruise, that was it. Will I go on another cruise? Yes. I’m trying to muscle my best friend into coming with me next time (already have her husbands’ blessing!) Will I go with Princess? In a heartbeat. Met folks who’ve gone with other lines and they swear Princess is the best. My negative comments are mostly about the shore excursions, while organized from the ships perspective, were really not worth the cost. Research the ports beforehand and make private arrangements, you’ll get the same thing as the ship tours but will save lots of money. I’m easily ‘rooked’ into buying stuff so I was easy prey all along, on board. All in all, a wonderful, relaxing vacation. As one cruiser told me “The only thing I have to think about is ‘what am I going to wear today?’ everything else is taken care of for me.” That sums up my entire vacation and I enjoyed it!

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

My impression of the ship: To set a base line, we were a party ( and I do mean party) of 13 forty-something friends (and four kids) all from the metro area of NY and a trio from NH. Our income brackets ran from our Bazillonaire friend, to those of us who went via big jars of money saved daily toward this jaunt. Your Mileage may vary. I must begin by saying somewhere in a past life, I must have been

an “old salt”. Perhaps all those that love cruising are. I love the smell of the sea, and the sound of the waves. The creaks and groans of a vessel prodding it’s way through the ocean. The feeling of being on a ship. On SS Norway, my last time out, I saw The Grand Princess in St. Thomas. It had none of the exterior charm or lines of a ship. It was huge. It was ugly. I clearly remember mocking it as being a member of the “ship” family. It was therefore with some trepidation that I boarded the gangway of The Grand Princess. In the “Grand Princess” in my head, I was prepared to be surrounded with all the brass and glass trappings of a cheap Vegas Hotel. How wrong I was. Grand Princess, in spite of her size, is surprisingly intimate, and alive with rich shades of wood. It’s in the corridors. It’s in your room. It’s in the clubs. It’s in the elevators. It’s in the stairwells. It’s everywhere. The main outside promenade is a fairly wide teak deck which circles the entire ship, getting very broad at the bow, and very narrow at the stern. I made it a habit of taking a two mile walk (six times around) with “she who must be obeyed” every morning before breakfast, and strolling once around again before bed. While the walks did little to ebb the tide of food, that entered our bodies, it did make me feel better about having the “bonus martini” each day. It is lined with wooden life vest storage lockers, and magnificent wooden doors. There were also wooden, cushioned benches perfect for an after dinner cigar while sipping…okay gulping, the mandatory evening cognac. It was the perfect place to feel at sea. The public areas on the ship were wonderful and each had their own charm. The Wheelhouse Lounge , with it’s dark woods, subdued lighting, ships models and maritime paintings had the feel of a place where old yachtsmen might meet to brag about their boats and summer cottages in Newport. The Martini’s there were served perfectly shaken and garnished with the songs like “Embrace me” or “Night and day” coming from a wonderfully throaty female vocalist at the keyboard. The sofas and leather chairs were arranged in small intimate groupings extremely conducive to conversation. I loved this room. The Explorer’s Lounge was a larger than I expected, with a decidedly Egyptian motif, and pith helmeted wait staff. When not harboring the “never ending” art auction, or passenger game shows, was usually alive with good dance music from it’s band. When the band was playing this was always a fun place. Snookers bar is was a very small and cozy lounge in tucked toward the bow. Once again the wood decor gave it more of a “pub” feeling, than that of your typical glitzy sports bar. Our group only made it here once, on the last night, and enjoyed it. I must admit, we completely forgot it was there. Two in our group didn’t even know it existed. Until the last night, they never made it past the casino on the deck it was located on. That gives you an idea of the size of the ship. The atrium at midship not only served as a fine entrance for the ship, but a great place to play cards or to sit and people watch with a cocktail. It was thankfully not some towering mass of mile high glitter, but rather a charming three deck high, central area full of places to sit, cascading water art, a grand staircase, plants and always full of the soothing live sounds of a piano or string quartet. The Promenade Bar there served up freshly brewed espresso and cappuccino, small plates of pastries and cookies, and a variety of delicious spiked coffee and potent hot chocolate drinks. There was a small Lobby bar there as well. Alas, I never once drank there. All along the interior Promenade deck, there were plenty of comfy seats by the large windows, and always occupied by folks happily reading away. Skywalker’s Disco, located 150 feet above the sea, on the stern, was great by both day and night. We had a private group cocktail party there one afternoon and found it a wonderfully relaxing place to throw back a few while watching the wake trail off for miles. At night this place absolutely rocked with all the colors and beats that make you want to shake your “booty”. The Casino, was, well, a casino. Nicely laid out and not congested. Perhaps I would have written more about it if luck had been better there. I can take solace in the fact that so much of my money is still on vacation aboard the ship. If your planning an upcoming cruise on her, I hope you’ll meet my money in the casino, take it with you, and give it a good home. The Princess Theater and Vista Show lounge both were extremely large state of the art theaters (being in the theater biz myself I can say that) in which I never had a problem getting a seat as long as I got there 15 minutes early. Now the Pool decks were indeed something special. The two main pools are very large, overflowing with water, beautifully tiled, multi decked, with nice teak appointments, two hot tubs each and great poolside bars. Neptune’s reef was the one we called home. It was jumped every day with a great reggae band and the smell of cocoa butter. WARNING!!!!!! Do NOT tip its bartenders extra, unless you want to find yourself belting out Bob Marley songs at the top of your lungs, having “body shots” and doing the “dolla” dance on stage as a result of some VERY potent absolute screwdrivers. I needed to go back to my stateroom and “sleep” a little, after my sea day there. When I woke up at six pm, and started getting dressed for Grand Cayman Sting Ray swimming instead of dinner. I had no idea what day it was. Countless people, waiters and bartenders, I didn’t know, greeted me by name all over the ship that evening, with comments about the afternoon. We were all veeeeeeery baaaaaaaad children that day. But as a result, we more than doubled the size of friends we were on board with. Pool deck chairs do get reserved early. I really wasn’t bothered by this because it is clearly evident that some poor sops got up 7am to get poolside to do so. I usually arrived about 9:00am and had no problem getting chairs in the same spot on the 2nd level. It was the folks who came looking poolside around 11:30am that seemed the most steamed about it. We went to grab a lunch once, were gone about 20 minutes (30 max) and came back to a lecture on reserving chairs from “quite” miffed woman looking for chairs. We cheerfully offered to buy her drinks and share our chairs while we swam and went to the bar. She wasn’t amused. Ironically, on the 2nd sea day, we left our chairs for 20 minutes, to take a group photo (we watched the clock) to come back and find the same pool chair nazi standing by our chairs. Looking stern faced. Perhaps we just looked too goofy faced for her. On my walk-abouts, I did however always find plenty of empty chairs in other less traveled parts of the ship. Even on peak times. There was also a great aft quite pool (which I’m sure some of my sea-day neighbors moved to)over hanging the stern and the wake, which was never crowded and always had an empty hot tub, and was perfectly situated next to the bar. It was our hot tub area by choice. I saw the lap pool, but never made it there. I only went once to the ships shops, in search of an appropriate GP TR-shirt. The selection of logo wear was disappointingly limited. The selection of everything else was plentiful, and had my luggage not arrived I would have been thankful for them. They were laid out nicely however, and had a real store feel to them. “She who must be obeyed” really enjoyed the workout room and the Plantation Spa. I enjoyed working out my cocktail elbow and planting myself by the pool. I never once had the feeling that there was 3500 other people aboard the ship. Perhaps it was because there were some many places for people to go, that they gathered in small groups, rather than large clumps. Last year, when I first started researching ships for this cruise, I remember posting the comment of how ugly this ship appeared from the shore, and absolutely wouldn’t consider her. Someone on this cruise news group posted “you don’t sail on a ship from the shore, you sail on board her, and that I should consider her.” How right they were. I must admit, her exterior look even grew on me in port. This was a really wonderful ship! Staterooms: If I had never had a mini-suite with a balcony, I never would have wished I did. When I’m on vacation, I’m really not the kind of person who cares how big my room is, or if I have a shower as opposed to a tub. Or examines the rug quality or cares if my room has a view. My paramount thoughts are usually that I’m wearing a bathing suit, and not working as a life guard, ergo, I must not be working. When I originally booked the Grand Princess, I was excited about having a cabin with big windows. On my previous cruises, I had moved up from a porthole to big windows, and couldn’t imagine life getting better. I could NEVER go back to a porthole after having had big windows. The big windows were to be short lived however. Communications from my glorious TA involved a number of price drops and a ultimately an upgrade which resulted in my whole party having Emerald deck Mini-suites. This turned out to be a double-edged sword. The good edge was the fantastic space of the room, highlighted once again, as the entire Grand Princess is, with wood trim around everything. With the beds in a queen configuration, in the “sleeping portion”, and a sofa and 2nd TV in the “sitting portion”, the space definitely seemed more of a “stateroom” and less of “cabin”. The full bath was nicely tiled and there was ample room for a wide variety of hangover potions. The room had an almost “theatrical” lighting design, with back-lighting over the bed, standard overhead lighting, and I believe three separate table lamps. When just the lamps were lit, the room at night was very warm & inviting. (Hey, I’m a lighting designer by trade, I notice that stuff!) There was a well lit desk/make-up table space for “she who must be obeyed”. There was plenty of room for all the clothes. The “big as a friggin’ house” suitcase and all the carryon bags, fit nicely in the closet. There was no need to put anything under the bed. The fridge, while being very small, held our three bottles of Champagne, three bottles of wine, three bottles of water, and two orders of chocolate covered strawberries, albeit creatively placed. We requested and promptly got, slippers (I’m wearing mine now) big fluffy bathrobes, wine glasses, extra pillows, and fresh fruit. Our names were on the “mailbox” on the door. I was impressed. Now add to that, being able to step out through sliding glass doors onto my own private platform on the ocean to watch the sunrise, or the moon on the waves before turning in. To enjoy a cup of coffee. To watch the islands arrive by day. To see the ships pass in the night. Or just to stand naked and wave my Flotsam and Jetsam at the sea. I was in heaven. My party occupied E-721 thru 729 on the Starboard side and the last two mini suites on the port side, on the far Aft section of the ship. Due to the overhang, these were completely private balconies. (Hence the ability to wave my flotsam and jetsam) Our friends in E-729 and 728 (The last two cabins on deck 8) had the added bonus of an extra long balcony which curved at the stern, allowing a lounge chair as well as the table and four chair set up. If the blue non-skid stuff on the balcony hurt my feet, I wasn’t aware of it. If the balcony was small, I wasn’t aware of it. In fact of the whole rest of the ship blew up, while I was on my balcony, I wouldn’t have been aware of it. I was in heaven. This was the nicest stateroom I’d ever had. I was never aware of any discomfort from being low, over the Vista Lounge and to the stern. Sure I heard the low rumble of the engines churning us through the ocean, and every now and then felt a slight shudder as we broke a good size wave, but I live for that stuff. I mean, I want to be reminded I’m on a ship. Being on a ship, is being somewhere special. I should point out however, that my friends in the portside staterooms, said they could clearly hear the show in the Vista Lounge at night. Perhaps you could hear the lounge on our side too, but I can’t say. I never went to bed while there was still stuff going on. I was on Vacation. I did say at the outset, that having this Stateroom was a double edge sword. You see, you can’t miss what you don’t know. Alas, I need a bigger coin jar to start saving for my next cruise. I can never NOT have a private balcony again. The Ports: My Sister’s husband, picks a cruise, by where it goes. He’s a bundle of energy, who needs to wake up somewhere different every day and sea days would make him crazy. Once I cross a gangplank, and sign my first bar receipt, I’m already somewhere new and exciting, and should and island show up next to the ship, it’s merely a perk, not a necessity. This was a Western Caribbean itinerary. Two sea days, Grand Caymans, Princess Cays, Cozumel and Costa Maya. Usually, my wife and I prefer to take off on our own, rather than take an excursion. Hey, it’s the Adventurer in us (Kongaloosh!-to those who understand). However, given the current world climate, for the most part, we went with the throngs. In the Caymans we chose to swim with Stingrays and Reef snorkeling. The Stingrays were tres cool, and very neat to swim with. Reef snorkeling was very rough with high seas, and I could have lived without it. On returning, the ladies shopped, I had a cocktail and returned to the ship. Sorry, I’m a drinker, not a shopper. The beer was cold, the day was nice, the view was swell. In Cozumel ( Not tendering from the ship was great), we Biked to Chakkanab National Park (or however the hell it’s spelled). Now the PARK was a treat. Beautifully laid out, with a wonderful beach, nice jungle paths, and super snorkeling. Much like Trunks Bay in St. John. While the bike trail was nice, the bike seat reminded me I have to make a proctologist appointment. Biking with a mob was not fun. The bikes were in poor repair. The park was Great! Next time here, I’d just take a cab to the park. Back in town, the ladies shopped at the typical miles of jewelry stores and of course I visited legendary Bar, Carlos and Charlies. And visited, and visited, and visited. After having had a variety of things, poured directly into my mouth, having my head shook, and my bottom thwacked, I was grateful to be in stumbling distance to the ship. What a place, what a party. Oddly enough, the port “She who must be obeyed”" and myself enjoyed most, is the one people seem to enjoy the least. Costa Maya. From my constant reading of Cruise reviews across the web, we had determined, like Princess Cays, Costa Maya would be a lazy late, wake up day and just a brief incursion to the shore to say we’ve been there. Walking down the pier from the ship, we arrived at the “Disney-esque” created shopping area, exclusively built as a stop for cruise ships. It was “nice” in a Epcot way, but not nice enough for me to even consider a drink here. I had planned a quick return to the ship, but “She who must be obeyed” indicated she wished me to take a cab (5 bucks round trip) with her to the little town of Majahual, or something like that. She is, “She who must be obeyed”, I had to go. Now *THIS* turned out to be a wonderful idea. In fact, it was my favorite “out of ship experience”. The town is on one of the most gorgeous beaches (and I have been on some wonderful beaches) I have ever seen. It’s a lazy, tiny little burg with a main street of fine beach sand. Let me say that again, the Main street is sand. Colorful rowboats dot the beach. Dogs siesta under the trees. Every now and then a local on a horse ambles by. There are no crowds. There are no tourists. The water is a breathtaking aquamarine, and the swimming was the best of this trip. There are a few little whole in the wall shacks serving up cold beach side cervas and here and there a blanket canopied table selling trinkets. Even I took a look at them. Back pack wearing School children walked hand in hand along the shore. The beach palms were glorious. There are no hotels yet. There are no stores yet. In fact, they are just beginning to add a sewage system to the area. There is no anything yet. But once you’ve seen this place, you’ll know development is imminent. And that’s too bad. The town is a wonderful Diamond in the rough. “She who must be obeyed” even proclaimed when she got out of the cab “OH my God, I’m in a Corona commercial”. We spent our whole day sitting in a chair, with our feet in the water, drinking two dollar Coronas, staring at the ship in the far distance blowing into the bottles and laughing that we were indeed, in that commercial. It was a hard place to leave. For those who need to shop, or feel uncomfortable not seeing throngs of camera toting tourists around, I’d say skip this place. For those who really want to feel they’ve gone somewhere different, don’t miss it. Food and Service: Food, it was as abundant as air, only with much more taste. You couldn’t escape it. It must have been laced with crack or some other addictive substance, because the more you ate, the more you wanted. It was at the Horizon Court, a lovely window lined buffet restaurant 24 hours a day. Speaking of which, I’ve read lots of reviews which complained Horizon Court had a confusing buffet set-up. I was at a loss for why people thought this. There was lots of food, you went up and got some, then either sat at an inside restaurant table, dined al fresco on the back of the ship, or brought it to your pool or stateroom. What’s confusing? I never found a line, or a crowd, just lots and lots of food. Goulash, Sushi (ummmm good sushi), pastas, bacon, sausages, home fries, eggs and omelets (which were happily prepared your way if you asked the chef), late night Bananas flambé, crepes, salads, cold cuts, hot cuts, scallops, seafood, wonderful soups and even a tuna melt!. If you wanted a steak at midnight ( I didn’t) you could have one. Great desserts, rolls, buns, cookies. It was impossible to pass without getting a little something. It was by the Neptune pool in the form of a Poolside barbecue serving Burgers, (beef, Veggie, chicken, and turkey cooked your way if you asked) fries, onion rings, Hot Dogs and Wursts. I found myself needing things I never need. Each day around two I craved a bratwurst with kraut on a roll. They were so good. Also by the pool was a pizza parlor. One the first day, I wasn’t impressed with the pizza. However, upon request they would burn one up for you making it extra crispy and delicious. By Wednesday, the pizza makers knew me by name. Perhaps this was a cocktail related thing. It was in Sabatini’s Trattoria , where you don’t chose from the menu, they bring you the menu. On days before port I ate all I could, because I knew I might have to go as long as four hours without eating. For Dining we wound up with personal choice and would not go another way. We had NO problem getting two tables for 17 each night, the same two tables, with the same waiters, by making reservations with the Maitre D’. There was never a wait, we just strolled on in to our tables. In fact, for the last three days, we had the same table neighbors. Our entire group found the food as a whole miles above NCL which we all had previously enjoyed. It was always done just right, beautifully presented, and of course, if we couldn’t make up our minds about an entree, they brought both. Others I met on the cruise didn’t feel the same way. Even about the NCL comparison, but more on that under the topic of “other stuff”. Service, at the bars, in the staterooms, and in the restaurants, was outstanding. Best we’ve ever had. Now Keep in mind my group are know as legendary tippers. We tip beyond what’s expected. We tip well beyond the daily tipping charge. We’re the type of tippers that service folk tearfully wave goodbye to. Our waiters, and a bartender from our pool bar actually came to see us off. They work hard. Very hard, very long hours, and are frequently under appreciated. We tip well if things were extraordinary. Things were extraordinary. The staff ensured medium rare was medium rare, substitutions were happily made, drinks were poured heavy, buy-backs were frequent, bottled water was in the cabin (at no charge regardless of the sign that said it was 2.50 a bottle) carry on wine was uncorked free. My assistant waiter even went to the sports bar for me to get me a beer in a 24 ounce glass, which is only served there. *OUR* food and service gets a 10 all around from the entire group. Surprisingly, I only put on five pounds. I attribute this to the size of the ship, and the amount of walking distance involved from Martini, to martini. Our on-line TA: This is NOT an advertisement for a particular agent. It is merely meant to help those with my same fears and assure them that there are many great on-line TA’s, if they're willing to look. It is not unusual for us to frequently go away with a large group of friends. It’s a blessing to be able to share your mid-forties with people who hit you with spitballs in elementary school, roomed with you in college, drank beers with to celebrate your first real job, and have never lost touch. Moving a group that can approach 30 people at times, around the globe, in a variety of venues, while meeting our varied requirements, and flip-flopping numbers, is a challenge to the best agent. It’s a nightmare for those who don’t approach that level. For years, my travel agent was my mother-in-law. She was the best there was. All of our friends and their friends used her. She monitored prices, and made good suggestions. She wrote letter to hotels ensuring great rooms. She knew Cabin accommodations. She knew airport layouts and told us where to go when we got off the plane. She said “you don’t want this. You want this”. I always agreed. After all, she spawned “She who must be Obeyed”. Again, she was the best, a true professional. She passed away 8 years ago and my wife and I had never found the likes of her again. Being in charge of our cruise vacations, and being unhappy with our last cruise agent, I decided to chance an on-line agent. Following extensive research and bidding, I chose Lori Cunningham of Skyscraper Tours. To begin with, I never like to deal with a faceless person. I don’t even shop from catalogs. There’s something scary about a group sending what can be upwards of $20,000 to someone you can’t choke if they don’t deliver. While Lori sounded great on the phone, and looked great in her pictures, I still wasn’t certain that she wasn’t a front for some guy named Moe, in some boiler room in Arkansas. Lori turned out in fact to be tremendous!!! Like my mother-in-law, only without having to marry “She who must be obeyed” to get great service. She monitored price, getting us a number of reductions along the way. She made Stateroom recommendations. She tried hard for days, to meet my wife’s stringent flight requirements. (My wife hates to fly and has strict limitations on what and how she’ll fly). Ultimately, my whole group wound up in side by side Mini-suites at less than her original quote for an ocean view stateroom.. She got us our docs quickly. She even made a last minute check on our dining request (which we had changed) while on her own cruise. She arranged for a private cocktail party for us with the cruise line. Prior to departure, our entire group had already been singing her praises to other people. After returning from the ship, we could only sing them louder. From this point on, at least for all my friends, if it’s by sea, it’s by Lori. We are all ready to call her again for our 2004 cruise, or sooner, should the sea call loudly. Should anyone need Lori’s E-mail or Phone number, they can zip me an e-mail and I’ll send it on. She has my trust and my deepest recommendation. I’m sure there are many more super agents out there on the web. If you’re considering one, I only hope you do as well as we did, in our first on-line experience. In this day of computer access, consumer information and bargain travel sites, there will ultimately be only two types of travel agents in the future. Great ones, and out of business ones. Lori is a great one. My only regret, is that she only does cruises. “Other stuff”: There were a lot of small intangibles which I didn’t read about in reviews, or when I did read them, turned out to be much better than even my pre-cruise imagination could conjure up. They were small priceless pieces of memories. Bonus bits of fun. Final brush strokes to the whole picture which made it perfect. Sail-a-way, out of Fort Lauderdale, past the condo’s, is an absolute hoot. I imagine if huge cruise ships passed my window each Saturday and Sunday night, I might find it hard to resist to join in with the goings on of my neighbors. As Grand Princess sailed by the homes and condo, residents came out in absolute hordes to wave the ship off. Interior lights flashed on an off. People blew air horns. Two people played the trumpet. One guy even had a bull horn, or a speaker system (it must be a joy to live next to him), lead cheers from the ship, and then warned us not to eat too much and to bring some lobster home for him. Stereo’s blasted from windows. People rang hand held bells. Flash cameras went off by the hundreds AT the ship. Now I have read this goes on, but I was not by any means prepared for the scale of the goings on. Perhaps it was because it was the start of a vacation week and there were more people there than usual. Perhaps many of their neighbors were aboard and wanted to make it extra special. More than likely, perhaps it’s just a great excuse to have a few martini’s once or twice a week and dream of the day they would be aboard. Whatever the reason, it set the tone for a great week. The Midnight Caribbean night aft deck party was also something extra special. A stage was built over the quiet pool. It was one of the only occasions we encountered the house band out of the theater. Backing up the cruise director, who sang his heart out, they got the whole three back decks of the ship jumping, literally. The party culminated with the passing out of streamers to every passenger, which were all thrown at once. A canopy of string over the pool deck caught the streamers as the cascaded down making for one of the cruise’s most colorful moments, as well as some unbelievable photos. The way the light plays around the ship during the day is a feast for the eyes if you pay attention. The shadows in the conservatory pool when the dome is closed. The contrast of light and shadow through the many windows during the day. Very pretty. “She who must be obeyed” is as Italian as a piece of Provolone. She loves the smell of garlic being cooked and really enjoyed it as it wafted out of Sabatini’s daily. Surprisingly, the service crew (deck hands, wait staff, bartenders) were much more international than I’ve ever encountered on a ship, making for some great conversation. They sat with you. They greeted you by name, (of course in my party’s case, they had seen the names hundreds of times on bar bills). They went seemingly out of their way to say hello in the morning. Our Neptune pool drink pusher from one of the former Russian Republics even showed up in Carlo’s and Charlies and bought ME a drink when she saw me. Of course at that time I was already dancing on the stage to hot-hot-hot and had a pile of plastic shooter glasses on my table. I was hard to miss. One of my fears on a ship this size was that we wouldn’t meet anyone new. That certainly wasn’t the case. In fact, we’ve all already gotten e-mails from folk we met on the cruise. Perhaps it’s because the intimate spaces on the ship, and everybody’s vacation head, made conversation so easy. There was a ton of things we did on the ship, as well as a ton of things we never got to, which I’m sure was the case with all the pax aboard. Even within our own group, it was great fun to share the days stories at dinner. The size of the ship, and amount of small activities (like playing chess over drinks on the giant chess board) made for enjoyable days and I’m sure were the key to keeping the ship feeling un-crowded. The maintenance on the ship was on going and in epic proportions. Rails being sanded, metal being brought down to base, coated and painted. Windows being washed. Buffet tables bussed instantly.. Slight problems (a burnt out light in our cabin, a broken blender at the bar, a hot tub that stopped bubbling)) were taken care of swiftly. Great efforts seemed to be taken to keep everything “ship-shape”. Everyone of the maintenance staff we encountered were very friendly and always greeted you warmly. Once again, the private balcony was a great escape from everything. While I STILL HATE the way they make new ships look, I LOVED looking out from mine. The 17 dollar coke card is a great idea. It gave the kids great freedom, and our group bought a couple for ourselves and always brought back a few cokes from the bar to quench the thirst, when we needed to gulp something non-alcoholic. They didn’t seem to care who had the card, or if we were sharing a card, just that a card was had. There were a lot of little pieces, that made the big picture so wonderful. Summary: I really think it doesn’t matter where you go on vacation, how you go, what you do, or how much you spend. It’s Vacation!!! ENJOY!!!! I don’t vacation as a critic, and don’t let little things bother me. If it rains, I’m happy it’s not snowing. If my food arrives cold, I’m happy they’ll bring me new food. I don’t expect anyone to give me my money’s worth on Vacation, that’s up to me. If I didn’t enjoy it to the fullest, and find the silver lining, in momentary downturns, it’s my own damned fault. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. I’m sure Shakespeare said that, albeit much more poetically. This was my first experience with Princess Cruise line, and there just was no small stuff to sweat. The weather was a little chilly in Port Everglades at sail-a-way, but the company was warm. Due to a storm, the ship rolled like the blazes coming home (causing my bathroom door to slam and wake me up), but it was a marvel to see the ocean churn

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Carribean

I'll give you the Summary first and save the rest of you the trouble of reading my rantings. Rating on a scale of Ten – Five Positives Cleanliness Pool areas Food Embarkation Cabin Steward Cabin size and condition Price Tender operations Negatives DISEMBARKATION PC Dining Mass market feel Bar

service Lack of rule enforcement Summary For those of you like numbers, my overall rating of this cruise would be a 5 on a scale of ten. Take away the disembarkation disaster, standing room only at the Vista Lounge, the lame port at Costa Maya and PC dining and maybe it’s a 7 or 8. It really is a lovely ship with a lot to offer. The cabins, even the standard one we had, are comfortable and the pools beautifully tiled. The food was a pleasant surprise and the casino was fine. I judge a cruise on a few simple questions. Did I get my money's worth? - Yes. I think the cruise was a good value at the price I paid. Would I go on this ship again? - No. I didn't like my first "megaship" experience as much as the smaller ships we've been on. I didn't like PC dining. I really didn't care for the entertainment that much and I thought the number of passengers created too many logistical problems, at least for Princess and this crew. Would we sail Princess again? Maybe. Not PC dining and not on this ship. But more importantly would Grand Princess be our first choice? I'm afraid the answer is.....No. There are too many smaller and more manageable ships out there that we would put ahead of this ship. And in general, Princess version of NCL's Freestyle Cruising - Personal Choice - is just not that great. Their ships weren't built for it and their on board program isn't quite tuned in. Did we enjoy ourselves? Yes. Well, it was a cruise for crying out loud! We went to have fun and nothing could keep us from it! It’s just a shame that the last few hours left such a bad final impression. Otherwise this cruise might have gotten a 7 or an 8 overall considering the price we paid. I am sure I will get flamed by Princess fans. The above is just one man's opinion with a little input from his wife. If you are going on this cruise this week or any time in the future, I am sure you will find many enjoyable things about it. If in some way I have helped you avoid some unpleasant moments or helped you get more out of your cruise, then I am greatly pleased. Booking-After 9/11. Bargain price under $500 per person. Booked inside GTY got above cabin. Airfare on US Air under $175 pp. Used travel agent for cruise only. *One free plug for using an agent.* It was nice to have someone to call to get updates on the ships location. There was some concern on our part that hurricane Michelle may prevent the ship from getting into port. They were helpful and patient in handling our concerns. Trip Down- Reagan National (DCA) a breeze. High security, no lines. Pre-cruise- Stayed at Embassy Suites. $69+tax on Priceline. Free shuttle from airport and to the pier. Free happy hour and free buffet breakfast. Walked across the street to Chuck's steak house for dinner. Prime rib for two with glass of wine for each of us under $40 with tip. We could see our ship from the room, but the best view was from the outside staircase on top floor. Comforting to know it was in. It was close enough that we actually walked down to the port Sunday IS after breakfast to chat with some of the passengers and look around. These next areas were within the control of Princess. For you number lovers out there, I will give them a rating from 1-10. Embarkation- Rating 9. Very smooth. We were there early and the only thing that was not handled well was the Bahamas immigration form. This could have been sent with pre-cruise documents. So we had to get out of line and fill these in before heading to check in. There they just took an imprint of our credit card and said welcome aboard. Small hold up at the security scanner, but soon we were on the ship. Stateroom- Rating 9. Large and pretty comfortable. The mattresses weren't the worst, and weren't the best we've ever had. The bathroom was decent sized and the shower reasonably spacious. Soap, lotion and shampoo provided. Hairdryer, too. The room was spotlessly clean. The view from the obstructed view was very good compared to the NCL Sea. You could see the complete horizon, just not directly next to the ship except for one small spot. One side chair and a chair for the vanity. No loveseat like on many other cruises. Ample storage space for two. Open closet area leading to bath. Safe. TV. Fridge. Ship- Rating 7. BIG. But also small. Smaller spaces within the ship than you would expect. Four pools and lots of hot tubs. A wonderful spa area, adults only most of the time, swim against the current pool, two hot tubs, sauna, steam room. Work out area, and European spa treatment area. Nearly impossible to find a lounge in the sun near a pool area on sea days. Lots of saving going on during the morning. An example - one woman with just two towels trying to save 6 lounges for her group for over an hour while they had breakfast. I didn't think two towels could stretch that far! No crewmembers enforced the "no saving" rule. Lots of underused spaces. The smaller lounges- Wheelhouse, Snooker’s, Explorers - were nearly empty during cocktail times. Meanwhile the show lounges were full - too full. Figure on standing if you don't show up early. The ship doesn't flow from dinner to show to dancing or lounges. I think PC dining has a lot to do with that. This ship is not the "summer camp at sea" that you find on other ships where you would naturally flow through the evening’s activities. If you got a little off schedule, there was a domino effect of missing a lot of other things to do. This seemed to negate the advantages of PC dining. Casino was fine. I actually came home with about $100 of their money for a change. Dealers were friendly and professional. The "Skywakers Disco" was a blast, with a real party going on there every night. We are getting too old to close the place down, but we hung in there for a while and shook our booty with the whole ship rocked and rolled (especially during the hurricane!). Bring your fur coat this place is freezing! Itinerary- Rating 7. This could have been higher if not for a "do nothing" port at Costa Maya. It’s a "made for the cruise lines" port that didn't do much for us. I think they created it there because it was a cheap alternative to Jamaica. A few shops and a little show put on by the natives with Mayan costumed dancers. A small rocky beach and a couple of Tiki bars. The shops had the same stuff you find in Cozumel only cheaper. The excursions went to some of the local ruins and a beach at a big resort. None of it appealed to us. Even the captain made a veiled apology during his "welcome to Costa Maya" announcement. We didn't take off points for the fact the Michelle prevented us from going to Princess Cay, even though we were really looking forward to it. Grand Cayman was our main goal and we spent the day lounging at the Beach Club and shopping. This was our anniversary day and we had taken this trip largely to cruise and to spend the day there together. Cozumel we spent the day shopping, then snorkeling and sunning at Chankanaab. We had done the "Dolphin Experience" and Chichen Itza by Air before and didn't have a real strict agenda. A quick snack and some shooters at Carlos and Charlie’s at it was back on the boat (er, ship that is). Food- Rating 8. Better than we expected. Only one fish entree was not very good, but it was promptly replaced with a delicious lamb chop dish. We had a really excellent waiter that night. I gave him a comment card with an exceptional rating. Horizons was pretty nice for a buffet. The staff was attentive and there was always a clean place to sit. Late at night you could get the same meal that they served in the dining rooms there. We really missed not having at least one "Midnight Buffet" during the week. It always seemed like a nice social gathering place that was missing from this format. We went to Sabatinis for our anniversary. Excellent food. (LOTS of garlic, which we like, but some may not). We got a TON of food served in what must be a dozen courses. Dinner lasted 2 hours and we were absolutely STUFFED when we left. We were enjoying ourselves so much so much that during dinner we asked if we could still get a reservation for brunch on the last sea day. We got 11AM. We later cancelled when we thought about how much food we would eat and how stuffed we would be. I highly commend this restaurant for its food and service. The additional $15 pp seemed a little high, but you certainly got your money's worth. We just don't think we were capable of doing it more than once during the cruise! We didn't go to the Painted Desert, but some that went there were satisfied if not overwhelmed. It seemed like it was in the hallway on deck 7 and we and others as well wandered through as people were eating. This seemed a little odd and didn't seem conducive of a relaxing atmosphere. Service-Rating 7. Bar service in the lounges was excellent because they were largely empty. Bar service on the decks and pool areas was pretty spotty. Our cabin steward was excellent, bringing the rating up somewhat. The service in the dining rooms was average with the exception of one or two nights and Sabatini's. Never saw a wine steward. And I enjoyed several bottles of wine. Rarely saw a busperson fill a water glass. Maybe that was good, they were so inconspicuous! On the first two nights, we specifically asked to be seated at a large table. Maybe meet some interesting people. After waiting almost 30 minutes to be seated they lead us to a table for two. The first night we let it slide, because we were so hungry and didn't want to wait any longer. We were getting out of sequence for the entertainment as it was. The second night we were again too hungry and too late to argue, but when the maitre d’ came over to ask us how everything was, I let him know I wasn't pleased (my wife says "I let him have it", I say I was courteous, but very assertive). He told me he would take care of us the next time we came in. We never went back to that dining room. We used the second, lower of the two rooms designated for PC dining. The next night, we didn't take any chances. We met a nice couple and decided to have dinner with them instead of taking potluck. There is an interesting difference between the two dining rooms. The upstairs (DaVinci) used a number card system, while the downstairs (Michelangelo, I think) used a pager system. The upper always seemed more crowded. We used the lower because we could check in with the headwaiter, go to the atrium for some people watching, a drink, listen to music or go anywhere on the ship for that matter and not have to worry if we were within earshot when our number was called. If I were to go again, I would use the downstairs exclusively for PC. Entertainment, Cruise Director and Staff - Rating 7. Graham Seymour our director was a pretty funny guy. We saw him on stage and daily on his TV shows. But that’s about it. We did pass him in the hallway one formal night. Handsome fellow who seemed a little uncomfortable on a personal level. The Assistants of which there were two were an interesting contrast. One had the handsome looks of the director but was not at all charming or funny and the other, Peter, was not much to look at, but was a real scream on stage and charming in person. Entertainment was a little on the "bawdy" side as much of the English humor is. It didn't really bother us, but then we really didn't think most of it was that funny either. Kamika was funny, didn't see Marty ("Hey, der") Allen or his singer wife in the show room although he seemed to be on the ship chatting up passengers. That was nice. We felt like we missed a lot of the shows because we got out of sync at dinner. We only made one of the "Broadway" productions and we didn't much care for it. The production, singing and dancing showed a lot of talent, but the theme and the plot seemed disjointed and left me and a lot of others flat. Seemed like a waste of a lot of talented folks. The show we saw was the last of three shows for the week and the Princess Theater was at least half-empty. I guess some people were showing their opinion with their feet. One more thing. The cruise staff and even the entertainers seemed to enjoy taking cheap shots at Carnival Cruise Lines. What was that all about? Bad form, old boy. Intangables- Rating ZERO. I realize this is a very subjective category, but here goes. The ship at times seemed deserted and at other times seemed like a free for all. There were most of the usual rules for passengers, but generally they were ignored. One of the saddest sights you'll see is that of a young honeymoon couple wandering around the deck past dozens of saved deck lounges - ones that we know have been empty for hours while the occupants have gone to lunch and then "Crackpot Jackpot Bingo". Or seeing the elderly couple wandering around looking for a seat at the show while a half a row of seats is covered with a single jacket, a purse and one person saving seats for a bunch of their buddies. Saving seats in lounges, saving deck chairs, kids in the adult hot tub or pool all seemed to be standard practice. These rules were printed in the "Princess Patter" daily and there were even signs on deck, but no one bothered with them and no one even tried to gently or tactfully!  enforce them. This made for a real "mass market", "free for all" feel to the ship. They tried to take the Princess cruise experience and make it HUGE. All they seemed to do is inflate it to near the bursting point. Just my opinion Princess lovers. No flames please. Disembarkation- Rating MINUS 3. Without a doubt the worst experience we have ever had on disembarkation day. Possibly the worst on any cruise, any time, ever. They leave a letter in your stateroom telling you when to report to immigration. Our time was 6:15 AM. Yes, that's right, AM. When we arrived, there was a line that was completely indistinguishable. We spent at least ten minutes wandering around trying to find the end of it. No one knew where it ended and I can't now begin to tell you how to find it. There was no Princess personnel there to assist until you reached the Vista Lounge. It was all done alphabetically. But if your name is Allen Anderson, you can be sure that Walter and Zelda Zimbrisky will be there at 5:30 AM waiting in line ahead of you. It doesn't matter that they weren't scheduled until 6:30 am. This makes the line incredibly long. There was no one there from the cruise line to tell you where to line up, which way the line moved, where the end of the line was or to discourage line cutting. I'm wandering around looking for the end of this serpentine line of 2,000 people and looking for my wife who has by now disappeared into the crowd. I am stopped trying to see over the mass of humanity. Even at 6'4" this was not possible. Unexpectedly I feel a sharp jab at my left shoulder blade. A lady in her 60s poked me in the back with her cane and then said, "get to the back of the line". I turned around and asked " Excuse me, but did you just poke me with your cane?". She said, "No, we were just trying to get by", but I saw another passengers nodding yes and another said, "Yeah, she did". I politely stepped aside and said "Don't you think a simple 'excuse me' would have been enough?" Her husband grabbed her arm and they strolled off at a brisk clip to catch up with the line. So briskly in fact that it made me think that she had brought the cane for prodding rather than for support. Maybe a past passenger armed for combat? Ouch! (Flames). Another example of the "mass market" feel of this cruise. We found the end of the line and trudged around deck 6 for a half-hour only to get to the front of the line at the Vista Lounge. This was the first time that morning I had seen any crewmember. All this just to have an immigration officer take a ONE SECOND LOOK at our passports and say thanks. That was it. We were astonished and unmissed. I would take NCL on my next cruise if for no other reason than their "Freestyle" disembarkation. It is a 10 where this was such a negative, that we will probably not step on another Princess ship until their procedures undergo a complete overhaul. Sorry Princess fans. That's just the way it is. After this disaster, we went to breakfast and sat with other passengers who were equally displeased. Every one said they wished they had waited to fill out their evaluation forms. In the space where they were asked "would you cruise with Princess again", most marked, "yes". After this, the other 6 people at our table unanimously would have changed their answer to "no". Someone brought up the 9-11 situation and how this may have created this problem, but I don't think that immigration is any different than it ever was. The only difference is how the Grand Princess handles it. I wonder if it has always been this bad all along and what is being done differently in the wake of 9-11? If this is the way it has always been, then I wish someone on rec.travel.cruises had warned me! As we sat in our stateroom trying to calm down after this debacle, the pursers’ office made the usual pleas to passengers to settle their accounts. But they also asked that anyone, who had not gone to immigration, please proceed there immediately so the ship could be cleared. This was around 8:30 am. Suddenly it occurred to me - THERE WAS NO REASON TO GET UP EARLY AND GO TO IMMIGRATION AND BE A PART OF THAT FIASCO! All you had to do was wait until they made the last announcement and stroll down to the Vista Lounge. This made me very unhappy. We were called off the ship by tag color and number (Silver 1) and left around 9:20 AM. Plenty of time to get to the FLL airport for our 12:45 flight. At the pier, we found our bags and rolled them outside. There were people at the pier offering bus transportation for $5.00 pp. We didn't have vouchers, but that didn't matter. We asked where we could get a taxi and the woman gruffly said "over there" and pointed to the left of the exit door. We rolled our luggage over to the curb and a taxi was waiting for us. We waved to the passengers still standing in line to get on the bus. For ten bucks we were at the airport 20 minutes before anyone else in our group. Little did we know it wouldn't matter....... Trip Out - Fort Lauderdale Airport was also a disaster. Worse! At least we got breakfast on the Grand. We got to the airport about 9:45 and proceeded to the ticket counter to check our bags and get a boarding pass. We stood in this line for an hour and 30 minutes. As we neared the end of the line, An airline rep came around and asked if anyone was going on our flight and if so, to come to the counter immediately. After that line, we headed to the security gate. You guessed it, another gigantic line. We shuffled along in this line for another hour and 30 minutes. And that's right, the security rep came around and said any body on our flight, come to the front of the line. So for over three hours we had stood in line only to have people who showed up 20 minutes in advance come right to the front of the line. So as far as I can tell.... THERE IS NO REASON TO STAND IN ANY LINE AT THE AIRPORT. Simply find yourself a nice comfortable spot to rest and at the last minute, go up to the rep and say, "Oh, were on that flight!" Just another series of outrageous indignities we endured in the final 8 hours of our time just before leaving Florida. Ugh.... If you have any specific questions, just ask.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

For those who don’t want to read ten pages (understandable), the following two pages describe highlights of our observations about the Grand in general, and in comparison to the Century, as well as a summary of our activities on the cruise. If you want more detail after that, read on. Summary We really enjoyed this cruise and the Grand, and would happily sail her again. This is a relaxing itinerary. Even so, it probably

wouldn’t be our first choice, when there are so many other ships. We had never cruised during Fall season, and it was great being the only ship in port in both St. Thomas and St. Martin. When we sailed in February, there were at least five ships in each. The lack of congestion made for a nicer experience. And we really liked having three sea days. Aside from some morning rain in St. Thomas, we had calm seas and good weather throughout. 1. The Grand is a beautiful ship, but overall, we liked the Century better. Not sure why, her décor is nice, but somehow it isn’t *as* nice. Level of elegance, perhaps. So, in our limited experience, this ship runs a close second to the Century. We did love the tile work that was all over the ship, especially in the pool areas. 2. Most of the crew and staff were friendly and accommodating, always with a pleasant greeting. There were a few who were nasty, especially in the casino teller cage. We had good experiences with the purser’s staff, contrary to some reports. All were helpful, and we never waited more than a minute for assistance. I think both Princess and Celebrity do well in this area. 3. IMHO, there is no contest on dining service and food presentation and quality. Century wins, hands down. 4. Cabins need more towel racks and wall hooks. We had to dry things on the balcony for lack of hanging space. Otherwise, it was quite comfortable. Century cabin storage is deservedly legendary, and they have the edge here. 5. The Grand excels at cozy sitting areas and having plenty of deck chairs. We never had to fight for a seat, though the show lounges tended to be crowded, as is the usual. 6. Despite her size, the Grand is surprisingly easy to navigate. But like the Century, deck 6 aft must be accessed by stairs/elevators. One cannot walk aft on deck 6 from mid-ship. Must be inherent to ship design or something, because we’ve seen this on several ships. 7. The Grand had more entertainment options than Century. There were several music groups performing concurrently around the ship, and more nightly shows offered with greater variety.  We liked the Century’s talent and selections, but the Grand excels here. 8. The Grand easily beats out the Century on pools, pool and kid policies, and pool loungers. First, the pools and hot tubs are open 24/7; we took a tub once around midnight, which was great.  Second, there are designated and enforced ‘adult only’ areas. There were only a handful of kids on this cruise, so that might not be true mid-summer, but we saw no out of control children. Third, there are signs in each pool area, the lounges, and in the daily Patter prohibiting saving of seats and folks complied. There were more chairs on outside decks than could be filled. Many areas are in shade much of the time and it was difficult to find seats near a pool that also provided sun. The flip side of having so many chairs is they were so close to one another that you had to ‘back in’ to sit down--no moving over to make room in between. This was annoying to a lot of people, but no more so than not finding a seat at all. The beautiful Terrace (aft) and Plantation Spa pools (forward) get little sun, and the water was ice cold. The Neptune pool (mid) was lovely, and as the main pool, was usually more crowded. 9. Like Celebrity, Princess keeps announcements to a minimum, which is appreciated. The cruise director still had a knack for making his afternoon broadcast when we were napping. Murphy’s Law. 10. We didn’t use the spa on the Grand, but we can tell you that to us, any cruise spa that doesn’t offer “Rasul Mud Treatment for Couples” ranks below the Century. Anyone who read my Century review from February will understand what I mean. Things we did: Had room service deliver coffee and rolls in the a.m. Service was prompt and friendly. Sat on the balcony.| Spent time by most of the pools, including the Terrace, Plantation and the Neptune. We didn’t use the solarium pool, but the room is beautiful. The roof was never retracted during our cruise. There were about 8 hot tubs--two close to each pool I think. We tried several out. The spa hot tubs weren’t very hot, but others we used were perfect. Napped daily. Ate in the dining room every night but one, when we had pizza on the balcony and watched sunset. Played bingo twice. Lost. Played in the casino nightly. Lost. Went to shows nightly. Attended Captain’s Circle cocktail party. Woo-hoo!  Hey, it was a free drink. Got invited (with about 50 others, at the considerable effort of a tablemate) to a tour of the bridge. We heard bridge tours were banned that same day; we toured at 4:30, so figure we got about the last any cruise ship will have. We’ll see if that holds. Things we didn’t do/get to, good intentions and a week of no schedule notwithstanding: Skywalkers Disco at night (though we saw it during the day). Attend High Tea, held 3:30-4:30 each day, in the Da Vinci dining room. Go to art auctions, or any other group activity. Miniature or virtual golf. Fitness activities of any kind. Walk the promenade deck all the way forward (really, we were sloths). Summary completed, on with the more detailed report. Pre-cruise: Despite the World Trade Center tragedy on 9/11 and tropical storm Gabrielle--which hit land 90 miles south of us on September 14th--we made our September 15th  Southwest flight from Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale, which was uneventful. The mood in the nearly deserted airport was efficient and solemn, and no one seemed to mind the increased security or delays. This was true even on the return a week later, when the airports were considerably busier. Interesting how these little delays and annoyances were put in perspective for everyone, eh? We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale late morning, and called the Amerisuites 17th Street courtesy shuttle, which arrived within 15 minutes. The hotel is tucked behind a storage facility, sort of on the edge of nowhere, but it's still just a 5 minute walk from 17th Street and Miami, both of which have many restaurants and other shopping. Our requested king smoking wasn't ready, so we dropped our bags and left, returning a few hours later. Being the first Saturday after 9/11, cruise ships arriving in port that morning were significantly delayed by increased security, and didn't start unloading passengers until 11 or so. Those waiting to board were therefore delayed at the hotel, so everything was running a little behind. We were given room 625 at the end of the hall on the top floor, a TCB suite. The room has two areas separated by a half-wall. The front has an L-shaped desk (I hear this is particular to the TCB suite; regular rooms have a sofa instead), good task lighting and internet hookup, easy chair with ottoman, dining table with chairs, and kitchenette with small fridge, microwave, coffee maker and fixings, dishes, etc. All the basics. The back had the bed, two end tables and a good-sized window with little view (there are no views, according to the desk clerk). The requisite hutch with TV was on the wall opposite the half-wall, so the TV was visible from either the desk or the bed. The bathroom sink/counter sits exposed, almost directly across from the bed. It was impossible to use the sink light without blasting a sleeping partner. Toilet and shower/tub room was adjacent, shampoo and soap provided. Towels were adequate and the shower was good. I thought the layout was a little weird, and the decor dark, but it was roomy and clean, and would be quite sufficient for a longer stay. I'm just not crazy about that sink outside the bathroom thing. There is a pool that we didn't use; saw no other fitness facilities. The lobby is spacious with sofas and chairs/tables, and coffee and tea are available there 24/7. The complimentary continental breakfast was nice and more extensive than most. Staff were friendly, accommodating and helpful with information, directions, etc. The shuttle also took us to the ship the next day--both transports at no charge. Overall a fine experience, and a great deal for the Priceline rate of about $40 including fees/taxes. By the way, if staying here pre- or post-cruise, you can leave your car in their lot, saving the $10/day the port garage charges. While in Ft. Lauderdale, we went on the sightseeing cruise “Carrie B” which was a very enjoyable two hour cruise on the waterways, with continuous narration and lots of info about house costs, etc.  The boat also cruised into Port Everglades where we saw the Century and the Maasdam docked.  The tour normally costs $11.95/pp, but we had a half-price newspaper coupon provided by a friend, so it was only $6 each. Cab to and from the Carrie B was about $6 each way, with tip. Embarkation Because of increased security and delays in last week‘s passengers leaving the ships, the shuttle didn’t take us to Port Everglades until 12:15. We waited in line perhaps 10 minutes before getting in the door. Security was definitely higher than I‘ve seen before, with the usual conveyor belt security x-rays plus “wand” checks of both bags and people. I think our ID’s were checked at least three times before we made it out. Before going upstairs to the ship, we stopped at the duty free shop for smokes, which we realized meant we had to go back outside and through security again…. It really wasn’t a hardship; even with two times through several security checkpoints, we were standing on our balcony by 1:00. Painless. By the way, at the port where tickets are checked and ID’s issued, there were signs saying, “This cruise is full, there are no available cabin upgrades” or some such. These signs were also on the purser’s desk.  It was rumored there were 700 cancellations, and from watching balcony activity, ½ empty dining rooms, and talking to others, it seems there were indeed many empty cabins. If I may opine: My guess is they just don’t want to be bugged for upgrades, and IMHO, that’s reasonable. People seem to think they deserve an upgrade if there is space (and sometimes even if there is not). As a fellow traveler and admitted cheapskate, I agree that it shouldn’t be a big deal to get an upgrade if there is availability, but the fact is, the most the cruise line is required to do is provide the level cabin paid for. Anything else is icing. In seven cruises, this is the first time I got an upgrade, and I was darned happy to get it. I never book anything less than what I’d be satisfied with. Sometimes we set ourselves up for disappointment by expecting more than is reasonable. Book what we can live with, and be thrilled if we get more. No expectations, no disappointments. Okay, I’m off my soapbox now.  The Ship The Grand is beautiful, and it is true that the design makes her feels much more intimate than her size would indicate. There are lots of small comfy sitting areas around the ship so it was easy to find a quiet spot to talk or read. Up top, there were plenty of seats, we never had to search for a pool lounger. Other than the photo area on the last night, it never felt crowded anywhere. The ship is clean and well-kept and we saw crew varnishing outside railings and painting several times. She is going into dry dock soon for refurbishment; though I saw little that needed refurbishing, the sofas in the Skywalker disco were quite worn, and it’s possible there were other things I just didn’t notice. Overall, we preferred the artwork and more subdued décor of the Century, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with the Grand; it was very nice. The Cabin We booked BC guarantee and were upgraded to BA C644, Caribe (deck 10), port, aft. This was a great location; couldn’t have picked it better ourselves. We were only steps from the aft stairs and elevators, three flights below the Horizon Court and Terrace Pool (14 aft), four up from our Botticelli dining room (6 aft) and the casino (6 mid/forward). There is no 13th level.  We met our steward Cesar around 1:30 when he dropped off John’s rented tuxedo (a service booked on-line that worked well). Cesar was pleasant, efficient, and unobtrusive. Something never seen before: there was a sign on the desk with his hours, a pager number for him, and who to call if you needed something when he was not on duty.  A nice touch, but we never had to page him or anyone else. We always had the ice, and extra pool and bath towels we requested the first day.  The second day we requested robes, which were promptly provided; these were great for balcony sitting. Storage was sufficient, but a more hooks for towels and such would be helpful. Otherwise, we had no complaints; the cabin was comfortable, clean and well maintained, and the shower was strong and hot. The cooler/fridge worked well and we stocked it with soda we’d brought aboard. By the way, our steward emphasized that this is just a cooler, and told us it works better if items are already cold, but we found it chilled our soda cans just fine. The fridge is a great amenity, wish more ships provided one. We also liked the (bolted down) bedside lamps with dimmers that gave very nice lighting at night, and the handy switch by the bed for the doorway light. Folks ask whether port or starboard side is better. Perhaps those on the starboard side might disagree, but we thought our portside location was perfect for this itinerary. In Ft. Lauderdale, we faced the condos in the channel from the port to the Atlantic, where residents come out on their condo balconies to see the ships off--flashing lights, tooting horns, waving--very festive and great fun. In St. Thomas, we had the approach and dockside to Charlotte Amalie’s beautiful harbor. In St. Martin, we had the island-side approach, but docked starboard, so once in port we saw only a rather industrial area. At Princess Cays, we had the island view on approach, at anchor, and after sailing. I’m sure the starboard side was lovely, but I wouldn’t have traded this cabin for it.  As you can tell, we loved the balcony, and used it constantly. We had coffee there each morning, saw the sun go up on southbound days and down on northbound days, and we ended every night by watching the stars before retiring… with the door open so we could hear the water and the wind as we slept like babies. So, do ya think we’re spoiled for life? One comment on balconies. Many people didn’t turn off their balcony lights at night, which can be bothersome to those who like to sit out late at night and watch the stars. I’m not sure folks even knew they *could* turn the light off. Not a big deal, just mentioning it. Dining When we booked in mid-August, we were waitlisted for traditional first seating, #153. The week before sailing, we’d moved up to #82. As soon as we got on the ship, we went to the maitre d’s table which was staffed by someone not the maitre d’, located by Sabatini’s (7 midship) and again asked for first seating. We were put on a list, told it shouldn’t be a problem, and that notification of the change would arrive by 6:00. About 5:45, we got our reassignment to first seating at a table of 8 in the Botticelli dining room. The Grand has three separate dining rooms, and with traditional dining, we were assigned to the same room for the entire cruise. We never set foot in the other two. The Botticelli was a perfectly fine room, but we preferred the Century’s beautiful multi-level, windowed dining room. This is a fine point, but the Grand had so many intimate spaces that after several days, it almost felt claustrophobic. I started to think that at least one wide-open space on the ship would be nice. Our dining partners included one couple with their two grown sons, and another couple, all of us from Florida. We hit it off well, but the table was badly located. I don’t have the table number, but it was the first table immediately inside the dining room doors, and had constant traffic back and forth. There were many empty tables in the room (more evidence of cancellations), so we asked to be moved to a less exposed table. The next night, we got notice of a new table. This one was waaaaay back in a corner, but we were by two windows--a fine trade-off. Our waiters the first night were Solin and assistant Daniel, who gave us friendly but very quick service. Great for the first night, but not sure I would have wanted that pace throughout.  Conversely, and under the category of ‘be careful what you wish for,’ our servers at the second table, Henry from the Philippines and Supachai from Thailand, whether by design or neglect, allowed us a very leisurely 1-½ hour (plus) dinner most nights. It was slooow. I think it was bad timing, as a few dishes were downright cold when served. However promptly they’re replaced with hot, and these were, that just shouldn’t happen. The service did improve over the week, so maybe it was just timing. That aside, both were friendly and accommodating, and we ended up enjoying them very much. We thought assistant Supachai a rising star--very helpful, smiling all the time, and he had some good jokes. He was flying home to Thailand on Sunday for the first time in 10 months, 26 hours, he said. Hope he goes back to Princess; he’s an asset. We don’t cruise for the food and we are not gourmets. In fact, we usually lose our appetites when traveling. When we do eat, we tend to the less creative, so perhaps we missed the best of what they had. We appreciate that it can be difficult to infuse “grilled chicken breast” with excitement.  That disclaimer in place, we thought the food was okay; not bad, not outstanding, but with some definite high points. It is very good for what it is and the number of people being fed in a short time. The main courses were fine, but unremarkable (see disclaimer). Desserts were average, and we rarely finished what we’d ordered, so you know they weren’t spectacular. I had the Love Boat Dream the first night, which is beautifully presented and should be to my liking--death by chocolate--but it was too gooey/dense/fudgy, and I didn’t finish it. My partner had cheesecake which was also just okay. After that, we stuck with ice cream and sorbet, which were very good.  And the chocolate cake (see below). And the little plates of cookies they put on the table. Gee, no wonder I didn’t finish anything. ;-) John raved about a chicken and mushroom puff pastry appetizer served one of the final nights. Our tablemates seemed to like the fish they had almost every night. One who leaned to the more adventurous liked the food more than any other cruise they’d taken. We all thought the lobster served the second formal night was excellent--melt in your mouth perfect. The shrimp cocktail was also very good, much better than the Century’s, which had popcorn shrimp buried in sauce (a travesty, but one of very few failings). It was on the menu the first night but not the second, so we asked if we could have it again, and every night after we had shrimp cocktail without asking. Our tablemates requested a sugar free desert one night, and we were baked a different and delicious sugar free chocolate cake for each of the last three nights. Another tablemate wanted strawberry ice cream (unknown why that isn’t standard), and got it by the bowlful. Once we requested anything, we were accommodated every night. In that way, the service was excellent. It’s a fine line, but overall, we liked the Century’s service, ambience, and food quality and presentation better… except for the shrimp cocktail and the lobster. There is a carry-out pizzeria at the forward end of the Neptune Pool, open 11-7. We thought the pizza was very good and took it back to our cabin several times. Unfortunately, it isn’t available through room service. It had a nice thin crust that was only improved by a few more minutes in the oven. The food in the Horizon Court was fine, typical cruise buffet fare. The room is lovely with raised seating areas so most everyone has a window view, but the buffet area is poorly organized with several intersecting food lines and no obvious way to go through without bumping into others. At times, it was like bumper cars. Very good lox was available five of seven mornings, which I took full advantage of, but otherwise, we never had a hot meal here. We took a light lunch back to the cabin a few times, and they had a nice selection of salads, meats, cheeses, breads, fruit, hot foods, etc. Sushi was also available several days, nicely presented. It is impossible not to find something suitable, regardless of one’s taste. We did not eat at Sabatini’s or Painted Desert. We’re not interested in spending more for food. Personal Choice Dining didn’t interest us. One of the things we like most about cruising is we never have to decide when or where to eat. We like to have the same servers all week and to tip in person. Sometimes we have to rework our plans a little to make 6:15, but that’s an acceptable trade-off for us. We spoke to some who really liked the flexibility of PCD, but there was also the couple who had it (their TA actually told them they had no choice), who’d asked repeatedly to be switched to traditional. For some reason, they were not accommodated. I don’t know why not. There was certainly room in our dining room for two more, but perhaps I missed some of the story. Thus, the ultimate question: If PCD is forced on people who don’t want it, is it really PCD? Entertainment We went to at least one show each night except the first. The Vista lounge (deck 7, aft) has lousy sightlines, with huge pillars around the room that make many seats useless. The Princess Theatre (deck 5? forward) was larger and had a much better layout. Suggest arriving for any show at least 20 minutes prior to show time to get a decent seat. Saving is definitely frowned upon here and everywhere on the ship.  Steve Michaels, a magician/comedian had some good moments, but the bathroom humor was tiring. Warning: do not sit in the first 6 rows for this show. Trust me.  We also saw hypnotist Buck Macleod. I didn’t care much for his style, but he was still good. He couldn’t resist stooping to bathroom noises and such to embarrass the volunteers either. What is it about flatulence, anyway?  I’m amazed that folks volunteer for these things… Still, it was entertaining and interesting, as these things are, and there were several people who were completely under. Everyone was a good sport. He has an adult show at midnight later in the week that we wanted to see, but it was just too late, and I never did find anyone who’d seen it to get an opinion. I thought juggler Dan Bennett was amazing. Hilarious, talented, extremely intelligent, just a hoot. The final night, there was another show with Steve Michaels and Dan Bennett, with all new material. It was good--we liked them even more the second time around (bathroom humor aside).  We also saw comedian Glenn Hirsch, who started out slow but improved as the show went on. Marty Allen, alas, was not on this cruise. And I’d just run across an old “Let’s Make A Deal” where he won a car for some lady in Hackensack or something. Must have been taped at least 30 years ago. I was disappointed I didn’t get a chance to mention it to him. Instead, we had Marty Brill. He had a few great jokes, but it was too Catskills for our tastes. The older set did seem to enjoy him, however, so who am I to judge.  The only song/dance show we saw, “Lights, Camera, Action,” was excellent. The sets were complex and beautiful, the production values tight, the song and dance well coordinated with good talent, very professional start to finish. This was really a good show. We don’t drink and didn’t spend much time in the many lounges, so we missed several of the performers, but we did hear “The Westmorelands” a few times in the Wheelhouse. This male/female team perform standards from the Carpenters to Sinatra--usual lounge music. They had a nice sound and were quite personable. We also heard the Grand Princess Orchestra a few times--mostly big band standards and great stuff IMHO. Princess has the edge over Celebrity on entertainment. There were several choices each evening, and every show was pretty good. One curious thing: they put the combined Michaels/Bennett show in the smaller Vista lounge, and reserved the Princess Theatre for a showing of “Shrek.” The Vista was packed to overflowing. I don’t know if anyone showed up for the movie. Ports -- St. Thomas Since our last cruise, we planned to snorkel on St. John snorkel next time, but the morning was rainy, so we stayed on St. Thomas. We hired a cab for an island tour, which we enjoyed ($20/pp + we tipped another $5 for the two of us). Saw all the high points, as it were. Spent a little time in the shops in Charlotte Amalie, and returned to the ship. We’ll do St. John next time. I swear. St. Martin/St. Maarten In early 2000, we anchored and tendered in, but now there is a dock and welcome center, and there also appears to be a shopping mall going up adjacent (think Havensight in St. Thomas). You can take the water taxi to town for $5/day unlimited, or hire a land taxi at $3/pp each way to town.  We took a cab/van from the port to Orient Beach for $6/pp each way. We rented two lounge chairs with cushions and umbrella for $5/pp, which included two bathroom passes… don’t laugh, the toilets are clean and well worth the .50 cents a visit. This was my third visit to Orient in 4 years. It still has some of the most beautiful waters anywhere, but the beach itself has eroded terribly since 2000. What was a 40’-50’ wide beach is now about 12’, if that. A real shame. The water and surroundings are still lovely, but the beach is nearly gone, and many of the vendors were closed. Not sure whether this was because of the erosion or because it is low season; possible they were just on vacation. At any rate, it was not crowded, and we enjoyed ourselves. We prearranged for the cab to pick us around 2:00. After returning to Philipsburg, we shopped a bit and took a cab back to the ship. Princess Cays This is a lovely island with lots of facilities and activities. We tendered over at 10 a.m., and spent a few hours, returning to the ship by early afternoon. We did not eat the barbeque lunch they served, and the only activity we did besides sit, was snorkeling. I rented the required vest for $8.00 and snorkeled for quite a while. I believe you can rent a vest for the entire week at that price, but I didn’t need it except for this day. The snorkeling was good, with clear water and lots of fish. I was impressed. If you go, swim from the crowded main swimming area around the gazebo into the open area to the right (facing the water). Visibility is much better there. And, though a little rocky, the beach wasn’t nearly as bad as some have reported. If you don’t use fins, do wear water shoes for protection of your feet and the coral. (Soapbox note: Despite highly visible signs reminding everyone of the fragility of the reefs, we saw lots of people sitting (!) or standing (!) on coral.  Please remember to respect your surroundings. Thank you. Off soapbox.). Tipping When we asked on the second day, the purser cheerfully removed the $6.50/pp automatic tip for Personal Choice diners from our folios. Since we had traditional dining, we just tipped the last night as usual. We did not tip cash. We instead went to a bartender (any bartender), who charged our tips to our shipboard card, and gave us receipts with envelopes. We then gave these to our steward, waiter and assistant waiter. This was a handy service. Disembarkation We got our tags and paperwork on Saturday. Sunday morning at 6:45, we had to be at immigration, which took the form of a line through the Vista Lounge where passports or ID are  checked about three times by federal marshals. Though the line was long when we got there, it took only about 10 minutes. It was handled efficiently, and we were off the ship by 9:15 a.m. We had no problem finding our bags, but it was chaotic in the terminal as usual. Just part of the experience.  A word of caution: while in line at immigration in the Vista, someone took a picture of the room--quite innocently, I’m sure--and was loudly and sternly chided by one of the guards.  The offending photographer was given a choice to have the film processed on ship and give the guards back those pictures and the film, or surrender the entire roll. I imagine they took the former option. Lesson learned: Do not take pictures of any federal marshals, security checkpoints, airports, or other potentially sensitive areas or people. Rightly so, there is little sense of humor about this right now. Finally, a question to my fellow cruisers: on the morn of disembarking, is anyone else bothered by the voice on the PA repeatedly listing name after name of those who 1) didn’t show up for immigration, or 2) won’t get their accounts settled? What is the problem with people? If I may, a brief rant: They make the boat, but they can’t make immigration; they buy the cruise, but they won’t pay for their on-board expenses when requested. This has been true on every cruise I’ve taken, and I just don’t get it. It is rude to hold up everyone else, especially since we all know these things must be done. End of rant.  Well, there’s yet more detail in this weary head of mine, but nine pages is enough. Happy to ramble further if anyone has questions; write to me at mleeds@tampabay.rr.com.  Otherwise, that’s it. Hope you enjoyed it. 

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Then we walked around the ship to get familiar & had lunch in the Horizon Court. Sandwiched between the 2 pool areas it has a huge sign stating NO POOL CLOTHING OR SWIMSUITS PERMITTED. Great food offered (Goulash, stew, fish, pasta, stir fry chicken & beef, sushi, large salad area along the seating area wall, hot on the back wall & deserts & rolls in the middle. Then off near the entrances is the beverage area though the workers get you what

you want to drink with a coffee cart circling the tables. Promenade deck does the entire circumference of the 7th floor with 2 stairways up or down to the front of the ship (which is closed after sunset til dawn). Then we saw the showrooms, the 3 dining rooms & I chose Michelangelo for PC that night after Mr Tractor's recommendation of 2 weeks prior & the art was better on the walls. So back to our room, still no slippers or mini-bar & we are hearing others in the hallway (one guy looked & sounded like Kenny Rogers) all commenting on the Steward & lack of perks for a mini-suite. We see our 2nd suitcase outside the door & take it in to unpack that. Then we freshen up & go to dinner. We are greeted warmly at the door by Head Waiter Danielle who seats us at table 101 on the right a flight up. Great location to people watch the whole dining room. Then we see another Head Waiter, older with half glasses resembling a DOM seating Marty Allen & wife Kate way in the back in a corner. Jerry sees Stuffed Flounder, salad, shrimp cocktail for his order. Me, I want all 3 appetizers (shrimp cocktail which is a caribbean fruit/white pepper sauce, egg rolls with a fruity soy sauce & grapefruit/kiwi laced in Blue Caracoa (sp) & our waiter Adi from Romania served them one at a time warm to cold. Then cappuccino & tiramisu and sampling it brought back memories of Dawn Princess' chef Josef from Austria. Then as remark how wonderful the presentation of the food was & the great cappuccino, another Head Waiter Carlos asks if we would like a Pina Colada Soup. It isn't soup but the drink served in a soup bowl. We got a kick out of it & it was definitely loaded with rum since we felt it. Then both Head Waiters stop over to hear our compliments on our waiter, who was quite shy & his assistant who talked a bit more. We learn they are new & they were checking if service was good. Then they tell us that that table is ours for the cruise as long as we are at it before 7PM nightly. No problem for us as we dine early & are usually asleep by 10PM to be up at 5AM daily to enjoy eh sunrise & new ports. So back to the room we go, I take a hot bath, Jerry showers & we are out like a light after getting into bed. 11/19, sea day and after breakfast at the buffet, we head to the pool. All 4 are loaded with screaming kids. Even the hot tubs has 4-7 per tub. So we look for the adult only pool & do to the Holiday Sail, it isn't! So we go back up to 14 Sun Deck, no loungers in the sun & we walk the 2 upper area stairwells & finally locate 2 but we have the big white SATURN in our way. So back to our stateroom to discover a very sunny deck with the loungers side by side with full reclining. Table & chairs by the door & we were all set. Even room service brought chicken Caesar & a pitcher of iced tea & a huge basket of ice put atop our counter. So we enjoyed ourselves til about 3pm when I washed my hair & showered, then Jerry. Get all dressed up, me in my new gown resembling Basinger's LA Confidential gown (backless with draping material surrounding it & a slice up the side) C/Z clip pulling my long hair back, pearls with diamond lavaliere attached, ankle strapped gray shoes. Jerry in his black suit, white tux shirt, and tie & diamond stick pin. Dinner was to be celebrating our 22nd anniversary as Princess had noted on our Personalizer from last year. Tonight we have 3 Head Waiters with Vincente (the older gent with half glasses who was very Italian). As we walk in I have my arm put inside Carlo's arm as he walks us to the table & seats me. Italian night with the best Veal we have tasted. Carlos brings us a plate with shaved Prosciuto, cubes of parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar cruet to flavor the cheese & olives (all kinds). We saw no one else with this & it was so good. So we both thought it was for our anniversary & felt very delighted. 7PM & the show featuring a magician-comedian was at 8:15PM. So we hit the casino & lose $200 in an hour. I did my 3 max plays, no pay move one to the right & did the whole area. No VP for Jerry so he did Wheel of Fortune with losing results. We heard no payout during the hour. Nickel slot area also near the restrooms, but we headed for the showroom. We notice a sign outside telling folks no saving of seats. We also do not see any "no kids in the first 5 rows as we did on the Dawn & Ocean". Guess that is a Sun Class fiasco. Well this guy & his wife were SO BAD! Very old jokes & his magic you could see the door on the floor open from our seats for the wife to disappear. If the light wasn't on downstairs it may have worked. The other show offered was "Light, Camera, Action" which was on the Dawn a year ago in the S Carib. We recognized the photo of the folks. So back to the room, out on the balcony to enjoy the half moon high in the sky and the stars, tho not falling as we had seen in Cleveland. 11/20, I am up at 6AM with Jerry not moving. So I shower, dress, go up to the Horizon for coffee & there are our 2 Head Waiters Carlos & Daniele. So they serve me breakfast with everything from corned beef hash to roasted tomatoes & baked apples. They sat with me for a while as the ship docks at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Jerry shows for breakfast & then we are off to see Jamaica, digital camcorder/digital still on his shoulder in the bag. Very friendly folks, not pushy. Loads of finally dressed officers also greeting us. Did some shopping for souvenirs finding a few inexpensive magnets for Jerry's office staff & our neighbor. Saw no public beaches to snorkel in & didn't want to cab it so back onto the ship & lunch in the DaVinci dining room. We are greeted by Head Waiter Vincente who seats us in the identical table as we have downstairs for dinner. We have another Romanian pair man/woman who were very talkative & great service. We learned that they are hired from a company in Switzerland who runs ads for cruise ship jobs. You must be 21-26 for entry positions and then you are promoted from within. Many of the Princess management team were waiters on Sitmar! They are on for 8 month contacts that can be renewed at anytime after they disembark to enjoy their families. 1200 crew members from painters to wait staff. Dirty work is mostly Mexicans who have a 6 month contract & usually do not return. Wait staff is mostly Philippines, Romania, Italy, and cooks from Italy, Portugal & Austria and as we are talking across the floor from the kitchen walks a very familiar gentleman. Big man, blonde hair, big smile IT IS JOSEF FROM AUSTRIA! Our cook on the Dawn in Austria who waves back at me & comes to the table for a kiss on the cheek & a chat. I hope he was making his prize strudel & he states only the last night as Princess felt it was too hot in the Caribbean for it. Jerry got a shot of both of us joking around. We learn he was married after he left the Dawn & heard about sailing & heading the galleys on the Grand. I told him we celebrated our 22nd last night & he remarked that he never was told for a cake for us. Then he gets Vincente over to ask if our dinner had anything for us. Then a gal comes up as we bid bye to Josef & is introduced to us as an Asst Purser named Ophelia Benjamin. She sits quite shocked to hear that yes, her computer does state 11/19 22nd anniversary for Mr & Mrs G Moran. We have no balloons on the door, no card from the Captain, nothing. Then we ask her about the slippers that other cruiser were quite entertained with receiving. Even the mini-bar. She apologized for the poor treatment of our Cabin Steward as she received many complaints from 400-500 rooms on Dolphin. I even commented on the scratchy robes that looked quite beaten up for a 3 year old ship. She came to the room to see how it was set up, took the robes shaking her head & stated that we were owed some apologies. As she exited, she is met by others in the hall, one yelling at her that the Steward entered the stateroom while she was in the shower. So we do our walk around the deck & meet UK Kim, the onboard sales rep for future cruises. Very great gal to chat with & she checked her computer for some sales. Mediterranean on Golden is half off, so we put $200 (not $1250) deposit on that getting a $200 shipboard credit, and this was a certificate for future cruise by 11/2004. Then I mentioned the inaugural Panama Canal Coral Princess. Then mail comes over her fax the Princess had merged with RCI. She reads it to us. 51% to their 49%. Then she states that she has to contact Ratcliffe for the current info since she won't be in service 11/14 as their past press release stated. So back to the stateroom to shower & dress in "Island Wear" for dinner. WOW! Happy Anniversary sign & balloons, as well as birthday, even honeymoon on just about every door down our hall. As we walk in there is a mini bar set up, 2 plastic bags of slippers & new robes! So we have 2 Canadian Clubs, 2 Beefeaters & 2 Smirnoffs, with 2 tonics, 2 cokes, 2 sprites & 2 big bottles of water. Fridge is packed now! So as I am applying makeup in the bathroom, a knock on the door has a waiter in a tux bringing us a plate of chocolate covered strawberries and a happy anniversary card from Ophelia & the Pursers' Office. WOW!!! Then down to dinner, more great service with shrimp cocktails arriving upon seating us (yeah Carlos). Beef Tenderloins for us, crab leg cocktail, dinner salads, strawberry soup. Again as the table is cleared the crumbs swept off the table with the Asst Waiter joking it is for the bread pudding, Here combs the cappuccino & a thick hunk of chocolate with Princess logos around it atop a plate in Carlos' hands. Daniele, he & Vincente with waiters approach us singing "Happy Anniversary to You". Then I blow out the candle & he hands us a card from Captain Christie. This is a solid chocolate shell with Neapolitan custard/cake & strawberry glaze atop that. Josef writes "Happy Ann', Josef" on the plate in strawberry glaze. A kiss on the hand by Carlos, made for a great evening & Daniele shakes hands with Jerry making sure everything was perfect. Jerry learns that Adi, our waiter, was promoted from Asst Waiter for 3 years. Daniele worried he wasn't ready. He has 5 tables of a sold out room so he is working his butt off & doing a fine job. We see folks getting numbers as they walk in. We learn 7-8:30 is prime time & all are told reservations only during that time. But they still come! We also learn that next year Personal Choice will be called ANYTIME DINING, which we agreed was dumb name that will cause problems. 11/21 This was Stingray Day & I was quite excited! We had breakfast on the balcony & we very taken by the see-through waters below us. We saw a few Rays swim & a team of 7 groupers (so we learned) tagged behind as we docked. Amazing that any human can navigate this enormous shopping cart into position, especially backing in. We were down of 4 to board the tender which wasn't the orange lifeboats, since they we security, but a large 2 story board that held approx 100 folks. Then we walked to the Aqua Mall to meet Ruth from Capt Marvins. We booked the 10AM 3 hour trip which was 45 mins with Stingrays which was so great with they enormous bacl creatures, who are the females, rubbing up against you as a hello. You feed them squid by the bucketful. Some navy blue fish about 2 feet long also steal food from my hands in record speed. Then we glide over to the coral reef for snorkeling which was being live on a National Geographic Show. After 45 mins you are signaled to return to the ship (we had 40 total on the trip on a 3 story cruiser). The we went to the Coral Gardens which was a feast for the eyes. The crystal clear water, the colors of the coral, fish, and other living manner which included a moray eel. This excursion booked online was well worth $35. Princess' excursion for $50 was a glass boat that you watch the folks play with the Ray & see Hell & some turtle farm. They pointed it out with 150 folks crammed on it. Aqua Mall has sharks in a tank, turtles and other interesting things to see besides shop. Back to the ship by 2PM, shower & relax before dinner. Then another Vista Lounge show with a juggler. We lasted 15 minutes here. Sorry to say the entertainment in the theatres wasn't worth sitting thru. So to the Atrium (which is much smaller than the Sun Class ships) and the best pianist who really works his Mozart & Chopin playbooks. Again we see Kim, who has some prices for Med, Russia, British Isles so we can use the 2nd cruise deposit purchased before we sail on Coral. She told us we were to be receiving paperwork by Saturday in our stateroom (which we never did by disembarkation). She also told us that Coral must like us already since we were upgraded from BF to BD for the 12/14/02 cruise. This ship will have so many balconies that the categories are BA-BM! 11/22 this is the day for the much mocked Costa Maya aka Majahual. The Spa had Costa Maya specials good only on that day. A Mariachi band came aboard to play in the Atrium, and as we went ashore to look around we noticed that the Grand was the only ship there! Very pushy folks to make your visit irritating. A mall with a show that plays twice in the 8 hours there. Prices were too high & they do not bargain. Getting back on the ship was a breeze with no purchases & they knew our camera bag so we were waved past the area onto the ship. Lunch at DaVinci was fun. Chili Con Carne in a bread bowl was excellent! Had the cinnamon ice cream with another scoop of mint chocolate chip with caramel over it. Then as we went through the Atrium a string quartet (3 gals with a guy) entertained. So we sat & enjoyed them. Then decided to do High Tea also in DaVinci. Excellent white gloved service, the pianist entertaining with more Chopin, and some nice folks to chat with all agreeing why Princess stops here. BORING! All loved PC Dining tho none of us had the need for reservations if you dined by 7PM. After 7 it was a zoo! The Head Waiters had told us how pushy folks were to get a table when all they needed was a reservation for late dining. We asked if anyone was eating in Bocelli's for traditional & yet, it was full too! At dinner that night, a honeymooning couple who we had chatted with earlier showed for dinner with about 200 other folks who decided to eat early. We had our table & were seated & as we watched them waiters in line be awarded their guests, who they took to the stated table number, our honeymooners stepped up in line. We told Carlos to bring them over. They were so excited to eat in our area, basically the same folks at the same table with the same waiters. She loved being walked with her hand held high to the table & seated so respectfully. They told us this didn't happen in either DaVinci or Michelangelo on the previous night. Then Daniele shows with a large plate of thin sliced veal with greens surrounding it, again beautiful presentation. Then I freak at big hands on my shoulder & it is Josef, the Executive Chef, stopping by. So I introduce him to our friends & he invites them to his cooking show tomorrow at Noon. He makes sure we are coming & then leaves. Veal was the hit tonight with mashed potatoes high on cream & butter, presented thru a pastry bag. The roasted tomato was carved into a rose. BEAUTIFUL! After dinner we walked around the shops that had what resembled a sidewalk sale along the atrium railings on both floors. Gold-By-The-Inch was the hot place & I got a 18 kt gold plated bracelet for $40. 11/23 as Cozumel Day. We were greeted again by crystal clear waters with many rock formations in it. So the snorkel bag goes with us as we explore the area with at least 5 miles of waterfront shops. Diamond Int'l have 6 shops down the street. 2 in the opposite direct where Carnival, RCI & Celebrity are docked. Grand has it own spot. So we hit the 4 stores getting 8 pairs of diamond stud earring for FREE. A great lead to get folks in and very few knew anything about it. Princess passed out the coupons for them, but if a couple, give 2 different stateroom #'s. St Thomas has them also with the same offer. Right in front of the stores is the beach, rocky but all sorts of folks snorkeling with interesting fish in the beautiful bluish-green waters. Then over to Carlos & Charlies & I just loved the bolts & nuts tables & chairs, then very funny waiters who also perform jokes on folks (such as changing my drink straw 5 times & I didn't notice). NOW THIS IS A PINA COLADA! Jerry has a Mahi Mahi & one was more than enough. Then the bill shows - $132 but that is pesos $13.20 USD a bit steep but it included the entertainment, sing alongs, etc. Then I asked for the restrooms & the waiter points to the bar & the sign BATHROOMS with a down arrow. Under it is an enormous toilet! But the real ones are on the wall across from it. We learn that they are in Cleveland as Senor Frogs. A very funny man in front of his store sees us walking returning to the ship, filming the sculptures on the waterline. He states that his prices are almost free! So we walk in & I see a bracelet that is very heavy, silver studs adorning with black encrusting it. $150 USD he states as I put it back. He gets it & is now at $110. He starts his sales pitch with the real silver, coded 950 top quality opposed to the 999 or 925. As we start for the door he goes to $100, then $80, then $60. Jerry tells him $30 pulling out the $20 & $10. SOLD! Then we got some T-Shirts that fill in color when out in the sun. They have nail polish that is one color inside & another in the sun. Great day there, so much more personable & clean compared to the Puerto Vallarta side of Mexico. But they then tell us they are a private island, not mainland. That is why they are so great! Then the man has table clothes even long dining room table types. I saw a Mayan Calendar style that was so eye catching & we got it for $20. Then back to the ship & again waved past the long line at check in. A long soak in my personal hot tub in our bathroom & Jerry is out cold across the bed. Dressy night #2 with Captain Circle party before. We are to be at the Captain's table in Bocelli at 8PM dinner. But as we enter dressed in black, me a lace gown & Jerry suit & short, a long line is before us for what we thought was the photo with the Captain, nope! Just handshakes & Jerry hears before the 2 guys in front of us the Captains states "No more handshakes, taking too much time". He just says Hello with no smile & Jerry goes to shake his hand & gets 3 finger across his first 3 fingers which really changed our taste for dinner. We told his assistant that we won't be a dinner to learn that they have a list who want to dine & only 10 are chosen. So we may not have been dining with him after all? Then we finally get to see & experience the Cruise Director Graham Seymour. Very funny gent, was the best entertainment on the ship's 5 days! Then we learn that he has a TV Show on channel 21, tho the only TV was ESPN for scores & a college game ending or CNN where we again heard about the Princess RCI merger days later from Kim's email that we read. Then free booze & canapés & 4 folks awarded champagne from a drawing & a couple with 475 cruise days got a free cruise (didn't say where). So blasted we head to dinner which was lobster tails, crab cocktail & Carlos brought us more 2 shrimp cocktails each (one red & the other Caribbean) as we are seated by Daniele. Pretty empty room at 7:45PM. A bus of tourists is stuck broken down so we are not leaving port til after 10PM so many are still ashore. After dinner back for a soak & cocktails on the balcony, which the others behind us up 3 floors seemed to never be used. In the morning a few outside but at night it is pretty vacant which was nice, relaxing & peaceful. Then we remember that Marty Allen is at the Princess Theatre, so we make the 10PM show! After Westward Ho & Gold Coast in Las Vegas, he has found his niche with Princess. He & Kate do 2 shows a week, they are ashore with the tourists, they ate lunch the same times as us daily, and we are guessing they don't not have bunk beds in their staterooms as we learned from the waiters on how they live (4 to a room). She is typical torch singer but Marty at his age & very balding head with the frizz combed in circles around it, can get a showroom rolling in the aisles. She does a good straight man to him with very nice gown changes. Amazing that they are married 17 years! But he adores her, as we watched many times during the week. They made us feel good when we shared deck space with them. Their show was the only worth while entertainment the whole week other than Seymour's TV Show which he mocks everything from the 75% off at sea day sale of all the junk the Costa Maya shops couldn't sell, to the drink of the day & who would order it. But then he also had to be informative for the disembarkation day which was Sunday & that we would be getting forms, letters, luggage tags & not to lose them. 11/24 At sea day, the forms Seymour promised at here, 6:45AM for INS check for letter M, so we plan what we can wear to dinner that will be go home clothes since we will finish our mini bar & go to sleep extra early with a 5AM wakeup call. Today is the cooking show/galley tour day & we enter the Princess Theatre for the show to Josef banging pots on stage pointing for us to take front row seats. This was great with him cooking fettuccine Alfredo, Shrimp Scampi, then the strudel which he rolls using a tablecloth which had me jump up to catch it at stage bottom but he was able to put the brakes on it with the cloth. Totally amazing! We were served plates of food to sample & ten remark to the room our feelings. Other plates traveled the rows for folks to sample. The galley on the Grand is 3 times the size of any Sun Class ship we sailed. So we walk the ship taking in this 75% sale of junk (T-shirts that say nothing, polo shirts that are all size SMALL, swimsuits that are ugly) so around to the Purser's desk to find the trip envelopes & have extra put on our account for the Steward as well as the 3 Head Waiters who spoiled us all week. Ophelia received hugs again from us for her service, as did Kim, we were given forms to fill out for employees personnel files on all who made our trip special. 15 will do. But we still have to go to a bar to do the tip charges. They were packed with football watchers, but we did find a seat to get this done with a great waitress. Envelopes address & slips inside, so back to the room & start writing for all waiters, Head Waiters, Chef, Ophelia, and then I discover that my silver CZ bracelet is gone replaced by my new wrist clincher. So I dash back to the Pursers & Michael is the only one there & I asked if he has Lost & Found & that I lost a Monet silver C/Z tennis bracelet sometime within the morning (I had it on in the stateroom when I put on my new bracelet & saw it at breakfast with folks remarking about it). So he goes in the back office & comes out with it!!!! Back on my wrist & he gets a $20 tip which he refuses & hands me a card to fill out for him for his file. We thought for FREE champagne, lets attend an art auction, knowing the joke that they are. The showroom is packed! We find a table in the back & get 2 glasses of champagne delivered. Folks raising hands, purses, napkins, even standing with excitement that they spent $9500 on a Picasso print. Then we hear the Graham-like auctioneer state that she should insure it for $20K. How when her receipt is for $9500. And the place applauds. So for a hour we sat, drank, we were entertained by the applause when a purchase is made, why? This was the 2nd best entertainment of the ship. Then back to the room to pack the 2 cases to put out before dinner. As we open the door to put them out, the porter takes them! Even coming in for the 2nd one. The Stewards stand near the elevators for their tip envelope, as Graham stated on TV that you don't see them all week, just placing the clean stateroom hanger on your door when you leave, but you will have them attached to you for their tip. Dinner was sad, that this was it for spoiling, even got a hug from Josef with hopes of meeting again in the future. The Head Waiters got their envelopes with notice that it was the extra special treatment all week, so they deserved it atop the norm billed to the stateroom. No Baked Alaska! That is traditional only! But everyone was served a true cappuccino with orange liquor in it with the strudel they ate wrapped in vanilla cream or the Swans on a Chocolate Lake (we had both). 11/25 Disembarkation Day aka D Day! Up at 5AM, shower, dress & be to the Vista Lounge at 6:45AM. Passports & letters in hand then man at the entrance takes the letter & then you walk down to the front & every 5 folks go down an aisle to the man at the end who sees your passport & welcomes you home. That is it! Then after 7AM, for 2.5 hours, you hear announcements for folks to report to the Vista Lounge. After breakfast we went back to the stateroom to await our color to be announced. It is 9AM & still 4 folks are holding up getting off. So we phone the rooms getting busy signals. ALL CARIBE DECK TOO! Then at 10AM we hear disembarkation has started & first with those who booked an excursion. Then he states those with early flights to go to the Vista Lounge. We guess they missed them. We are off by 10:40AM & on a bus to the airport that goes directly to Continental Airlines. There we have to enter an area for cruise passengers. I ask the gal where the E-Service machine are for E-tickets & she passes us right thru her computer & tags the bags & to the gate we go. BUT NOT SO FAST! 2 hour line to wait in for the security check. No express for no carry ons either! Figure 6 cruise ships at FLL X the cruisers & 80% flying home makes for big lines. Add those flying home from Thanksgiving also. YIKES! But we got to the gate (the last one) with 30 minutes til we board. So no President's Club here. Save it for Vegas! 1:15Pm we take off land in Cleveland before 4PM luggage arrives at carrousel quite fast & we are on the train back to the car & 10 min ride home. This was the best Princess cruise we have taken! Will sail Grand if her itinerary changes in the future. Now that we have done all 3 directions of the Caribbean we need new ideas. Again special thanks to all who recommended Captain Marvin, 85 & still a rocker with a great workforce. What an unbelievable experience we shared with nature. Rumor has it we get to see Ruth & the Captain and his Rays when we do the Coral & Panama Canal. EXCELLENT! Yes, 11/22 was Thanksgiving, yes they had the huge presentation in the Atrium & the pumpkin fiasco for dinner. But at Breakfast, we let Carlos & Daniele know that We HATE PUMPKIN! So dinner was pumpkin free, Beef Tenderloin, 2 shrimp cocktails (red & caribbean) and swans on chocolate lake & the Princess Dream both wonderful & pumpkin free. Great cappuccino also! Then I also remarked that the dining room coffee was so good! I am told it is the same coffee at lunch & the buffet. I shook my head in disbelief since the buffet coffee was horrid! I learn that the china cups at dinner are heated, at lunch are not & the buffet is plastic mugs - thus makes for lousy coffee. So at lunch in the dining room we requested heated cups & voila! Good coffee!

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We took the Western Caribbean trip on Grand Princess. This was our 4th cruise, all with Princess, and our best. This was the first time we took our kids, age 13 and 16. Grand Princess is huge: 16 floors and three football fields long. We understand the different schools of thought about mega-ships but we loved the size of Grand Princess. We loved the fact that there were so many different venues for eating and entertainment. We even loved all

the walking we had to do as it made us feel like we were burning off at least a minute portion of our meals! We feel that Princess handles the number of passengers extremely well, as we never once felt like we were traveling with thousands of other people. Embarkation Handled pleasantly, efficiently and quickly. 15 minutes after arriving at the terminal, we were aboard the ship. Stateroom Having paid for an inside, we were upgraded to E626 and E624 with views obstructed by lifeboats. On the two days we were at ports served by tender, our lifeboats were used as tenders so we enjoyed the full view. We had requested the kids' room be made up with twin beds and found both rooms made up as queens, but our steward, Sara, whom we soon came to esteem greatly, was right nearby and immediately made the change. The rooms were spotless always. We liked the good-sized fridge, in which we stored shore-bought Cokes. Our kids stayed up half the night and slept till 1:00 in the afternoon, but Sara was always patiently waiting to clean when they finally vacated the premises. Ship As I indicated above, we loved the size of Grand Princess. There were two main pools which even on at-sea days never seemed packed and the lap pool (forward) and adults-only pool (aft) were often deserted. I had read a review which said the aft pool, being directly under the suspended nightclub, was always cold, but did not find this to be the case. There was a lounge area to suit everybody. During the day, if I got too hot on deck, I especially enjoyed the Promenade lounge, which was bright and sunny and from where you could hear the musicians in the Atrium below. Or if I felt like being quiet and alone, there were many inviting couches by windows all over the ship. Also, the Skywalker lounge, the one suspended high at the aft of the ship, was absolutely deserted during the day, probably because there was no bar service at that time. I could stretch out on a couch with my book and end up reading nothing because I was enjoying the spectacular view. Teen Activities Grand Princess has a section of the ship dedicated to teens called Off Limits. They have their own, walled-off portion of deck with lounges and hot tub, and an indoor club area. They have cruise directors whose goal in life is to keep them entertained. Our kids quickly made friends and if we saw them half an hour out of every 24, that was a lot. They played games, watched movies, were given a free pass to the virtual reality (video games) center, had their own turn in the Skywalker nightclub, which they were normally not allowed in once its bar opened and the party started there, and generally traveled in a pack, eating and swimming. They quickly figured out that the activities offered in the early evening (7-8) were generally lame, in their minds, but after 8, things got fun. Itinerary We had chosen this particular route because it only had two at-sea days and one of us suffers from seasickness. As it turned out, the sea was beautifully calm at all times and this was never a problem. Our stops were Princess Cays, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Princess Cays was great. The kids were able to rent snorkeling gear for about $15 each and were so busy in the water they never ate anything from the wonderful buffet Princess had set up. The tendering operation to shore was handled very smoothly: initially, you went to the Explorer's Lounge to get a ticket and then relaxed until your number was called and you could proceed to the boarding area. Even at its busiest, this didn't take long at all. Eventually, when the bulk of people had gone ashore, you could just go and get on a tender. The tenders went back and forth very frequently all day long. I can't comment on Grand Cayman because we chose not to get off there. We were all enjoying the ship too much and couldn't be bothered to leave it! We also didn't get off at Costa Maya, about which much has already been written. The cruise staff make fun of it and the brochures for shore excursions to the Mayan ruins warn that it is very hot and that they issue bug spray on the bus there. It didn't sound appealing. One passenger on our ship returned from this expedition with a broken foot. It's apparently quite rough terrain you have to walk through to reach the ruins. Cozumel was fun. A long, long stretch of shops with fabulous silver jewelry and every one of them with people standing outside trying to sweep you in both with arms and words. "Lady, lady, your husband love cigar! Hey, Dude, it's let's make a deal time! Very cheap, very cheap, practically free!" My daughter was intimidated but I thought it was hilarious. Lots of little booths with people wanting to cornrow braid hair, definitely the "do" of choice in the dining room that night! Be sure to dicker hard for everything; they'll come way, way down in price. Food Well, I can't use enough superlatives in this category. On our last cruise on Crown Princess two years ago, we were very disappointed in the food, but this time, no matter where you ate, it was spectacular. We chose the traditional dining as we felt it was less hassle and enjoy getting to know our waiters. All seafood was gently cooked to perfection, never rubbery. Prime rib arrived cooked exactly to spec. Beautiful food presentation and fabulous desserts. Very attentive service. The Horizon Court buffet is open 24 hours. When my 16-year-old son discovered this, he thought he had died and gone to heaven. He ate all day. I was amazed at how they even managed to serve buffet food cooked just right. And selection? You name it, it was there. We never had a problem finding a place to sit. Leave the main area, which is always busier, and head to the seats down either side. They're never crowded. There are beverage stations dotted throughout where you can get coffee, tea, iced tea or milk. (Anything else, you have to buy.) We all enjoyed the pizza from the pizzeria on deck, as well. It's open from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and we only wish it were open later. There was also a grill on deck which did hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and onion rings, open the same hours, and an ice cream place. The ice cream place was seldom used as you had to pay for ice cream and I think people were letting Princess know what they thought of that. Service This is the one area I have a couple of complaints in, but I'll list the positives first. As previously stated, our cabin steward Sara was terrific. Bar service was prompt and attentive without being annoying. Our waiter and assistant waiter were great. Many reviews in this forum and others have mentioned the "saving" thing, as in saving seats at shows and lounges on deck. As far as the shows go, my advice if you want a seat is to get there at least 20 minutes before the show is to begin or it may be a problem. We didn't find it a problem finding a lounger too often, especially since it was so warm we were happy to take one in the shade. However, on the at-sea days, they certainly were at a premium and while persons with "Deck Attendant" on their shirts were often seen, I never saw one do anything about saving of deck chairs. In fact, even the lounges in the Off Limits area, meant solely for teens, were filled with adults at times. However, in practical terms, I'm not sure how you would police this. With hundreds of deck chairs, how can you tell how long one has been left empty? Here's my biggest gripe. Having cut myself, I went to the Purser's desk and asked if they had a band-aid. They did, and sold it to me for 10 cents. I thought at first the fellow was joking, but he was dead serious. I didn't have a penny on me, as the ship is "cashless" and you pay for everything with your cruise card. When I expressed reluctance to go back to my cabin and get a dime, I stood there bleeding while the man filled out a debit slip for 10 cents that I had to sign before he released the precious band-aid. Surrounded by five-star service, this was ludicrous beyond comprehension. It was only 10 cents, of course, but it put a nasty blot on what was otherwise a perfect week. Entertainment There are two main show lounges, one with bar service and the other more like a traditional theater. We especially enjoyed the British Pub Night run by the cruise staff (cruise director Graham is hilarious). In the evenings, you could also always find a lounge playing live music to your taste. We spent most of our time listening to S'il Vous Plait in the Explorer's Lounge because they played the kind of 50s, 60s and 70s pop music that we knew all the words to. Elsewhere you could find country music, ballroom dance music or, in the nightclub, whatever they call today's noise. During the day, there was often live music in and around the Atrium. Disembarkation We found this almost as painless as embarkation. It's early but with a new load of people coming on by noon, there's nothing to be done about that. We got our requested wake-up call at 7:00 a.m. and had time for a leisurely last breakfast in Horizon Court before having our baggage tag numbers called about 8:15. Our luggage was right there waiting for us when we cleared Customs and Immigration (which took only a few minutes). There were no lineups at all in our experience, unlike some others I read about. We had chosen to buy a shore excursion in Ft. Lauderdale because our flight didn't leave until 5:00 p.m., and it was well worth it. We went on an airboat ride in the Everglades, which the kids loved, and toured Flamingo Gardens, a botanical garden and wildlife rescue park, very beautiful. In conclusion, our week on Grand Princess was nearly perfect and we can't wait to take another Caribbean route with them very soon.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

SHORE EXCURSIONS -as most of you cruisers know, it’s much cheaper/flexible to do your own thing as opposed to taking a tour with the cruise ship, and of course that’s what we did. Exception to this is Costa Maya where there is absolutely nothing to do unless you take a tour with the cruise. Many people did do Mayan ruins tour, or sea kayaking tour since that was the only thing you could possibly do there. One other advantage

to taking a cruise ship tour is that the ship will WAIT for you if the tour is late. If you’re on your own, you could be in deep shit as we witnessed some people did in Costa Maya, more on this later. OK, I’m back to Sunday. We looked around the ship, watched super bowl, went to dinner which was excellent, and went to bed early since we were exhausted from our wedding the day before, and then traveling. Monday-Princess Cays . We arrived fairly early, got breakfast in the main dining room, and then went on a tender to beautiful princess cays. There is not much to do there except to lie around on the beach. There are plenty of deck chairs, although shade could be a little sparse especially on the LEFT side where it’s more crowded. If you go to the RIGHT, there are fewer people, but Barbecue/food/restrooms are to the LEFT of where the tenders arrive. We just had some drinks and lounged on the beach until early afternoon. You can rent snorkel gear/catamarans/jet ski’s but they aren’t cheap. I did go snorkeling with my own snorkeling gear, but snorkeling was not impressive. Again, this is just a day on the beach, not much more. We went to dinner, saw comedy/music show in Princess Theatre. Tuesday-Day at sea . I got up early and got ourselves a couple of deck chairs by the aft pool. View from there is spectacular as you can see the ship’s wake leaving a white trail in the vast blue ocean. We lounged, we ate, we played bingo and lost (of course), played some video games, napped, read some books, etc. This was our first formal night. I’m so glad that I have my own tux. I was constantly amazed by the way people interpret “formal” attire. I think we saw “rhythms of the city” that night in Princess Theatre. This was a very, very impressive production show, although I’m no connoisseur of production shows. You read these reviews by some snobby people who live in Jersey who put these shows down comparing them to Broadway shows, but hey, we’re on a cruise! If you want to see Broadway shows, go there. I thought that it was impressive and entertaining, far superior to Carnival shows. Wednesday-Georgetown, Grand Cayman . I have reserved a FULL DAY snorkeling trip through Captain Marvin’s on the internet. If you go here, you have to do Stingray City, but I wanted to do more. This island overall seemed like a very wealthy town. You see so many Lexus’s, BMers, and Mercedes here that you feel like you’re in a nice neighborhood in San Diego. I can’t imagine that shopping here would be very cheap. Anyway, we tendered ashore, then walked a block to Captain Marvin’s office, where we were transported to the boat on a van. I think the cost of this trip was $55 each and it was well worth it, especially when you consider that the ship charges something like $40 for a 2-hour trip to stingray city herded in like a cattle. We had a big boat that could fit about 20 people with a bathroom with only 12 of us, and a guide who snorkeled with us to show us the Good Stuff. We first went to the area where we snorkeled for Conch shells for lunch. It was about 20 feet deep on a sandy bottom and it was actually quite difficult to find these conch shells. Our guide/captain Marlon found 4 of them. 4 guys including myself who tried got nothing, but 4 shells were enough to eat. He then took us to Coral Gardens which was beautiful place with so many fish, and we actually encountered a stingray as well. I thought snorkeling in St. John was good, but THIS was out of this world. He then took us to the yacht club were we lounged for a bit, and had lunch (included), and conch shells were marinated and ready to eat. It was kinda chewy but I liked it. We then headed for the barrier reef, which is just about 100 yards away from stingray city. This was actually the highlight of the trip. There was a 6-foot green moray eel that they’ve been feeding for two years that our guide lured out from the cave with bait. It was an amazing thing. He also lured out a couple of 5-foot nurse sharks that they’ve been feeding and I actually got to swim with them and pet the sharks. That was awesome!! We then headed for the stingray city which was crowed with these huge bus-like snorkeling boats that they herd people in on. I was so glad that I wasn’t in one of those things. Stingray city is amazing! They know that you’re gonna feed them, so they just come charging towards you. We then headed back shore, and they dropped us off right by the pier on time to get on the last tender. It was an incredible day! I highly recommend Captain Marvin’s trip. It was well worth the money and spending the entire day. If you get herded like cattle in one of those 2-hour snorkeling trips, you’ll be missing out. Thursday-Costa Maya . I read some conflicting opinions about this place. Some say it’s not that bad, and others say it’s a waste of time. I strongly agree with the latter. This place has been there a few months. It has a nice pier for docking, and then some bars and stores, and that’s it!! There is nothing to do here. Vendors are quite pushy, and I didn’t think prices were very good and they were not very amenable to bargaining since they don’t have much competition. I was surprised to find that Monarch of the seas was also docked here. This is one of those places where you might consider a Cruise Ship tour since you cannot arrange a trip by yourself, because there is nothing here. Yes, cruise ship tours are expensive and there aren’t that many to choose from. Jungle beach break, biking and sea kayaking, and Mayan ruins tour. All are quite expensive and I don’t believe that there are any Mayan ruins big or impressive enough there to pay that much money to see, but I could be wrong. There was this Mayan dance thing going on there but it was not worth standing around and watching for. We were there for a couple of hours and then went back to ship. We then saw something sobering here as we’re watching Monarch of the seas leave. Monarch of the seas left before we did and they sounded their loud horns 5 times staring about 30 minutes before their departure. As the ropes were pulled and the ship pulled about 5 yards off the pier, we saw a middle-aged couple dashing to the ship, yelling and waving. Monarch was only about 10 yards off the pier when they got to the ship where the gangway used to be, but all they could do was watch their ship take off… They may have had a good reason why they were late, but I just couldn’t imagine how ANYONE could miss a ship at this port, where all there is a pier and a few stores. They must have been idiots, but there were dozens of us on GP watching this whole scene and we couldn’t help but feel bad. Officers from GP came out, talked to them, went back into GP, and finally let them into GP about an hour later. I later found out the Monarch was heading to Grand Cayman…and we were going the opposite way. They must have flown back from Cozumel, but we learned a good lesson. Know when your ship is leaving, and don’t be late because they ain’t gonna wait for ya. Even if they are 10 yards away. And just in case, you might want to have some extra money/plastic/medications with you. We left this port about 1.5 hours late because one of the Mayan ruins tour was running late due to accident on the road. Again, ship will wait for you if you’re on a ship-arranged tour. We went to dinner, skipped the show and went to bed early this night. There was a champagne waterfall that night but we couldn’t make it. Friday-Cozumel . Unfortunately, this was our foul-weather day. It did get better as the day progressed though. We docked at this new pier in downtown and it appeared that you could shop all day around this area if you were into that. We were not, and we had a snorkeling trip in the morning booked with eagle ray divers so we took a cab for about $8, close to Chankanaab Park where the marina was. $40 per person and we had the snorkeling boat to ourselves with a guide and a captain. They took us to three reefs and did some drift snorkeling where they dropped us off, and then picked us up down the current as we drifted with a guide. Although it was cloudy and chilly, water was amazingly clear. Amazing number and variety of fish. We had a huge swarm of fish charging the boat as my wife was feeding them some bananas. They dropped us off at one of the hotels on the beach so that we could take a cab back to the pier. We ate lunch on GP, then headed out to Chakanaab Park for dolphin swim. We paid $120 each on the internet, or you could pay $140 through princess for the same thing, your choice. It costs about $8 on cab to get there, $10 each to get into this park, and $120 each to do dolphin swim. Yes, it’s not cheap, but it was an experience of a lifetime. You have to go to their website to see some pictures and read the details. We headed back to pier after this, shopped a bit. My wife bought some ubiquitous silver jewelry, and I bought some cigars. I believe they were Dominican cigars, of course. This was our second formal night. We somehow missed “lights, camera, action”, which I heard good things about. I think we were exhausted and went to bed early. Saturday-day at sea . We slept in, ate brunch at horizon court. Lounged by the pool, read some books, played video games, lost the jackpot bingo, and can’t remember the rest. I think we did the galley tour that day. We went to Sabatini’s for dinner, which I talked about earlier. We were completely stuffed. We bought our portrait pictures. We finalized our cruise account, which was a big damage, of course. We then completely packed our luggage and left them outside our cabin door. This is always a sad moment-packing to go home from your vacation/honeymoon. Sunday-Ft. Lauderdale, disembarkation . We went to the main dining room for breakfast and waited for our tag color to be called. This was SO MUCH better than Carnival. We could stay anywhere on the ship until our tag color was called, so we were in our cabin, sitting out on the balcony, watching TV, etc. We were out of the terminal 5 minutes after our color was called and took a cab back to the airport. IN Summary: It was a great cruise/honeymoon. I do have a few complaints, of course, major one being the itinerary. This was much less exciting compare to the southern Caribbean itinerary that we did before, but that’s the price you pay for not leaving from San Juan. However, I believe that they can pick better ports than Costa Maya. That port is simply a waste of time. It has potential to be a big resort in perhaps in a decade or so as Cancun did, but it’s very far from that at this point. There are other ports that other cruise ships stop such as Ocho Rios or Labadee, which I imagine have to be better than Costa Maya. I don’t know what to say about Princess Cays. I guess it’s ok since people want to relax after a day of traveling. I do have problems with additional fees for ice cream and alternative dining and I’m sure that Princess enough about the ice cream issue. Besides from above, the ship was beautiful, crew was fantastic, and we really had an excellent time there. Will we cruise princess again? Definitely! Will we cruise Carnival again? Well, maybe. I personally liked princess better and I have to try Royal Caribbean and Celebrity and see how they compare. I hope that you find this helpful, and have a happy cruise!!

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

http://homepage.mac.com/dennen/cruise-web/ Before the cruise, we stayed at the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale. It's a nice hotel and you can see the cruise ships from it. On the ship, we had an outside cabin on the Emerald deck - the view out the window was obstructed by a life boat. The description of the cabin's view was "fully obstructed," but we were pleasantly surprised that only the top and bottom 1/4 of the

window was obstructed. It was a nice to see natural light in the room. Our cabin was very nice. Bigger than we expected. There were two bottles of wine in our fridge when we arrived. We thought it was because they were going to try to sell them to us, but the next day the steward stopped my husband in the hall and asked if he could take them. I imagine the people on the last cruise must have left them for him. We did bring a 12-pack of beer without any problem. When we hadn't finished them by the end of the cruise, I mentioned to the steward that we'd like to leave them for him and he seemed appreciative. Our steward was very nice and helpful. We did have to ask for robes and beach towels. It was often tricky to get new towels everyday, but once we figured out the steward's schedule, it was easier. Food was excellent. We did the "personal choice" and it worked out well. Never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a table for two. The Michelangelo and Da Vinci dining rooms were very nice and the service was very good. Our favorite dinner was the second formal night with shrimp cocktail and lobster tails. Yum!! It was delicious. We ordered the "Love Boat Dream" three times during the trip, our favorite dessert! The creme brule was also delicious! We tried Painted Desert on the second night. It was nice, but we did not enjoy it as much as the PC dining rooms. It cost $8/person to eat there, but they give you a tasty margarita. The pools and hot tubs were great. One evening we had one of the pools to ourselves and enjoyed swimming under the stars. The decks got pretty crowded during days at sea, but we were always able to find two loungers in the sun. In Grand Cayman we did a half-day excursion through Captain Marvin's. Very highly recommended. The boat was a little more crowded than expected. We had about 40 people on board. Stingray City was incredible, a highlight of the trip. The stingrays are so friendly that it is a little intimidating at first. One woman had to be escorted back to the boat because she was so scared. http://www.captainmarvins.com/ In Costa Maya, after taking a quick walk on the beach and through the shops, we did the Chakchoben ruins tour (booked through the ship). It was very good and we would definitely recommend it to anyone who doesn't want to stay in Costa Maya. Our guide gave some excellent background on the Mayans and on the area. We had a quick 10-minute rain shower when we first got to the ruin site which made walking a little messy. There were more ruins at the site than we expected. Beer and soda were served on the way home. In Cozumel, we went to Xcaret (again, booked through the ship). It was much better than expected. Beautiful beaches. Lots of wildlife. Underground river. Highly recommended. As other people have mentioned, the four hours we had were not enough to see everything. Our favorites were the turtle breeding areas where they had turtles of every size from babies to old-timers and the beach area with iguanas cautiously having their lunch! http://www.xcaretcancun.com/ They don't let you take sunscreen into Xcaret. Instead, they ask that you check it at the entrance and they give you small tubes of "environmentally friendly" sunscreen to use while you are there. When you leave, you can retrieve your sunscreen. Be sure to watch the cruise director's morning show each day at 6:00am. Graham Seymore is a funny guy. We looked forward to watching him and still crack up at some of the strange and funny things he did. If you can make it to midnight on the last formal night, they make a champagne fountain in the atrium at 11:45. They used 600 glasses and who knows how many bottles of champagne. There is music playing and the wait staff is there dancing. Waiters come around with all the champagne you can drink. Then anyone who wants can take a turn at pouring at the top of the tower. (and of course they are there to take pictures!) We used the on-board business center to access the Internet once. It cost $8.00 for 15-minutes. We also went to two Internet cafes (one in Grand Cayman and another in Cozumel). Their rates were much more reasonable (Cozumel was $0.10/minute). We bought one of the all-you-can-drink cards for soda. It was $17.50. I'm not sure we got our money's worth, but it was very convenient to have. They push the boutiques and art auction quite a bit. It got to be kind of annoying after a while, but it wasn't horrible. Summary: All-in-all, we had a fabulous time. We highly recommend the itinerary and the ship, and we can't wait to go back ourselves.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

We were a bit taken aback when we first saw the room…there were 4 of us, all girls (two teens, two adults), but it was beautifully appointed and spotless. We had an unobstructed window (Emerald Deck) and to look out each morning at the endless blue water was a delight. We would have loved a balcony, but being our first cruise, we were on limited budgets and were happy to just have a nice view. The bathroom was adequate and again,

spotless. There was plenty of storage space for cosmetics and toiletries. We did find the drawer space inadequate, but had plenty of room for all 4 of us to hang up our “dressy” clothes. We chose to leave shorts, t-shirts, etc. in our suitcases. Our cabin steward, Blessy, was a delight…able to answer our questions and always had the room looking wonderful, despite the shoes and bags all over the floor! THE SHIP None of us had ever cruised before, so it was a whole new world. The ship is lovely and offers so much, I can’t imagine anyone not being able to find something to do. Some of our most enjoyable time was spent doing nothing more than lying in deck chairs with good books, drinking the yummy concoctions from the bar and enjoying the sunshine. We made use of the walking track a few times…easier on the feet and legs than walking the deck and less slippery too. We found that most areas were not overcrowded, although the main pool got very busy after lunch. We stuck with the wave and adult pools most of the time. We attended the comedy shows every evening while on board, and without exception, they were excellent. The lounges and theater were very comfortable. My adult friend and I attended the “Rhythm of the City” show, and were disappointed in the fact that the singing and music were prerecorded. The sets and dancing were well done and very professional, but we much preferred other evening events. We also fed quite a few tokens into the one-armed bandits in the casino. We enjoyed some of the silly afternoon “fun and games” around the main pool in the afternoons we were at sea, the Belly Flop contest in particular! We found getting around the ship a bit daunting at first, but we figured all the walking we did would help offset all the calories we consumed! THE FOOD Without exception, we thought the food was fantastic. We did the personal choice plan so that we wouldn’t be tied into eating at the same time every day. We did the breakfast buffet each morning since the girls (age 15) enjoyed sleeping in a bit and it was open later. Everything was good, hot and plentiful. I especially enjoyed the huge assortment of fresh fruit that was available each day…I didn’t feel so guilty indulging when I was getting healthy fare as well! Our lunches usually consisted of a slice or two of pizza when we were on board the ship…the pizza stand by the main pool was great! We went to the DaVinci dining room the first night and enjoyed it thoroughly. We tried the Michelangelo the second night and for some reason liked it better…even though we sat at a different table each night, the wait staff was fantastic, and we even had several waiters who were free with recommendations about what was good and what was not so good. None of us had a bad meal and the desserts were phenomenal. My one complaint about the food was that the coffee in the morning was kind of watery….at dinner I had cappuccino, which was excellent. EXCURSIONS On St. Thomas, we had booked the sailing and snorkeling tour. The sail out was fun…a bit rough, but we sat up in the front of the catamaran and got thoroughly soaked, which the girls really enjoyed. My daughter and I were first time snorkelers so we were a bit nervous, and the water was kind of rough. We did see a nice array of sea life, including rays and sea turtles. We went back on board the boat earlier than our more experienced companions. We were a bit disappointed because the trip was quite a bit shorter than advertised. The sail back to port was lovely with great music playing over the sound system. We did have time to go back to our rooms, clean up a bit, use a real bathroom and grab a few pieces of pizza before we were off on our afternoon adventure, which was the bus tour and Magens Bay Beach. Our driver was funny and personable, but let me tell you, the trip to the beach and back was quite something. St. Thomas is left hand drive, the streets are VERY narrow, and the island is quite hilly. The beach was on the opposite side of the island so we had to go up and over….and the roads are extremely narrow with lots of hairpin turns. We made a stop at the top to take pictures, and again when we came back down from another vantage point. The scenery was lovely. Magens Bay Beach was very nice, although the water was not what I expected…very clean, but green and not clear. The girls rented a paddle boat and I sunned for a while. Eventually the sun got to my daughter and I, so we took shelter in a picnic pavilion with our books. Our St. Maarten excursion was a sailaway on a large catamaran, the Golden Eagle. If you want to have pure fun, this is the cruise to take. The crew greeted us wearing bathing suits and black bow ties and it helped that they were all VERY good looking! (My daughter and her friend especially appreciated this!) We had to go out under motor power because the wind was wrong, but at least it was a bit smoother. We sailed around to the French side (word of warning…they allow nude sunbathing so you never know what you might see) and anchored off a lovely beach. Snorkeling equipment was available for those who wanted it, but the captain warned that due to winds and currents, it had been pretty murky, so my daughter and I opted to just take foam noodles and make a swim for the beach. Those that decided not to snorkel were served beverages from our waiters, pushing floating trays about…it was quite a sight! When it was time for everyone to come in for lunch (submarine sandwiches made by one of the crew member’s wives) the champagne came out. We sailed out a bit further and then headed back…the wind was perfect to go under sail and the champagne flowed! Toasts were lifted for birthdays, anniversaries, newlyweds…you name it! Needless to say, we had a really good time…I will not reveal what we did when we got back to port….I have to leave an element of surprise for anyone who might want to do this cruise. It was a blast. By the time we got back, we only had time to change quickly before heading into town to do some shopping. The best value for transportation is the water taxi, which costs $5.00 a person, but you can go back and forth as many times as you want. We found some good buys, especially on gold and watches. You do have to learn to say no to the numerous people trying to braid hair, etc. My daughter and her friend both have lovely, long hair, so we were besieged by the braiders. We opted to wait until we went to Princess Cays. Princess Cays was lovely…the nicest beach we encountered. It was a bit crowded, but there were plenty of deck chairs on the beach and shade for those who didn’t want to stay out in the sun. The girls had their hair braided as soon as we got off the tender, and it looked adorable. The buffet there was very good…huge selection of food with cold salads and lots of different BBQ items. I had bratwurst that was out of this world. There was a nice array of desserts, and again, a huge table of fresh fruit. I went snorkeling again, and found it much easier here. The water is crystal clear and calm, so the viewing was great. The fish swim right up to you looking for food…there is an observation platform above the reef so you can go out and look at and feed the fish without snorkeling. I was much more relaxed and enjoyed it thoroughly. OVERALL IMPRESSION Other than my honeymoon many years ago, this was far and away the best vacation I have ever had. I would definitely cruise again, and would be hard pressed to cruise any other line but Princess. The level of service was fantastic and I have never felt so relaxed and pampered in my life. My daughter and her friend really enjoyed it…they were able to go off and do their own thing without me worrying about them. One hint to parents…get a set of walkie talkies so you can reach your kids and they can reach you. They were a great help. My friend had always wanted to cruise and her husband is pretty much anti-vacation, so that was what brought us out together. She’s planning on cruising again next year…thankfully she has no kids and a really good job, so she can afford it! I will definitely cruise again some time in the future and will most like stick with Princess. A great experience!

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

This was our third cruise (and our honeymoon). Our two previous cruises were on Royal Caribbean: the first was on Sovereign of the Seas (2000) and the second was on Enchantment of the Seas (2001). We enjoyed both cruises and would definitely cruise Royal Caribbean again, but wondered if all cruise lines were the same. For this reason we did a lot of research on different cruise lines and ultimately chose Grand Princess because of her reputation,

price and itinerary. We read practically every cruise review on this website. Before we left we decided that we would in turn write a review that would hopefully help someone else. The easiest way for me to write this is to write about specific differences between the two cruise lines. Even though some of our comments might be in favor of one cruise line or another we don’t want you to think we didn’t have a good time. We don’t mean to be picky, these were just observations that we noticed. We had the most enjoyable, relaxing, wonderful time on all of our cruises. Transportation/Parking We drove from Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale to board the Grand Princess. Our first observation was that the parking garage was more convenient to the terminal than on Enchantment of the Seas (which also leaves from Fort Lauderdale). On Enchantment we had to check our bags at the curb, drive to the parking garage, and then ride a shuttle bus back to the terminal. To board Grand Princess we parked our car in the terminal went down the elevator and we were at the terminal. Embarkation Embarkation was really easy and quick. We did the express check in, but it really didn’t make a difference because there was virtually no waiting in any of the lines. Mustering Grand Princess’ mustering drill was so much better than Royal Caribbean. It wasn’t nearly as painful. On Royal Caribbean you had to put your life vests on go outside to your lifeboat station and wait for the cruise staff to do roll call. They do not allow you to stand leisurely on the deck; rather you are crammed into tight rows touching the person next to you. It is very hot and miserable. On Grand Princess they did the mustering drill in lounges and the theatre. You didn’t have to wear your life jacket until after they did the demonstration and gave you time to practice. The Princess mustering drill was also more informative. There was a recording that played over the PA system that told you exactly what you would have to do in the event of a real emergency. The Princess made this required drill less dreaded. Coca Cola Stickers When we were on Royal Caribbean we didn’t purchase the Coca Cola stickers. We didn’t think it was worth it because the soda from the soda guns didn’t taste that great. Plus you could get free soda in the dining room. And the price was around 30 dollars. On Princess we purchased one Coca Cola sticker for my husband. It was around 22 dollars after the gratuity and you get a thermal mug. It was definitely worth it for us. You can go to any bar and use it, but remember to ask for a large if you are really thirsty because they will always try to give you a small cup. Personal Choice vs. Traditional Dining On Royal Caribbean we had great dining room service. The traditional seating allowed us to make friends with other cruisers. We were able to develop a relationship with them and it was nice to touch base each night, discuss our days and hear exciting plans for the coming day. Traditional dining also allows you to become more intimate with your servers. The servers on Royal Caribbean were excellent; they were excited about the food and made dining enjoyable. The servers we were assigned to have amazing memories. After the first night they remembered how you liked your meat cooked, what drinks you liked with your dinner, and any other idiosyncrasies that you might have had. The only downfall was that you were on a time schedule to eat dinner, which meant that you might have to cut your time short in ports if you had an early seating. This is why we decided to go with Personal Choice Dining on this trip. With Personal Choice Dining we didn’t feel that we got nearly as good service as we did with Traditional Dining. The first night on Grand Princess we dined in the Michelangelo Dining Room we had horrible service. It was slow and the waiter was unfriendly. The next night and the remaining nights on the cruise we ate in the DaVinci Dining Room. The remaining nights we had better service but it wasn’t nearly as good or as much fun as on Royal Caribbean. We don’t know if the service wasn’t as personable because they had to constantly get people in and out or if they didn’t have to work as hard to earn their tips because they were automatically billed to your account each day; but we did notice a decrease in the quality of dining service on Grand Princess. The presentation of the dinners was not as “Grand” on the Grand. Royal Caribbean’s food was more dramatic, more delicious, and more unique. When we go on a cruise we like to try uncommon dishes that we don’t normally eat at home. Editorial Note: I discovered the cold fruit soups served at dinner. They are unbelievable! I had two bowls of the strawberry cream soup one night! Husband’s Editorial Note: Royal Caribbean’s lobster is the best that he has ever eaten. He thinks that they are bigger and tastier than Princess’ Horizon Court vs. Windjammer Princess’ Horizon Court was heads and tails better than Royal Caribbean’s Windjammer. To begin the Horizon Court was open 24 hours. We had breakfast and lunch in the main dining rooms on Grand Princess once each. For the rest of the week we ate in the Horizon Court for breakfast and lunch. Royal Caribbean’s Windjammer was always good, but nothing spectacular. There was often a line and the café wasn’t always open. Midnight Buffet There was no Midnight Buffet per se on the Grand Princess. There was however a midnight bistro that was a sit down sort of meal in a roped off area of the Horizon Court. The Horizon Court was open as well though. On Royal Caribbean they have one night where there is a grand midnight buffet. Even if you couldn’t possibly eat another bite it is definitely something that we enjoy just for the pure spectacle. We did miss all of the delicious chocolates that are on the midnight buffet. And on both Royal Caribbean Cruises we got to go on a galley tour! Pizzeria The pizza and hamburgers were excellent on both cruise lines. There are only two notable differences. The first is that the pizzeria closes early on Grand Princess. It would be nice if they opened again later on in the night. On Royal Caribbean the pizzeria is open late, which is a nice late night casual snack. The second difference is that the Royal Caribbean’s pizzeria is a very small counter/window with very slow service. On Grand Princess there are two huge separate counters for pizza and hamburgers. They were quick and there was virtually no line. Hagen Daas On Grand Princess you have to pay for ice cream (other than what was served after dinner in the dining room). I was opposed to this and even though I love Hagen Daas Chocolate I avoided the temptation. My opposition really came from reading other reviews on this page from people who had really good arguments against why the cruise line shouldn’t impose an extra charge for premium ice cream. On Royal Caribbean they have an ice cream bar at designated times. However, it isn’t really ice cream. It is ice milk, which really isn’t worth eating, but regardless it IS included in the price of the cruise and not an additional charge. Cabin Stewards The cabin stewardess that we had on Grand Princess was efficient and very friendly. However, we didn’t get any extras like we did on Royal Caribbean. On both of our previous cruises we had outstanding cabin stewards who went beyond our expectations. They worked really hard to make the room look and feel refreshing every time you entered. They were creative with the pillows and towel figurines on the bed, which was a nice treat. Editorial Note: I prefer the Andes Candies that they leave on your pillow on Royal Caribbean. On Princess they left poor quality chocolate hearts. Sabatini’s Sabatini’s was a unique dining experience. There was a cover charge of 15 dollars per person. It was a great experience and the food was excellent, however, there were a lot of dishes that were available at one time or another in the dining room or on the buffet in the Horizon Court. There were 17 courses. It was a lot of food and it kept coming…until the officers came in to dine. Our waiter was then more concerned with them rather than us. Regardless, it was a good dining experience. I don’t agree that they have a surcharge, but what can you do? We didn’t go to The Painted Desert, however, we walked through several times while people were dining. It was weird there was a main walkway from one side of the boat to the other that took you directly through the restaurant while people were dining. Interesting. Security One really reassuring thing about Grand Princess is their security system. When you first get on board they take a picture of you. Every time you get off the boat at the ports they swipe your card out. When you get on the boat they swipe you back in. Royal Caribbean didn’t do this. I always felt a little uptight about getting left behind on Royal Caribbean. On Grand Princess I had no worries. Princess Cays This was a great first stop. The island is relaxing and similar to Royal Caribbean’s Coco Cay. One thing I did like Princess Cays was the brick sidewalk. You didn’t have to walk in the scorching sand until you got closer to the water. All the reviews are correct when you get off the tender boat go left. It is more private and not as crowded. The thing we liked best about Coco Cay was that on one side of the island it is pretty secluded and the water is bluer and clearer. The sand was not nearly as shelly either. For either island I would recommend a good pair of water shoes. Grand Cayman Of the four ports this was the nicest in regards to cleanliness and manners. The streets were clean and the people in the stores weren’t at all pushy. It was kind of refreshing. We didn’t swim with the sting rays, something we would like to do if we went back to this port. This was a relaxing day and we tend to like to stay on the boat when the masses are on the islands. Costa Maya Everything that we read about Costa Maya before we left was true. It isn’t worth the stop. A stop in Jamaica would have made a non-port a fun port! There is little fresh air circulating in the enclosed circle of pushy shopkeepers. The prices are outrageous here and the salesmen aren’t willing to make a deal as easily. We got off the boat, walked the circle and got back on the boat. The most interesting thing we saw in this port was sharks swimming in the water near the pier. We enjoyed watching them while we were eating lunch in the Horizon Court. Cozumel This was by far our favorite port on this itinerary. We went to one of the government run beaches, Playa del Sol. The cab ride cost around 15 dollars each way and the basic admission onto the beach was 6 dollars per person. It was worth the money. There were public showers, hammocks, water toys, and plenty of beautiful beach. Many shore excursions include a stop at this beach, so by midday it gets really crowded. Beware of the shopkeepers at the entrance of the park; they are very pushy. In fact, all of the shopkeepers are very pushy in the downtown area. Prices are good if you are good at bargaining. Famed Carlos and Charlie’s is a lot of fun and we would have had more fun if we had more time to spend there. The day goes by really quick. Editorial note: There are Mexican Guardsmen along the pier carrying really big guns. It was kind of hairy, but for our protection. Island Maps On Royal Caribbean they put Island maps and shopping maps in your room the evening before visiting a port. On Grand Princess they handed out shopping maps only as you were walking down the plank at port. I really liked having an island map because we like to explore the island ourselves, in addition to visiting the shops. I do however like the shopping guides on both cruise lines because it gives you an idea of which shops you will be able to find what you are interested in, as well as freebies and discounts. Arcade Grand Princess had a virtual arcade. There were some fun games: air hockey, racing, and the usual arcade fare. We really enjoy playing air hockey. It is by far one of our favorite things to do. This arcade was fun and during peak times crawling with kids. We went a couple of times when they had arcade specials (i.e. half off play from 4-6) and had a really good time. Entertainment Entertainment aboard Grand Princess was similar to Enchantment of the Seas and Sovereign of the Seas. Singing and dancing, a couple of comedians, a juggler who thinks he is a comedian, and a magician. Nothing to write home about. The Boat Itself The Grand Princess was huge. It was well maintained and cleverly designed. The crew is constantly working on the boat keeping it up to par. The atrium wasn’t overly spectacular. There were two main pools and two smaller pools, one in the front of the boat and one in the back. There were about 10 hot tubs. All of the pools were really nice and one bonus was that the pool water wasn’t salt water nor chlorinated. Disembarkation Disembarkation on Grand Princess was easy and fast. We went to breakfast and waited for our color. When it was called we walked right off the boat, we didn’t have to wait in any lines. I think it helped that there were two places where you could get off the boat into the terminal. Royal Caribbean, however, was another story. When our color was called there was another line that we had to wait in. It probably took close to 45 minutes to disembark. Summary We had a great time on the Grand Princess. The ship was so large that we didn’t even see everything on the ship. We wouldn’t mind sailing on her again, but there are so many other itineraries that we want to try and other cruise lines that we want to explore first. Cruising is really what you make of it.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Cruise Line: Princess Sailing Date: January 19th, 2003 My wife and I traveled with our two sons, ages 14 and 16, my sister-in-law, and mother-in-law, on a 7-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Princess Cays, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Cozumel. OVERALL RATING: I give this cruise an “B+”. Overall, the cruise was great and a good bargain for the money. WHY CHOOSE THIS CRUISE? In deciding which cruise to book, my wife and

I primarily wanted to cruise on a quality ship at a reasonable price. We got what we were after with this itinerary on the Grand Princess. Although we really enjoyed this cruise, I can see how this itinerary may not appeal to some. GETTING THERE. We opted not to purchase Princess airfare and had no problem getting good fares into Ft. Lauderdale. We flew Air Tran into Ft. Lauderdale from Baltimore. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing airport transfers through Princess as Port Everglades is right up the street from the airport and taking a taxi is a convenient and inexpensive. Alternately, if renting a car, the major car rental agencies all run free shuttles between the pier and airport. We decided to get into Ft. Lauderdale a day early and got a great deal on a hotel through Priceline.com. We searched Priceline.com for a 4-star hotel in Ft. Lauderdale and ended up at the Marriott Marina (1881 SE 17th Street) for $69/night. The same room through the hotels web site goes for $249. The hotel is directly on the IntraCoastal waterway adjacent to the pier where the Grand docks. The hotel runs a shuttle directly to the ship in the morning. This was a super nice spot to stay and allowed us to get to the ship early and stress free. To get the most out of your cruise, get there early. EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION. Very smooth. We arrived to the ship at 11:00am and there were only moderate lines which moved quickly. (p.s., bring a pen). We disembarked around 9:00am and were at the airport by 9:30am. ROOM. Inside Quad, Aloha Deck, Cabin A-725 (12th floor). The Grand has 17 decks in all (no deck #13). Most of the inside activities (dining rooms, show rooms, etc.) on the Grand are down on Deck 6 or Deck 7 so I wouldn’t worry about spending more to stay higher on the ship although we found it very convenient being at the back of the ship only a few steps from the rear swimming pool. We were impressed with the rooms which we found to be large for a cruise ship and laid out well. There is adequate closet space. The room also has a hair dryer, a safe, a refrigerator, and television. Television channels though were somewhat limited. FOOD. Overall, we enjoyed the food. Our dinner meals in the dining rooms were generally very good. We opted for traditional, first seating in lieu of Personal Choice seating. I personally enjoy having the same wait staff for the duration of the cruise and the staff quickly comes to understand what you like and dislike and are able to better serve you. The wait staff was outstanding. Our waiter frequently brought for the table extra dinners and desserts so we could try them out. With traditional seating, you also get the Baked Alaska parade on the last night of the cruise and that won’t happen in the Personal Choice dining rooms. For those that opt for the Personal Choice dining, I’d recommend making reservations as the lines waiting for tables became long at peak dinner times. Elsewhere, I thought the food in the Horizon Court (buffet) was good. The coffee and iced tea in the Horizon Court was much improved from our last visit on the Golden in the Spring of 2002. The desserts in the Horizon Court were ok but I think they try to get too fancy. A good alternative is to order flan, which is outstanding, through room service and take it with you to the Horizon Court or out on deck. Some additional observations: Lobster - tasty. Pizza (poolside) - fair at best, very greasy. Burgers/dogs (poolside) - very good but the buns are hit or miss. Room Service - good. Soda Card - $22 and appeared to be a good value for soda drinkers. My kids both had cards and had no trouble getting a soda whenever they wanted one. I noticed a lot of adults with cards as well. SHORE EXCURSIONS. I was a little hesitant to take this cruise as I previously found Western Caribbean and Mexican ports to be only fair. To be honest, if all you do is walk around town, your impression, especially about Grand Cayman and Costa Maya, may well leave you feeling that you picked the wrong cruise. To really enjoy these destinations, you are going to need to take excursions, whether they be arranged through the ship or privately. Alternately, this might not be a bad itinerary if all you would like to do is just hit nice beaches. PRINCESS CAYS was great if you enjoy a day at the beach. We left the ship around 11:00am and were tendered in quickly. We found a nice spot with lounge chairs. Princess Cays offered lots of water sports. We swam and had a barbeque lunch. The water is calm here with very little waves. This is also a great spot for families with kids. If you want to go to the beach and relax, this is a great spot. In GRAND CAYMAN, we took the “Island Highlights”” tour. It explores the island in an bus and makes a brief stop in “Hell” to allow you to send postcards and also makes a stop at a turtle hatchery. “Hell” wasn’t worth stopping at and the turtle hatchery was only fair. We walked around town briefly but there’s really not a lot to do in town. There is a hard rock café there and several small streets filled with the traditional tourist shops. People tend to buy rum cakes and liquor there. There are also a lot of different banks on the island so if you need extra cash, this would be a good spot to get it. The Grand uses private tenders here and they worked fine. In COSTA MAYA, we just walked around. The ship docks at a pier. There is really nothing to do here except to take a tour or shop. Tours are limited and so is shopping. But, it was an ok place to stretch your legs and look around. We anticipated going in that the port likely wouldn’t offer us much and it didn’t. Don’t expect much out of this port or you’ll be disappointed. In COZUMEL, I signed up to take the kids sport fishing but the weather didn’t allow it. The price would have been $129pp for 5 hours on a 31' boat. Cozumel is lined up with many streets filled with shops. If you go into town at all you’ll encounter the standard Mexican heckling to come in and buy something so just accept it. The ship had recommended a variety of restaurants and we opted to try “Ponchos Backyard” for drinks and appetizers and we were glad we did as it turned out to be a great spot. It is sort of at the end of town but was well worth the walk. Alternately, there are a lot of taxi’s running along the main street and even horse drawn wagons. SHIP. Most of the other reviews will cover this area well so I won't say much except that the Grand Princess is magnificent. One plus worth mentioning with Princess is that the pools have fresh water as opposed to some other lines that fill their pools with salt water. There is a difference. I’m also impressed with the Princess Theater which offers stadium seating and affords great unobstructed views of the entertainment and movies. ENTERTAINMENT. Fair. We weren’t at all impressed on this trip with the entertainment and actually found the movies offered on several nights to be much better than the entertainment. This was disappointing as our previous trips on Princess offered really good entertainment. Shows were also held in the Vista showroom which is a traditional, smaller, tougher to see anything, venue. Various musicians played elsewhere throughout the ship. MISCELLANEOUS. We previously cruised on the Grand’s sister ship, the GOLDEN PRINCESS, and I saw very little difference. The ship offers HIGH TEA everyday (which I admit might not sound too exciting... but, it actually is a lot of fun). I highly recommend you try this activity at least once during your cruise. The kids ARCADE has a lot of different video games. The prices are reasonable at $1 each ($0.50 early in the morning). You don't use money but instead use a pre-purchased card (which of course can have money added to it). The CASINO is large and offers a lot of choices. Table games were more expensive than I remember on the GOLDEN. Roulette started with a minimum $5 bet. The ship has a variety of nickel, quarter, and dollar slots. I didn’t see many people win. SUMMARY. Overall, you get good value for your money on this cruise. The Grand is a magnificent ship, the service was great, and the food was generally very good. But, be prepared to spend extra for excursions if you plan on getting off the ship or you may be disappointed with the itinerary. I graded this cruise a “B+” mainly because the ports on this itinerary are only fair and the entertaining for this particular trip was mediocre.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Cruise Line: Princess Sailing Date: December 1st, 2002 We had a great time on the Grand Princess cruise. The ship was incredible; it’s not uncommon to see guests wandering around between floors with a lost look on their face. The upside is you don’t care; it’s another opportunity to check out more of this huge ship. The buffet was good and open when we were hungry (midnight supper). The crew did a wonderful job of always being

there to take your plate away or bring you a drink. The crew took obvious pleasure in their job (who wouldn’t!!) And the diversity of countries represented onboard the ships’ crews were impressive. We went to all the shows, which started around 7 pm, and got out in time for us to choice which formal dining room we wanted to select that night. The nightclub, which is up on the highest point of the ship or the 18th floor, has remarkable views. I was surprised to see some of the crew and officers socialize the nightclub, which was great. We felt very comfortable to approach the crew and tell them how wonderful the shows were and they actually seemed a little excited to hear our comments. So please if you like the shows or appreciate a job well done….tell them, I think its very much appreciated. Besides it gives you a chance to admire these beautiful people up close and personal. The ports were not all we hoped for, they were a little commercialized and the bargains were not really bargains but pricey little trinkets for memories to share with those back home who didn’t go with us. There are some good deals to be had on Cozumel in jewelry. Elizabeth the port lecturer was very helpful and assisted us to procure a nice 1 ct. diamond anniversary ring for moi. We checked in Costa Maya first and although prices were good, Cozumel was much better for same product. Just remember to not take up the shops offer of mixed drinks (take my word), try a bottle of beer instead. In summary, we had a great first time on a cruise ship and look forward to going again, hopefully soon. Next time I think we’ll bring the kids who are 7 & 9 and would have plenty to do with their Kids Adventure program and not be bored with the adults just lounging by the poolside enjoying some refreshments. The snorkeling was well worth the trip (rent your equipment on board ship, best deal) and endless food, service, activities and general sense of R E L A X I N G was excellent. Don’t miss the Grand Princess cruise; we’d do it again in a moment. Congratulations to Claire on her engagement (so he makes her HAPPY and laugh and smile who needs more than that? ) We’re going on 18+ yrs now and this trip brought back the laughs and smiles to us too), thanks for sharing with everyone on ship; it was personal and a nice ending to the trip.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Cruise Line: Princess Sailing Date: February 9th, 2003 My wife and I just returned from the February 9th, 2003 sailing. Overall it was a very relaxing, enjoyable vacation for both of us. The weather was perfect for the entire week, sunny and mid-80s. Overall Rating: I would give the cruise an overall A-. I would suggest this itinerary for those that are more interested in relaxing rather than exploring the port of calls. Cruises that

I have taken to the Mediterranean and Alaska were for exploring. This cruise was for relaxing. I choose this ship because I have sailed with Princess before and I like the quality and service that Princess delivers. Also, I like the dining rooms with the divided sections. I feel like I’m dining in a restaurant rather than one huge dining room. Getting There: We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and took the transfer package offered by the cruise line. It was convenient, but next time I would probably opt to take a taxi. We had to wait in the hot sun for the bus to arrive. Plus, it takes awhile for the bus driver to load the luggage. For the same price take a taxi. Embarkation/Debarkation: This was the easiest and quickest embarkation that I have experienced. I booked the cruise with less than 40 days from the sailing date. Therefore, we didn’t qualify for their express check-in. However, we were in our room within twenty minutes of port arrival. I guess if there had been long lines, the express check-in would have made a difference. Room: We stayed in Baja 510. We had a balcony. I have had a balcony only once before and didn’t use it much, probably because we had the kids with us. This time, however, I was spoiled. We had breakfast every morning and cocktails every evening on the balcony. During the daytime we would escape to our room to relax. I never did this before with an outside or inside cabin. I definitely would pay the extra again. Food/Beverages: If you’re reading this review, you have probably read others that go into detail on the food. I’ll leave that to the others. The breads, lobster, and king crab legs (order extra, they’re small) were excellent. I spent the extra $15 pp for Sabatini’s restaurant. I thought it was worth it and I would do it again. We selected personal choice dining. We liked the flexibility, but never felt we received the personal service received on fixed dining. I guess it’s a trade-off. The cruise lines have decided to stop losing revenue to passengers fixing drinks in their cabin. You can bring wine on board. However, the ship detains (confiscates) until the last day of the cruise any hard liquor brought on board or purchased from the on board duty free shop. I guess that’s why more and more people are bringing their own bottled water on board (Hint). This is the first time I remember alcoholic drinks (pina coladas, bloody marys, margaritas, etc.) being offered in small, medium, and large sizes. The prices were $3.95, $5.75, and $7.25 respectively. If you don’t specify a size, you will be served a medium. In the warm air the ice in a medium or large drink melts before you’re finished. I guess it depends on how thirsty you are. Shore Excursions: Other reviews cover the ports of call in great detail, so please refer to them. We loved Princess Cays. We took the advice from others and immediately went to the right side of the island. We found shade, sun, music (near the bar), and a great view. In Grand Cayman we took the stingray city tour. I think swimming with the stingrays should be on everybody’s must list. In Costa Maya and Cozumel we shopped. Again, we came on this cruise to relax, not for the ports. I checked on some ocean front real estate in Costa Maya (it hasn’t been developed yet) thinking it might be a bargain. Ha! Ship: I had read a couple of negative reviews on the condition of the ship and was a little leery. However, the ship was in immaculate condition. I didn’t see any wear and tear or carpet stains that had been mentioned. The crew was constantly cleaning everything. A big plus for us was the fresh water pools. Unlike other cruise ships that bring in sea water (salt water) for the pools, the Grand Princess has fresh water. This allows them to keep all the pools and Jacuzzi’s open when in port. What a plus for people coming back from shore excursions early. If you are traveling with older children or no children, the pool on the back (aft) of the ship is the place to be. There are two Jacuzzis, shuffleboard, deck chess, and two bars. Three decks form a semi-circle around the pool. There were always deck chairs available and a cool breeze to be found. The back of the ship is open from the 14th deck to below the 17th deck (Skywalkers Nightclub). It forms a picture frame of the sea and sky. This was the only art on board that I needed. Summary: I would definitely recommend the Grand Princess. The Western Caribbean itinerary depends on an individual’s wants. In addition, I have several thoughts on the cruise industry to share. The cruise industry looks like it’s following the deflationary curve that has brought bankruptcy to so many airlines. I paid less for this cruise than many others in the past. This is a positive for the vacationer, if you are only interested in the cruise itself. However, it has forced the cruise lines to look for additional revenue elsewhere, hence, confiscating hard liquor brought on board. Daily reminders include the art action with prices 85% below land prices, photos from the Photo Gallery at $9.95, tee shirts, jewelry, daily bingo, spa promotions, shore excursions, Virtual Reality Golf, and the arcade games, just to mention a few. I didn’t try to use cash on the ship other than tips for room service, but I did observe one man who wanted to buy a shirt with cash. He was told that it would have to be charged against his ship account (credit card). The cruise ship might do this to prevent theft from employees. However, I wonder if it isn’t also a way to keep you from keeping tabs on how much money your spending until the last day of the cruise. It’s just a thought. The positive side is if you don’t want it, it doesn’t cost you anything extra. The negative is the daily reminder to spend more money. This has taken away the ambiance and fun of cruises from the past. Down the road it may return to cruising of the past. The cruise lines are merging or taking over one another. I predict that in several years the cruise lines will be able to demand higher cabin prices without the fear of a competitor offering bargain basement prices. Maybe I’ll have to pay more, but I won’t be reminded daily to buy more art.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Tom & Mary Milano  Tom@TomMilano.com Tom & Mary Milano Grand Princess-Eastern Caribbean May 7, 2000 Mary & I live in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Because of a decision we made some years ago, to never board an airplane unless it was absolutely necessary, we restrict our cruising itinerary to the ships that leave from Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. The restrictive itineraries are not a problem for us because we truly enjoy

the Caribbean and on every cruise we find new ways to make them interesting and exciting. This cruise aboard the Grand Princess was our 16th cruise, (Honeymoons, as we refer to them), in the last four years. It was also our 32nd anniversary which made it very special and although we will be telling you of a number of negatives, we still had a wonderful cruise. First, we would like to repeat what we have said in our past reviews. We are writing this review from our perspective which might be very different from yours. We all have different thoughts about what is pleasing and what is not pleasing. What strikes our eye and we think is beautiful, you may pass without a second glance. The very things that Mary & I find interesting and exciting, you might consider boring and what we consider boring might be the very reason you booked your particular cruise. You may not agree with any or all that we say, and that is alright, because we all have a different viewpoint. Ken Stutt, on his page ‘The Wheelhouse,' has a great article pertaining to reading reviews entitled, "Don't Let the Reviews Scare You." We suggest you read this article because it says everything that needs to be said about reading reviews. Mary & I would like to borrow that title and say to you, "Please Don't Let Our Review Scare You," because it is written from our perspective which might be completely different than yours. This has been a very difficult review to write because much of what we say is the complete opposite of what has been said in the many GP reviews we have read. 95% of the reviews were very positive and spoke glowingly of the ship. Although we like to and try to judge each cruise on it's individual merits, sometimes it is very hard if not impossible, not to make comparisons with former cruises, especially when one has sailed on another ship of the same line within a matter of months. If you are one of the many admirers of the Grand Princess, you will probably disagree with a number of our observations, but that doesn't mean either of us is right or wrong, it just means we view things in a different way. Arrival At The Terminal: We arrived by car at the Ft. Lauderdale terminal, left off our luggage and parked our car in the very convenient parking garage. We entered the terminal at 11:40, had our documents checked and were ushered aboard at 12:o'clock. As you no doubt have read in many reviews, Princess is by far the best at embarkation and disembarkation. They have it down to a science. We entered the ship on the fifth deck and was greeted by a member of the crew. Instead of him leading us to the elevator directly ahead in the foyer, he told us to follow the people that were walking down the hallway to the left. We followed a large group of people along a wide hallway that had paintings displayed on easels and also covering the walls on both sides. We walked almost halfway through the ship to the central elevator shaft, with paintings displayed every step of the way. If they wanted us to know they were going to have an art auction, they certainly made their point. This we thought was rather tacky, and it most certainly did not leave us with a very good impression as we started our cruise. Our Cabin: E 518 Obstructed View: We had booked an inside on the Aloha deck and were upgraded five categories to E 518 on the Emerald deck, which was a outside cabin with an obstructed view. As we entered the cabin, we were surprised to see two upper berths in a closed position folded against the wall. We hadn't realized it was a Quad cabin. I always have a brochure of the cruise that we are taking and make a pretty careful study of our accommodations. But when we got our tickets, for some reason, I didn't take notice to the small red dot inside the cabin picture which designated it as a Quad. If I had, I would have called my agent and had him ask to have our cabin changed. Make sure you check the symbols on the bottom of the page to see if they apply to your cabin. Sometimes they are so small it is difficult to read them. I now keep a magnifying glass on my desk, just for that purpose The upper beds which were folded against the wall jutted out from the wall some 12 to 14 inches. We had to be careful not to bang our heads when we got out of bed. Mary thumped her head a couple of times before she got the knack of bending down as she got up. . The cabin decor was very bland and the closet and drawer space was limited. The closet was stocked with a number of wood hangers and two terry cloth bathrobes. The bathroom was smaller than usual with very limited storage space. But surprisingly, the shower was a little larger than usual. There was a hair dryer just above the phone on the desk and a refrigerator off to the side. It was a true refrigerator and not a mini bar. If you have children, it would be convenient and cost saving to stock it with soda. The TV had a number of channels, including four music channels that gave us a good choice of music. Even though the cabin was just above the activity deck, it was exceptionally quiet. Our cabin stewardess was the absolute perfect cabin attendant. She had the unusual name of Blessie. We only saw her about four times during the entire trip but she kept our room immaculate and took care of our every need. If we needed something to be done, we would leave her a note and it would be taken care of. She was a cute little Filipino girl who looked like she was in her twenties. We found out later Blessie was 44 and had two grown boys. It was a pleasure to leave her a generous tip. Checking Table Arrangements & Tour of the Ship: As soon as we took care of necessities, we went to see the person in charge of table arrangements. Being he was located one deck below us we headed toward the central elevator shaft to walk down the stairway. That is when we realized there was no stairwells at the central elevators. We soon found out there were only two stairwells on the entire ship. Either completely aft or completely forward. It didn't make any sense that we had to stand and wait for an elevator to descend one floor. We located the Asst. Maitre`di in charge and he told us he could tell us our table assignment but only the head Maitre`di could make any changes. It was our 32nd anniversary and we had requested a table for two but he told us there were no tables for two on the GP. I asked when could I see the Head Maitre`di and he told us we could see him at 6 o'clock just before the first dinner seating. Having been in the restaurant business, I knew it would be difficult for the Maitre`di to change our table assignment while taking care of the first seating. I thought it would be a good idea to make a reservation for our first dinner at the Painted Dessert. In this way we would have a better chance of the Maitre`de accommodating us, by giving him an extra day to make the changes. We then went to the Horizon Court for lunch. We suggest that you check your table arrangements as soon as it's possible. If they need to be changed, the earlier you see the Maitre`de the better chance you will have of getting the arrangements you want. The Horizon Court: We went to the Horizon court for lunch and as we looked around the room, that old bugaboo, making comparisons, caught up with us. We were looking forward to the Horizon Court area because we enjoyed it so much when we cruised the Sea Princess. Not only was the Horizon Court on the Sea Princess the most beautiful lunch area of any ship we cruised on, but also at night it was converted into a bistro with a large circular dance floor. After dinner, a very talented combo would play dance music till the wee hours of the morning. None of the above was to be found. There was no dance area and no music in the evening. This was very disappointing. In our opinion, there is nothing outstanding about this room. They had an odd way for the guests to chose their breakfast and lunch items. They didn't have one line but a number of lines. You were handed a large oval plate instead of a tray and silverware and you could go to whatever food counter that had the items you wanted. There was 7 or 8 different counters. After they got their plate they would take off in all different directions. People would zig and zag all over the place. For the first three or four days it was very confusing, but then we kind of got the hang of things and we learned when to zig and when to zag. We found the food and the selection very good. They had a very good variety of hot and cold dishes that were tastefully presented and a varied assortment of pastries and cakes that were also very good. There was a very nice open lunch area in the aft section of the Horizon overlooking a small pool. While having lunch, it was a very pleasant sight to look out at the blue water being churned up by the two huge propellers. We later read in the ships papers that each propeller weighed 40 tons. This is a very nice area to relax and enjoy your lunch. When we finished lunch we headed toward the Atrium area, which we so admired aboard the Sea Princess. The Atrium Area of the Grand: This paragraph will be more readily understood and have significant meaning to those readers who have sailed on both the Grand and either the Sun, Dawn or Sea Princess. After sailing on the Sea Princess and reading the many positive reviews of the Grand, we had very high expectations. We had sailed on the Sea Princess this past November and were overwhelmed with the beauty of the ship, especially the two atrium areas, with their spectacular floating stairways, the outside elevators and the way these areas were used as activity centers. We expected that when Princess came up with the design of the new, largest ship in the world, (at that time) they would expand on the beauty of the atriums on the Sea Princess and make them even larger and more spectacular on the GP, but they didn't do that. With the GP having almost half again as much tonnage as the Sea Princess, and carrying 650 more passengers, they chose to design the Grand with one atrium instead of two, and the one atrium on the GP being much smaller than either of the atriums on the Sea Princess. That doesn't make any sense. One would expect that being this ship was going to be the largest ship in the world and the talk of the industry, that Princess would make every effort to have its design surpass any of the other ships in their fleet. One would think they would have a ship designed that would leave their guests breathless. Just the opposite happened. They designed the GP with only one atrium, which is also smaller than either atrium on the SP. In actuality, the atrium is relatively drab and not very well lighted and very unspectacular. And for some reason which we don't understand, they enclosed the exterior walls of the two outside elevators with very dark glass, that we could hardly see out of. We think they really missed the boat. In our opinion, the Sea Princess is much more beautiful then the Grand in every aspect of design, workmanship and in overall atmosphere. If one has never sailed on The Sea, Sun, or Dawn or RC's Voyager, I can see why they may rave about the Grand. But if they have sailed any of her sister ships, the GP pales in comparison. And compared to the Voyager, it's no contest. Of course, that is our opinion. We took a quick tour of the ship and went back to our cabin. Our luggage had arrived. We unpacked, took a short nap, then got dressed and headed to see the head Maitre`di. Checking With the Maitre`di: On our way to the check our table arrangements, we stopped by and to say hello to an old friend of some 35 years, Bill Wilson, who was also booked on this cruise. I've known Bill during the good times and the bad times. He has made a huge difference in my life. He introduced us to six of his friends and we then spent a pleasant hour talking about old times. At six o'clock we scooted down to the Michelangelo dining room to meet the head Maitre`de, Nicola Furlan. I told him we were celebrating our 32nd anniversary and would appreciate if he could arrange for us to have a table for two. As he was looking at his charts, I told him I realized how difficult it would be to change table arrangements at the last moment and we had made reservations at the Painted Dessert for this evening so he could have extra time if needed. As I was talking to him I shook his hand and placed a Hamilton in his palm. He smiled graciously and said he would send conformation of our new table assignment to our cabin. We felt much better knowing we were now going to have a table for two. We then went on to the Painted Dessert restaurant to have our first dinner aboard the GP. The Painted Dessert Alternative Restaurant: We were looking forward to a intimate, romantic dinner setting in the Painted Dessert. The room was attractively decorated, with a small dance floor in the center and they featured David Pritchett, a country guitar player. Even with all of this, the room was not conducive to fine dining. The location of the restaurant is just before you enter the Princess theater. While your having dinner, the people attending the showroom have to walk right through the restaurant to get to the theater. Yes, you have read it correctly. I know it's hard to believe but in order to get to the right side of the theater, the passengers have to walk right through the area where your dining, then walk over the dance floor on the way to the theater. Can you imagine being at a table, enjoying a romantic interlude with your wife, when all of a sudden a steady stream of hundreds of people come passing by your table. We felt like we were having dinner in the middle of ‘Times Square.' If someone told us this happened to them, we wouldn't believe it. It's unfortunate that the designers of this ship didn't allot a private space for this restaurant, because the food was excellent and was presented in a very appealing way. The servers were dressed in authentic Mexican attire and were very efficient. But all the good points were soon forgotten by the total distraction of the mass of people that passed our table on the way to the show. We racked our brain, but we can't think of another cruise ship that has this sort of dining arrangement. This room was never even half filled. I wonder why? If you like very good southwestern food and you don't care to much about the surroundings, you will like the Painted Dessert. If you like everything that goes along with fine dining, The Painted Dessert is not the place for you! Wheelhouse Lounge: After dinner we went to the Wheelhouse lounge, one of our favorite lounges at sea, to have drinks and dance a bit before the show. It is a delightful room. The decor is very much old world. Deep mahogany panels are used as back drops for pictures of sailing vessels and prominently displayed models of older cruise ships are displayed in various places. The seating is also very nice. It consists of groupings of richly upholstered love seats, the kind of intimate setting Mary & I like. A husband and wife duo, Steed & Steed, who played guitar and keyboard, played the kind of music we enjoy dancing to. Their repertoire consisted of songs like, Embraceable You, The Shadow of Your Smile, Unforgettable, Stardust. All those great tunes from yesteryear that tell our loved ones of our feelings in beautiful lyrics, much better than we can in words. What a wonderful setting to start the celebration of our Anniversary. To be able to hold Mary tightly in my arms as we danced and as we listened to the beautiful words of those grand old melodies. We often wonder if the young people that dance so far apart, going through all sorts of wild gyrations and never having body contact with there partners, know what their missing. Were willing to bet if these young people spent one evening dancing with their arms around each other, they would soon discover that its a lot more fun and they would realize there's a much better way to put their excess energy to use. We know we might be stirring up a hornets nest with this comment, but it appears to us, when we watch couples that dance apart, it seems they are saying look at me, whereas when we are watching couples dancing in each others arms, they seem to be saying look at us. Don't mind us, I think were letting the romanticism of our anniversary get the best of us. Later on in the same evening, this lounge featured Jerry Brooks and his show band. They were terrific. There music had that kind of beat that made your feet tell your head to get up and dance. Jerry was an original member of the Ink Spots and he sang many of the songs that made that group so popular. He was also a very personable and warm individual. You could tell he enjoyed every minute he was performing. We made sure to go to whatever lounge his group was playing. Sometime ago, Mary & I decided we would spend our later years collecting memories. These past four years we have experienced a number of special occasions that we have added to our memory collection and cruising is at the very top of the list. We feel the atmosphere and ambiance of a good cruise ship is one of the most romantic and intimate settings one can have for spending some real quality time with one's spouse. We will long remember our evenings spent in the Wheelhouse and will add them to our memory collection. If you haven't cruised, we heartily encourage you to give it a try. The Princess Theater and Show: The showroom is beautiful in appearance with good sight lines. There is no drink service in the theater. If you want a drink you have to get up and get it. When you get back to your seat, you have a choice of holding your drink in your hand or using the small airplane type tray in the right side arm rest. Then after you finish, you probably will put your glass under your seat on the floor like most of the people do. There is no other place to put it. We never cared for this type arrangement. When waiting for the show to begin, we found it a pleasure to be able to order an after dinner drink. The best example of the way we think it should be done, is the way they do it in the show rooms aboard Celebrity. They have beautifully upholstered love seats with a lighted cocktail table to place your drink on. It's a very elegant way of seating. The entertainment was one of the highlights of the cruise. Princess features more than one act during each of their shows. Even when it's a production show they usually have two additional acts. The first night the show opened with Roger Carr singing a medley of songs. Every evening, you will find Roger performing in the Promenade Lounge, with most every chair filled with his very loyal followers. He has a big voice and had great stage presence. He was very well received. They then followed with a lengthy production number featuring two female vocalists and two male vocalists who were excellent. The supporting cast of dancers were a group of very talented performers.. After the production numbers we were entertained by a comedy magician, Jeff Peterson. Usually about this time, with this kind of act, I begin to yawn and start to think about how great it's going to feel to put my head on the pillar, but that didn't happen. He really was funny and he had a great gimmick. On a tall plat-formed table next to where he was standing, he placed a gold Genie lamp, and lighted the protruding wick. And every time he told a lie during his performance, even though he might be two or three feet away, the flame would shoot out some two feet. It was a very funny bit. It was a great first night of entertainment. As we passed the Wheelhouse on our the way back to our cabin, we heard Jerry Brooks singing one of his soulful ballads and we took time out to dance a wee bit more before we called it a night. Except for the stampede we experienced in the Painted Dessert, it was a very enjoyable evening. Where Do We Go From Here: All of the preceding is what we experienced our first day aboard the Grand. For the rest of the review we don't intend to continue giving you a blow by blow account of every move. Instead, to prevent the possibility of you having a total case of boredom, we are going to highlight the Positives and the Negatives of our cruise and highlight a few areas. Being we told you of quite a few negatives we think it's time we told you of a very positive experience. The Da Vinci Dining Room: The GP has three dinning rooms. The Da Vinci, The Michelangelo and The Botticelli. All are beautiful rooms. Nicolas Furlan the Maitre`de, arranged for us to have a side by side seating at a round table in a corner of the Da Vinci dining room. It was a very romantic setting in a truly elegant room. Just what we wanted. Our waiter was Armindo and his assistant was Johan, both from Portugal. They were a great team. They were very professional and very efficient. They literally couldn't not do enough for us. One exception to this all-around efficiency was the Maitre`de for our section of the dining room. I think it best I not mention his name. Every evening before the meal was not to far along, he would come waltzing over to our table and address us in a few sentences in Italian. Then he would clasp his hands in front of him as if he was praying. He then would put the fingers of one hand to his lips, like he was going to throw us a kiss and loudly proclaim, "The Pasta, Mama Mia, Mama Mia ," and then walk slowly away with a big smile on his face. He did the same exact thing every night and that's all he did. We compensated him the same amount as the service he rendered, which was nothing. The quality of the food was a very pleasant surprise, it was excellent. And of course Mary, who loves Pasta, enjoyed having the extra Pasta course that is served before the main course. We found the desserts to be very good and the ice cream was noticeably better than the Haagen-Dazs we had at pool-side. Mary's favorite dessert is a Souffle. It is not a dessert you see on to many menus's. Because of it's tendency to collapse when completed, very few restaurants even attempt to make it. She had a Chocolate, Hazelnut Souffle with Zabaglione, that she said was one of the best she has had. We had a number of desserts that were excellent. I'd like to tell you of how at dinner I earn some extra credits with Mary. In one short sentence, Mary does everything for me when we are home. When we cruise I like to reverse the tables a bit and let her know I appreciate what she does. I have her select the bread or roll she wants and I then butter it for her, making a big production out of it. I see that she has salt and pepper, and I make sure she has ice in her wine glass, the way she likes it. At dessert time I put the cream and sugar in her coffee and stir it for her. I even let her taste my dessert. I know I sound like a wimp, but I have learned that these little things I do for Mary pay huge dividends, some of which I am not at liberty to tell you. Now on to the entertainment.. Entertainment: The Cruise Director John Cleford did an excellent job. He was a great MC and always had just the right comment for the occasion. Princess has a great way of programing their performers. Most of them appear more than once and are so scheduled that everyone regardless if they have an early or late dinner seating, will have a chance to see all of them. Their choice and quality of the entertainers is by far the best we have experienced. They do an excellent job. The following is a general listing of the entertainment, with comments when we think it warrants. Roger Carr: Roger Carr performs nightly in the Promenade Lounge and is featured in two production shows. Very polished performer. When he performs in the Promenade Lounge, as on stage, he gets everyone's attention. Kathy and James Taylor: They are one of the best performing couples we have ever seen. When they do there dance routine Kathy Taylor performs like Ginger Rogers, when she sings, she's as good as any of the top vocalists and then when she unexpectedly breaks out into her comedy routine, she looks like and acts like she's Lucille Ball. Truly an amazing transition. Her husband James Taylor is the perfect foil for her. Being of small statue, we were amazed at the lifts he was able do with his wife. If you don't care for entertainment that's fine, but do yourself a favor and don't miss the Taylors. Dave Heenan: Mary likes s to laugh and naturally she loves the comedic acts. We sure found a winner in Dave Heenan. He was hilarious. As we have previously said, Princess uses its entertainers in a completely different way than most cruise lines. We first saw Dave in Monday nights opening production show. We then saw him again in Wednesday's Comedy Showcase. Then on Friday we saw him in Comedy Cabaret in the Explorer lounge. Mind you, normally a stand up comic takes many, many months to put together a 15 minute routine. This man gave three 40 minute performances and he never repeated himself. In every show he had completely different material. What made his routine so refreshing was that his nighttime routine was made up of many things he experienced that day. He brought the house down. Especially when he told some jokes in New Yorkese and about his experience with the Taylors when they went to the clothing optional, Orient Beach. He's a very funny man, don't miss him. Comedian John Paton: Very, very good. A great style of delivery and great material The Macaggis; Performed some unbelievable feats of body balancing. Every bone in my body ached as I watched them. Very good act. Jeff Peterson: We reviewed him earlier. Chris Bliss: Off beat comedian that had the most unusual finish to his act that we have ever seen. After telling jokes for forty minutes he proceed to take four tennis balls from a box and juggled them in rhythm to the beat of a pop rock song. It doesn't sound like much, but I guarantee you that you have never seen a juggling act like this in all your life. The juggling part of his act was also featured in the farewell show. Lounges: The seventh deck is the activity deck of the Grand. You leave the Princess theater heading aft and you walk through the Painted Desert Restaurant, entering the atrium area, past the Promenade lounge to the Wheelhouse. Past the Wheelhouse you will find The Explorers lounge, then Sabatini's Tratoria, the Photographers area, then on to the Vista Lounge, the furthest point aft of the ship. We will now tell you a little bit about each lounge. The Wheelhouse: I think we have already given you a pretty good description of this lounge. As we said it's our favorite lounge and we enjoyed every minute we spent there. The Explorer Lounge: This lounge is supposed to give you the feeling your on Safari. The pictures on the walls are of a various wild animals. They have a variety of acts that appear here and it's a very popular and active spot. We kind of think they might have gone a wee bit to far in the way they have their beverage servers dressed. To compliment the Safari theme, the men and girl servers are dressed in Khaki knee length shorts, quite heavy Khaki bush jackets, pith helmets to match and shoes that look like they would be more suited to Mountain climbing. That's a lot of clothing to be carrying around when your rushing around to take last minute drink orders. They also held the art auctions in this lounge. It seemed like they had an art auction every other day. This is also where we picked up our tender tickets and where we waited until our color was called to disembark. The Vista Lounge: This actually is another show room. It's a very attractive room that is fully equipped to handle most any kind of entertainment. Besides the normal single acts that perform here, they occasionally feature a production show. They also use this room for Bingo and held the Captains party here. It's a very versatile setting. Skywalkers Nightclub: We never went there to dance,. (As you well know by now, it's not our kind of music), but we did go up during the day to see what it looked like. It is truly a spectacular setting and we could easily see why this could be the spot for those who like to do that other kind of dancing. It was so high up we thought we might need oxygen. Sabatini's Tratoria: Because of our choosing the late dinner seating, the last night of a cruise has always been a bit hectic and uncomfortable. Having to get packed and having to have our luggage in the hallway by 12 o'clock limited our after dinner time. We think we might have found a way around this dilemma. On Tuesday we went to the business desk where you have to make your reservations for both alternative restaurants and we made arrangements to have a table for two at Sabatini's at 7 o'clock on Saturday, the last day of our cruise.. By doing so we were able to catch the early show after dinner and still have plenty of time to visit a lounge and get back to the cabin to do any additional packing. It worked like a charm. I can't say as much for Sabatini's. We didn't feel that the room was properly set for fine dining. The first thing we noticed was the lack of table clothes. It's pretty difficult to create a fine dining atmosphere with place mats on the tables. Also, the iron chairs were a stark contrast to the plush cushioned settees. and didn't add anything to the room. While we were reading our menus, the waitress placed on our table a plate of garlic bread covered with diced tomatoes, olive oil and oregano. It wasn't very appetizing or tasty. We would of liked to start our dinner with a minestrone soup but they didn't have it on the menu. We were offered Pumpkin or Asparagus soup, not very Italian. We settled for asparagus soup. We were then served a salad that consisted of a plate of romaine lettuce with absolutely nothing added to it, with an Italian dressing on the side. We ordered rack of Veal as it was stated on the menu, when we were served it was actually a Veal Chop. It had a nice flavor but not much more can be said for it. We rarely if ever skip dessert because for Mary this is the best part of a meal, but we found the dessert menu very uninteresting and we decided to pass. We thought the food, atmosphere and service of the Da Vinci dining room was far superior to Sabatini's. Of course, that is our opinion. Now to the Pool area. The Pools: The Neptune and the Calypso pools are mirror images. In fact when you get off the elevator you have to think twice as to where you want to go. The pool area is a very attractive setting It is well appointed in all aspects. We weren't able to find an empty lounge chair around either pool for most of our cruise. There were some empty lounges on the upper deck but not around the pool area. The one day we found a lounge chair by the pool we noticed something that was very peculiar. The pools are very attractive but they are designed in a very different way. Around the entire pool is a serpentine, scalloped wall, that is from 2 ½ to 3 ½ feet high. We usually enjoy the pool area, lying on a lounge watching all the happenings in the pool, but you cant do that on the GP. Because of the height of the wall surrounding the pool, when you lie or sit in any lounge chair, in any location pool-side, you can't see the tops of the heads of the people in the pool. Very strange. We'll leave it at that. On one end of the Neptune pool is the Poseidon Pizza counter and the Trident Grill. The pizza was sensational and the items that the grill served were delicious. The nicest part was the crew that took care of these areas. They were very accommodating, warm and gracious. On the far end of the Calypso pool is the area where they sell Haagen-Dazs ice cream. I know this has been a controversial subject and we are going to add a little fuel to the fire. We do not mind being charged for ice cream if it's our choice. But when a cruise ship makes those who would like ice cream have to pay an additional charge, we think it is wrong. We asked the person in charge of the Horizon Court where we would find the ice cream and he said they didn't have any. I said you mean to tell me you don't have any ice cream in this area. He said, "No, we don't. You have to go to one of the main dining rooms." Can you imagine going to the Da Vinci dining room at 3:30 after lunch and try to have someone get you a plate of ice cream. In actuality, what Princess is doing is forcing their customers to buy Haagen-Dazs by not serving ice cream in the Horizon Court or any other immediate area. It made us compare our recent cruise aboard the Rydam, where in the main section of the lunch area they had an ice cream counter with an attendant serving all flavors of ice cream, with a separate area to make sundaes with all the trimmings, all for free. Or the voyager of the Sea, where ice cream is available twenty four hours a day. In our opinion, we think this Princess Haagen-Dazs experiment is going to be short lived like the Johnnie Rockets Diner experiment aboard The Voyager. People do not like to feel they are being taken for fools and the sooner the people let the cruise lines know how they feel, the sooner they will refrain from implementing excessive extra charge polices. In our opinion, the next big hullabaloo about pricing is going to occur with the Celebrity line. On their new ship the Millennium, to set sail in November, they have let it be known that in their alternate dining restaurant, they are going to charge $12.50 a person and $10 to $30 dollars for a glass of wine. You have not read a misprint, that's what they say they will be charging. If the cruise lines are going to adopt the extra charge philosophy, there are going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, you and me and many other passionate cruisers. For the first four days we spent most of our pool time in the lap, current pool by the spa. It was a delightful place and we had it practically to ourselves. Mary is petite and the pool having a depth of 4ft 6, was perfect for her. We had a lot of fun there. But by the last two days of the cruise it seemed the whole ship discovered our secret. By then the pool which is about thirty by twenty looked like an oversized Jacuzzi, filled to the brim filled with people. Above the machine that generates the current there is a sign that says, "Absolutely no children allowed, Adults only." The last day a mother and father had three youngsters, no more than 5 or 6 years old, in the pool with them playing all sorts of games. They were very noisy and were very disruptive. All this time there was a deck attendant looking down on this pool and he never said a word. So much for rules. About the Ports St. Thomas: We had plans of going to Caneel Bay Resort on St. Johns. We have been to the Eastern Caribbean a dozen times and every cruise line we traveled on made an early stop, usually 7 to 8 o'clock in the morning to let those who had shore excursions leave for St. Johns. GP doesn't do that, they go straight to St. Thomas and you have to take a ferry St. John. Enough said. St. Maarten; Again, ever cruise ship we have sailed on to St. Maartens has docked at the pier that is located at the base of main street. We boarded a tender and after a short while we noticed it started veering to the right. It finally docked at a pier some 1 ½ to 2 miles to the right of the center of town. It was a dilapidated, run down pier. From the tender I asked a princess crew member on the dock why we didn't dock at the downtown pier and he said they didn't have docking privileges there. We never got off the tender but staid on and returned to the ship. Enough said. Princess Cay: This may be considered a pretty beach but by some people, but in our opinion, we wouldn't define it as such. Much of the water line of the beach and extending into the water are rock formations. We were fortunate to be wearing beach slippers otherwise we would never have gone in the water. Most of the people in the water were looking down at the bottom instead of enjoying the view of the island. They kept looking at the ocean bottom so they could avoid stepping on the coral which was everywhere. Princess Cay may be good for snorkeling but it isn't the idyllic place for bathing. If anyone has been to Holland American's Half Moon Cay, they know what a Caribbean paradise looks like. If you are still with us, we apologize for this review being so lengthy but we know from all the E- Mail we have been receiving about our Ryndam review, that you enjoy reading a detailed review much more than a cursory one. Mary & I are going to have to forego our usual August, September cruise. I'm undergoing a spinal fusion on June 12th and will have quite a lengthy recovery period. We are hoping that I will recover sufficiently to be able cruise on the Zaandam next December 3rd. It's never much fun writing a review with a lot of negatives but if one doesn't tell it as they see it, they are not being fair to themselves or to the readers. Mary made what I think is a great comment. She said she feels when we say a lot of negative things about a cruise line we should send them the review so they can read what we have said. She said if we don't, it's the same as talking behind someone's back. With that thought in mind, we want you to know we are sending this review to the C.E.O., The Customer Relations Mgr, and the Dining room manager of the Princess. When we finished our recent Rydam Review we also sent it to the C.E.O. and other officials of the Holland American Line. We think they are entitled to know what we say about them, both good and bad. It may be hard for some people to understand how we can say we had a great cruise when we voiced so many negatives in this review. But it's really quite simple. We can make that statement because the negatives we experience can never lessen our pleasure of being together and fully enjoying each others company. We eliminate the negatives from our mind and concentrate on making each other happy. We have been on some less than desirable. cruise ships but we have never had a bad cruise. We'll leave you with this thought. When we have found ourselves on one of those less than desirable cruises, we have found that it helps to hum that old Johnnie Mercer favorite, "You've got to accent the positive and eliminate the negative." We would be happy to answer any questions you might have. We especially like to help first time cruisers. May your next cruise be your best. Happy cruising, Tom & Mary Milano   Tom@TomMilano.com

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

INTRODUCTION - My mother and father treated my sister and my family (my wife, myself and our little 8 year old girl) to the best gift ever, a New Year’s cruise on the Grand Princess. Having cruised with Princess before (the Crown Princess about 10 years ago, Eastern Caribbean) I had some expectations for what I might experience on this cruise. But as it turns out, in many ways my experiences on the Grand (both positive and negative) were a far

cry from those expectations. The Grand is, well, grand, and by and large we had a wonderful time, but with a few disappointments along the way. One thing is for sure however, ringing in the new year on a cruise is something everybody should try at least once! Intrigued? Then by all means please read on… PRIOR TO THE CRUISE / THE CRUISE PERSONALIZER – The use of the Princess web site prior to embarkation helps speed things up a bit. A few months prior to embarkation at Fort Lauderdale, I had gone on the Princess web site to use the Cruise Personalizer to update information for my cruise. All you need in order to register on the site is your Last name, First name and Booking ID. Once registered, you can enter your address and related information, such as emergency contact information, passport numbers, etc. on the site. You can also enter the credit card you wish to use while on board and for expenses such as shore excursions or gifts you wish to order. About a month or two prior to your cruise you can also pick and choose your Shore Excursions. I used the web site to pick the “Swim with the Dolphins” excursion in Cozumel for my 8 year girl. Here’s where I had a problem with Princess’ Shore Excursions. My wife and I wanted to travel along with our little one so we could ensure she was safe, but we didn’t want to actually swim with the Dolphins. When we inquired with Princess, they said we could book our little one on the excursion, but we would have to travel separately. She could go on the excursion bus (more about this Excursion later), but we would have to obtain a taxi on our own, and somehow follow behind the bus to the water park where we would have to pay separately to enter. Needless to say I was NOT going to let a little 8 year old girl travel in a foreign country with a bunch of strangers, hoping I could catch up to her somewhere! I would think Princess could easily come up with a way to identify those who are traveling along just as companions to those who are actually going to do the Dolphin Swim. I would have no problem paying for the expense of the bus ride and the entry to the park, but felt I shouldn’t also have to pay for a Dolphin Swim. However, this was a month before the cruise, and I wasn’t going to let my little one down, so my wife and I also registered to do the Dolphin Swim. At $150 a person, this was no little decision! I had heard from our travel agent that the Excursions for the Holiday cruises book up fast, and that we better book early to ensure we had a place. She was right! There was only 1 space left in the morning swim (which is what I wanted to do) and only 4 spaces left in the afternoon swim, and this was over a month prior to the cruise! I booked our 3 spaces in the afternoon swim online and was pleased with how easy and efficient it was. So, after using the web site to enter my family’s information and excursion (the Dolphin Swim was the only excursion I booked online) I thought we were ready to go. Not quite. When we received our ticket packet a few weeks later I noticed that much of the information I had entered online was not on the ticket. Important things like Passport Country and Number were not on the tickets. I felt I didn’t need to enter this information on the ticket, since I had already entered it online and thus felt it should be in a Princess computer somewhere, but thankfully my mother insisted and so I entered the information before we went to the port. That was a good thing as the embarkation process used those hard-copy tickets ONLY! What’s interesting is some of my information was correct. They had my correct credit card, and shore excursions, but for some reason the passport information was missing. Go figure. Make sure you CAREFULLY inspect your tickets prior to going to the port! A Few Tips Prior To Embarkation: 1. For cash purchases on shore – go to the bank and get at least $50 in singles and $50 in fives, this way you’ll have just the right amount of money for small purchases and won’t have to worry about receiving lots of change in a foreign currency. 2. Mark your luggage with large, colorful tags or tape on the top and sides. You won’t need it for embarkation, but at disembarkation this will help you find your luggage in the large warehouse space where your luggage is piled with hundreds of other similar looking luggage! 3. Make sure you check your tickets carefully, and enter any missing information prior to going to the Terminal. 4. Take travelers Cheques and cash them at the pursers desk at times when the ship is at sea, or everyone has left to go to their excursions (because there will be no lines then). 5. If you’re a water drinker like me, buy a pack of 12 or so waters in Fort Lauderdale prior to embarkation, if you have the time, and pack them in a spare suitcase or bag. When the waters are gone you can use the suitcase for all the gifts and other items you’ve purchased while on your cruise. 6. Make sure you write your deck and room number on each luggage tag you receive and have each piece of luggage you are going to give to the porters tagged before arriving at the Terminal. Use a large black marker to make the deck and room numbers easy to read. 7. Print out and study the maps of the ship available on the Princess web site in advance of boarding, this will make your first few days much easier when trying to navigate around the Grand. 8. You didn’t hear this from me, but my “friend” said, remember those water bottles you’ve packed in your suitcase? Funny thing how one of those bottles with Vodka in it instead of water, (and marked in some fashion), looks just like all the other water bottles (wink wink). DAY 1 - EMBARKATION As I recall, embarkation on the Crown Princess 10 years ago took quite a bit of time, and required us to stand in some long lines. Not now! Embarkation was a breeze, and Princess should be congratulated for the efficiency they’ve created for this process. We arrived at the terminal at about 12:30pm. The porter took our bags, we proceeded into the large warehouse space where signs clearly marked each deck (Aloha, Baja, etc.). Each deck has it’s own area and staff for check in, thus making the lines very short. Since my mother and father are Platinum cruisers on Princess our whole family went to Platinum check-in, where there was no line at all. We handed our tickets to the very helpful staff at the desk, and within 10 minutes all 6 of us were processed. We proceeded up to the gangway, had our picture taken, then crossed into the Grand at 12:45pm. Total elapsed time from cub to deck, 15 minutes! Well done Princess! As we entered the ship, a security officer took our picture. This is for ship security purposes, and each time your card is entered into their card reader your picture comes up on their monitor to ensure the person who’s entering the ship with your card is you, and not a stranger. This security measure made me feel more comfortable, given the times we live in. Once on board, there were many helpful Princess personnel to provide directions and guide us to our rooms. Having studied the maps of the ship on the Princess web site in great detail prior to embarkation it was relatively easy for us to find our way around. On the Grand, there are primarily two decks you’ll spend most of your time on. Deck 7 is a very important deck. Deck 7 is where some of the larger lounges and theaters are, along with the photo hallway and access to the 3 story lobby. Deck 7 goes all the way from the front of the ship (Princess Theater) to the very back of the ship (Vista Lounge) so you’ll be spending a fair amount of time on this deck. The other deck you’ll spend some time on is deck 14. Deck 14 is where the Horizon Court buffet is located (the 24 hour buffet) and where the main pools are. Deck 14 also goes from the very front to the very back of the ship. Here’s a tip for you. If you have to go from the front of the ship to the back, or vice versa, and the Deck 7 hallway is full (say after the Princess Theater has let out), simply go outside to the deck and walk down to the other end. If you choose the leeward side of the ship the wind won’t be too bad at all, and you can quickly bypass the crowd inside. After embarkation we went to our room (Aloha 722), and were surprised at how large the balcony was. The three of us easily fit on it, even with the table and chairs. And the view from 12 stories up is fantastic! We ended up spending lots of time on our balcony, but more on that later. Now here’s where I had a bit of a disappointment, even though we were one of the first to get on board, our luggage didn’t show up until about 5pm. However, the couple next to us arrived at the terminal at 4:30pm and had their luggage before 5pm. Be sure to carry with you a change of clothes if you feel it necessary to change for dinner. We didn’t, and found ourselves scrambling to try to get our clothes unpacked and our dinner clothes out in time for our 6:30 dinner. At 5:30pm, the Grand pulled away from the dock. It’s amazing how the ship can maneuver in such small space, and you have to look carefully to realize the ship is actually moving when pulling away from the dock! We went to the top starboard-side of the ship to get a view of the tall condo buildings guarding the entrance to the port, as we headed out to sea. The sunset, the music, and the horns from shore all added to the fun, and when the ship’s horn sounded many of the people at their balconies in the condos waved, or tooted their own little air horns back at us. It was quite a fun scene to watch! Once underway, and after watching the Fort Lauderdale coastline dwindle behind us, we went back below to quickly change in order to meet my parents for dinner at 6:30. We had Personal Choice dining, but even though we were told you couldn’t make reservations for the Da Vinci or Michelangelo dinning rooms the first question we were asked by the Maitre D was do you have reservations! Go figure. For our cruise, which was packed full with 2,700+ passengers, obtaining reservations became rather important. You have to call quite a bit during the later afternoon to reach someone in the dining room, but once you do you can make reservations. We made them for 6:30, but frankly 7 or 7:30 would have been much better, as 6:30 does not allow you a lot of time to get showered and changed after a day on shore, or at sea for that matter. We tried both dining rooms, but ended up staying with Da Vinci and 6:30 reservations for the rest of the cruise. Here’s a good thing about Personal Choice dining, even though your reservation is always the same time, you’ll have different tables, and thus different waiters, each time you enter. Although the wait-staff was professional and efficient, we found some better than others. Although we never asked, I’m guessing you could request a particular table if you found a waiter you particularly liked. After dinner we watched the show in the Princess Theater, which if memory serves was the “Lights Camera Action.” This show is quite a bit different than a normal production show in that there’s no real plot, instead it represents the fantastic imagination of a movie theater usher, who takes you on a wild ride through the movies via various vignettes. Get there 10 minutes early to see the “prior show.” Unpacking that night and hanging clothes in the closet was no big deal. There were quite a few hangers (we brought our own after reading some of the review here) but when we asked our very capable cabin steward, Ricky, for more he brought them promptly, along with his always present smile. A slight misunderstanding on my part was that you had to put out your “Please Make Up My Stateroom” card each night, if you wished for fresh towels and the turn down service at night. Also, you need the turn down service to deliver new Room Service order cards, but more about that below. A Few Tips For Embarkation: 1. Bring a change of clothes (dinner wear and bathing suits for the kids) with you on board, in case your luggage is delayed in getting to your room. ALWAYS carry your medicines on board with you. 2. If you don’t want your picture taken when boarding the ship (or any other time for that matter) a polite but firm “no thank you” is all that’s necessary. 3. Although it’s not really necessary (the ship is very well marked) you can bring the maps you printed of the ship with you on board, so you can find your way around easily. 4. If the forward elevators are very busy and crowded, walk to the back of the ship and try them, you should find them less crowded. Likewise, if the back elevators are crowded simply walk to the forward elevators. 5. Better yet, start using the stairs to go up and down, the exercise will do you good as you eat the copious amounts of food on board! 6. If you enjoy your drinks, go right away to the Promenade Bar (Deck 7, forward, port side) and get a “Bar Hop” card. The card has the 14 bars of the ship labeled, and as you have a drink at each bar ask the bartender to stamp your card. After you’ve marked up all 14 spaces from the 14 bars you can bring it back to the Promenade Bar to receive a free gift. We received a Carona plastic bag and a mini stereo radio with headphones. Warning! Some of the bars are a bit tough to find, so you may actually feel something like a detective as you go about the ship trying to find them all. 7. If you have kids and want to enter them in the kids program be sure to attend one of the mandatory introductory meetings scheduled to sign them up. 8. If you like your soda, purchase a sticker which will be attached to your card, we paid $22.50 for each sticker and they are good for the entire cruise. You simply show the sticker to the staff each time you order a soda. We bought two, one for me and one for our little one. When asking for a soda, ask for a large, otherwise they bring you a small plastic cup with ice and with about half a can of soda in it, 3 or 4 sips and it’s just about gone. By the way, if you don’t buy the soda card each soda costs a dollar. 9. When the Calypso Cove gift store (Deck 6, forward) is open after the ship is underway, purchase a lanyard (or better yet bring your own). A lanyard is a longish but thin cloth loop you wear around your neck, with a clip at the end. Lanyards are often worn at conventions or conferences to hold a badge. Ask the gift store employee to punch a hole in your card and then attach your card to the clip on the lanyard. You’ll find it a simple matter to walk around the ship with your card, without leaving it somewhere (since it’s around your neck and not in your pocket where it’s easier to get lost). 10. The toilets make one heck of a sucking noise when flushing. If you have little kids perhaps show them this so they don’t get scared the first time they use the toilet. 11. Read the “Princess Patter” each night before going to bed, so you know what to do the next day. There’s so much to do on board you won’t be able to do it all, so pick and choose by reviewing the “Patter” the night before. 12. Your suitcases should fit underneath your bed once you’ve unpacked them. However, if you have a VERY large suitcase (like a hard Samsonite like ours) you can ask your Room Steward to store it for you. DAY 2 – AT SEA After getting our things unpacked and retiring for the night, we awoke and immediately began using our wonderful balcony. Now I know the middle of the ship is supposed to be the ideal place for a cabin, but on the Grand the REAL ideal place is the aft end, high up (like the Aloha deck, deck 12, cabin 722 where we were). The reason why is many of your entertainment events are held in the Vista Lounge (below on the 7th floor). Also, you can just walk up one flight of stairs and your at the Horizon court, where you can get a plate of food to take down to your cabin anytime you want, day or night. We did that every morning, although we also used the Room Service cards to order hot water for my wife’s tea. Although it wasn’t written on the Room Service card, we wrote down that we wanted toasted bagels and cream cheese each morning. No problem, they were delivered hot and fresh. Also, although the card indicates that the first delivery time is 7:30 to 8:00am, you could write down an earlier time if you had to, for example to leave the ship first thing for a shore excursion. The room service staff were very nice and always on time, and the tea and bagels always arrived hot and fresh. There’s a few four star hotels that could learn a thing or two from Princess’ room service staff. Well done Princess! Most of the at-sea day we spent either up at one of the pools, or down in the Vista Lounge playing bingo and “Real Live Dicey Wooden Horse Racing.” Tim Donovan, the cruise director, and the rest of the entertainment staff did a great job of keeping the activities lively and fun. It’s obvious they enjoy what they do, and that enjoyment rubbed-off on us as well. We had a great time at all the events they put on for us. We checked our little one into the kids program that morning, and I must say she was a bit trepidatious at first. But upon her return she was beaming, and for the rest of the trip she couldn’t wait to go the to the kids program, which was 9am to 12 noon, 2pm to 5pm and 7pm to 10pm. They played games, made art, did science with a representative from the Los Angeles Science Center (a first time test of this by the way) and had all kinds of fun. Princess’ kids program received a 10 out of a possible 10 from our 8 year old, and she made many new friends on board the ship. Well done indeed Princess! Now you’re not supposed to save pool side chairs, but we noticed quite a few towels with nobody on them for a long time. One couple sat down and moved some towels off chairs, to have someone else come up and say they were saving them for friends. “No saving, you read the signs” was the rebuke back, and the couple stayed in the formerly “saved” seats. We applauded. Frankly, there are so many chairs on the decks of the Grand that you can easily find a chair just about anywhere, and remember that our ship was completely full for the Holiday sailing, so this business of “saving chairs” seems quite foolish and unnecessary to me. We never had a problem finding a place to sit and relax. Do yourself and the rest of your fellow passengers a favor, don’t “save” chairs. A bit more about the Bands and entertainment. All the bands were absolutely excellent. We were amazed at the quantity and quality of them. From the 50s and 60s all the way to today’s pop tunes, you can find just the music and entertainment you’re looking for somewhere on the ship. We especially enjoyed the Steel Drum calypso beat of “Pan Aces” every day up poolside, and we also enjoyed the quartet playing Bach and Mozart down in the lobby. Quality entertainment is what you expect, and receive, on Princess. Finally, we noticed that several families had hand-held walkie-talkies, the kind you can buy at Costco, in order to communicate with their other family members. We noticed that some of the walkie-talkies didn’t seem to be working to well, especially deep inside the ship, where a loud squawking noise seemed to be the best they could do. However, a few other walkie-talkies seemed to be a bit more powerful, and the families could understand each other. We thought this would be a good idea for larger families that need to chase each other down on the large Grand Princess. You can also use them when on shore to communicate with family members who are nearby (say when shopping in the different shops at a port for example). A Few Tips For Day 1: 1. Don’t save chairs with your towels, with so many deck chairs on the Grand it’s really not necessary. 2. Do remember to bring your towels back to your room. The deal is you’ll receive new ones to replace the used ones, but only if you bring your old ones back. 3. If you want clean towels, leave dirty towels, pool or otherwise, on the floor in your bathroom. If you hang them up that tells your room steward you want to re-use your towels the next day, and they won’t replace your dirty towels. 4. If you want the evening turn down service (and fresh towels) make sure you hang your “Please Make Up My Stateroom” card outside your door before you head out to dinner. 5. If you need to communicate with older kids or a large family, try bringing those little portable walkie-talkies, the kind you can buy at Costco and other places. However, it’s probably a good idea to test them out first, in a building with lots of steel if possible. If they work in the building they’ll probably work on the Grand Princess. 6. Try to get into the habit of visiting the Purser’s Desk each evening and asking for a print-out of your expenses. There are two reasons for this; a) it’s amazing how fast you forget what you’ve been spending money on in the ship, and checking it at the end of each day allows you to find any discrepancies much easier (my bill was fine but my sister had a charge on hers she did not make), and b) it’s a reality-check on how fast you’re burning through your money (and it goes darn fast!) and so is useful for budgeting purposes. DAY 3 – COZUMEL, MEXICO We awoke in the morning and looked out our balcony to see the sunrise over the town of Cozumel. A pod of 4 Dolphins greeted us as they swam in the bay directly across from where the Grand was docked, and we marveled at how easily these magnificent creatures moved in the water. We watched them as we ate our breakfast on our balcony, what a great way to start the day! Later, we dressed and headed out to the shops. Now I’ve read that some people were put off by the shop keepers of Cozumel, who would try to influence them to come into their shops. We found no pushy shop keepers, and if some did try to lure us into their shop a polite but firm “no thank you, not interested” was all that was necessary. Having visited Rosarito, Ensenada and Tiajuana Mexico several times, we were pleasantly surprised at how nice and modern the shops were in Cozumel. As we had discovered in Baja, California, bartering is a way of life in Mexico, so don’t EVER pay full price for any item in the shops in Mexico. Even the locals were willing to admit that if you did your shopping late in the day, say after 3pm, you could wrangle the best deals. Senior Frogs was a jumping and happening spot, but we just window shopped around town as we had to be at the dock for our 11:30 meeting to go swim with the Dolphins. Our family split up in Cozumel, with my wife and little one and I heading to the Dolphin Swim, while my Dad and sister went to the tour of Tolum. My mother stayed on board to have her hair done for the formal dinner which would happen later in the evening. Regarding the Dolphin Swim, we had another disappointment. The information in the Princess brochure led us to believe there would be a bus to take us on the 15 minute ride to the water park, where the Dolphin adventure awaited us. Unfortunately, we were told we’d be taking Taxi’s instead (no mention of the bus). The representative gave us each a sticker that would pay for the taxi ride, and then proceeded to split up a family of five (because the taxis only would hold 4 people). Luckily, we knew one of the family’s little girls (a friend of our little one whom she had met during the kid’s program) so we took her along with us. Our Taxi driver gave us a white knuckle drive all the way to the water park. Several times we seriously thought we were going to crash, or would be T-boned by trucks as he sped insanely across intersections where he should have stopped, but merely slowed down instead. Seat belts? Good luck finding some in that broken-down taxi! We felt VERY unsafe and were shocked that Princess would resort to this kind of transportation, which clearly was NOT what was advertised. Tsk tsk Princess! Once at the park we were able to relax a bit from our harrowing taxi-ride, and the representative again greeted us and explained that the entrance fee to the water park was paid for (a fact that we already knew), and that if we wanted to see any shows or rent snorkels and masks after the Dolphin Swim those would cost extra (we knew that too). We were free to explore the water park on our own after the Swim, and could come back to the ship using the free Taxi voucher he gave each group of four. One taxi voucher was good for a whole taxi. Now I understood the method to their madness, not having a bus with a pre-determined time to come back meant we could stay for as long or as short a time as we wished. Nice idea, but some of those taxi drivers needed serious amounts of Valium! The Dolphin Swim started with classroom instruction and a training video by the instructors. Next, we donned our life vests and headed out to the very large enclosure, which is a football field sized fenced off area of ocean along the beach. We were split into three teams, and introduced to the videographer and photographer who would be taking our pictures while we did our various procedures with the dolphins. We had a blast! Among other things we did a trick where the Dolphins placed their necks on our out-stretched hands so we could give them a kiss, the Dolphins swam by us as we gently caressed their bodies. We caught a ride by holding onto the dorsal fins of both dolphins and we were pushed through the water by our feet, one Dolphin on each foot. Finally, we gathered in a spread-out circle and the Dolphins swam around each of us. It was an incredible time, and I’m glad we were “forced” to do the Dolphin Swim, and not just observe our little one doing it. All that aside, I still believe Princess can find a way for “observers” to go along to watch their little ones, as I indicated earlier. After the swim we went back to the training room where we showered with fresh water and watched the video they had prepared of us. It was professionally edited with titles, music, slow-motion sequences and still frames. The video showed each of us doing the various tricks we performed with the Dolphins. It was excellent and I purchased the video and four pictures immediately. By the way, I bartered for the photos (video price however was solid at $45) and got each picture for $0.50 less than the asking price. A small savings, but I felt like a bartering king and if you’re into bartering you know what I mean. We spent quite a bit of time afterward at the water park, which is quite large and very beautiful. Our little one got bitten by a spider or red ant or something and instantly got a big rash. We took her to the Dolphin training area we had just come from, and a very nice man (one of the Dolphin trainer staff) helped us by smoothing ointment on the bite. Her rash started disappearing soon after, and we were most grateful for that very kind young man who took the time and energy to ensure that our little one was OK. Hunger drove us to a restaurant that had open sides and a thatched roof, right on the beach, but we couldn’t eat there as they didn’t take American Express cards, bummer! Instead, we hopped into a taxi, this one with a driver who was very safe and drove very well indeed, and headed back to the village of Cozumel. We ended up eating an afternoon snack at of all places TGI Fridays! Fridays overlooks the dock, so we had a wonderful view of the ship and the harbor, and enjoyed watching all the passengers and some of the crew heading back to the ship. Cozumel was a VERY fun place, and we each vowed to ourselves that we’d come back and spend more time with those friendly people in their little town. Once back aboard the ship we had to shower and change in a hurry, to try to meet the rest of the family for the 6:30 pm dinner. Again, it would have been MUCH better if dinner was at 7 or 7:30, but that’s the way the it was. This was our first of two Formal nights. Formal night was made easier for me by renting a Tux through Princess. There’s a web site you can go to for ordering the Tux (cruiselineformal.com). The tux arrives via your room steward your first day on board, and everything was in order for me. What I should have done, but did not however, was try on the tux immediately after the steward brought it, in case something didn’t fit. After all, it’s a bit hard to change a shirt or pair of shoes once you’re out at sea! Luckily for me, everything was fine, and we headed down to dinner looking and feeling like a million bucks. After dinner, we danced in the Wheelhouse Lounge, and had just an incredible evening. For us, this day was New Year’s Eve, and the staff and crew of the Grand Princess did an outstanding job of providing fabulous entertainment and activities to ring in the new year! There were parties all over the ship. We chose to bring in the New Year down in the lobby, where there was a band playing and a HUGE balloon drop, there must have been a thousand balloons up near the ceiling. Princess had provided party hats and noisemakers at dinner, so it was quite fun to see everyone dressed up in their formal dresses and tuxes, with silly party hats on their heads, and a million balloons everywhere! Everyone, at least once in their life, should try to take a cruise during New Year’s eve, it’s an absolute blast (and you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving afterward!). A Few Tips For Day 3: 1. Take your camera and get a snapshot of your family with the ship in the background. It’s usually your first opportunity to see how massive the ship is, as you entered the ship via the tunnel when embarking at Fort Lauderdale and thus didn’t have the opportunity to get a picture of the massive ship. DAY 4 – AT SEA Can you say “recuperation?” Believe it or not my wife and I actually used the track in the morning, up on the very top of the ship forward, to walk/run off a few (we hoped) pounds. Later my little one and I went to the paddle tennis court (same place) and had fun doing some volleys. The basketball court was in hot demand, and even though I didn’t do it there is a series of putting greens up on the top middle of the ship that sounded like fun. I meant to get there, but somehow never quite made it. There’s just so much to do on a ship that you run out of time trying to get it all in! DAY 5 - MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA As I understand it, only the Princess December Holiday cruises dock at Montego Bay, Jamaica. Now that’s a shame, as we had a fabulous time there. Our little one got her hair braided in a shop just outside the docks. Most of the little girls, and even some of the bigger girls, came back to the ship later that afternoon with braids in their hair. We didn’t book and excursions through Princess, wanting to just spend the time ourselves exploring. We met a nice guide, Michael, who offered to give us a tour of the town and take us to a swimming beach (Doctors Cave). After carefully checking his references (he was known by everyone we talked to in the various shops, and even by a security officer) we took him up on his offer and got an insiders tour of the town. The roads in Montego Bay are in horrendous shape, mostly pot-holes with a few stretches of asphalt thrown in for good measure, but we never the less very much enjoyed our trip around town with Michael. It’s a bustling place, with pedestrians taking their lives seeming in their hands by walking through and around traffic! We made a stop at a hotel on a hill, where we got some nice pictures of the town below us and of the ship in the harbor. After a refreshing soda there we headed to the Pork Pit, where we had excellent Jerk Chicken and Pork. Finally, he dropped us off at Doctors Cave, a swimming club where you pay $3 to enter. The beach was fabulous, and the rental umbrellas and chairs were plentiful. We enjoyed a relaxing 2 hours in the warm water and beach, then went back out to the street to meet Michael, who was waiting for us to take us back to the ship. We bought lots of gifts at the stores, including several wild tropical shirts and outfits for “Tropical Island Night” on the ship later that evening. We had a great time in Montego Bay. DAY 5 – GEORGE TOWN, GRAND CAYMAN Princess had nothing to do with this disappointment, Mother Nature did. We awoke as the Grand pulled into anchor off George Town, but as I looked out our balcony to the west I saw a large line of VERY black clouds headed straight for us. The captain reported that there was a squall line headed our way, and that the weather behind the line was supposed to be even worse. When the wind and rain whipped up into a frenzy, and the ship parked next to us (Enchantment of the Seas) disappeared in the rain storm, we knew this was not going to be our time to visit the island of Grand Cayman. Sure enough, after a wait to see what would develop the Captain reported that he was canceling our shore trip to Grand Cayman, and that instead we would cruise slowly back to Fort Lauderdale, spending two days at sea instead of one. George Town has an exposed anchorage to the West, so any storms coming from the West spell big trouble for any ships on that side of the island. Considering that the “Enchantment of the Seas” and the “Costa Victoria” ships also did the same thing, this seemed a prudent thing for us to do, and so we up-anchored and set a slow course back to Florida. Now 10 years ago, on the Crown Princess, we had the same problem when trying to spend the day at Princess Cays. But at that time when the shore trip was cancelled the Captain ordered free Rum drinks for the passengers. Needless to say I was hoping for the same thing from our good Captain this time, but sadly Captain Romano did not order the free Grog for us passengers. Oh well. Your second formal night is usually on this night. Dress yourself up to the nines and take pictures. You’re going to be looking stunning and should have a picture to remember this event by. We took advantage of the professional portraits in the lobby and got an excellent picture of our family all dressed up. It’s a much cheaper way to have a professional portrait done than by going to a photography studio on land (no sitting fee) and the pictures were not that expensive. DAY 6 – AT SEA The usual, Bingo, Dicey Horse racing including the “Kentucky Derby,” drinking, eating and swimming in the pools. Now this is the way a vacation should be! A Few Tips For The Last Day At Sea: 1. You’ll have to have all your luggage packed and outside your stateroom door when you go to dinner. You can actually wait a while after dinner to bring them out, but don’t wait TOO long or you might be carrying your suitcases yourself! 2. If you’ve stored oversize luggage with your Room Steward remember to ask for it in the morning. 3. It’s a good idea to pack your suitcases in the morning, and leave out a change of clothes (and a bag to carry them in) for the evening, that way you’ve got the whole day to enjoy. 4. If you’ve purchased any liquor which Princess has been “holding” for you, they’ll be bringing it by in the morning. 5. You’ll receive some surveys and some other forms (such as for customs), I’d suggest completing them the night before to get that out of the way. Don’t forget to complete the surveys as I happen to know Princess takes them VERY seriously and uses them to try to improve the quality of their cruises. Your opinions DO matter and WILL be read! Don’t’ forget to mention positive experiences as well as negative experiences, it’s a great way to reward staff who’ve gone out of their way for you. 6. Complete the information on your Disembarkation luggage tags and put a tag on each suitcase. DAY 7 – DISEMBARKATION Sadly, our cruise had come to an end. The Horizon Court was filled to capacity in the morning with everyone trying to get breakfast before exiting the ship. Do yourself and your family a favor and go to breakfast in one of the dining rooms (if you have Personal Choice dining). They are open, and were not that crowded, and had delicious breakfasts (the pancakes were outstanding). Your luggage tag color and number determines when you’ll be off the ship. Passengers with flights to catch have priority, and have “Green” and “Red” luggage tags. Here’s another good thing about being high up on the Aloha Deck, after the “Red” and “Green” tags were called, our “Cream 1 and Cream 2” tags were called. You’ll be practically one of the first off the ship (assuming you didn’t have a flight to catch that is). Now there’s no easy way to do this I realize, but trying to find our luggage proved to be quite a trick. Remember that giant warehouse-sized room you entered 7 days ago? It’s now a massive storage area for rows and rows of similar-looking luggage. Each color tag has it’s own row, but believe me when I say it took us a solid 15 minutes of searching to find our one final bag. Porters are zooming around everywhere, and the amount of lost looking people, searching for their bag, is amazing. Remember that tip I gave you about marking your luggage with bright tape or stickers or luggage tags! Here’s where that idea will save you LOTS of headache. CONCLUSION – So that’s it. I see I forgot to write about a lot of things that happened, or other important pieces of information you should know, such as the hair salon was extremely popular and there was a long line of ladies waiting to make appointments just before our Muster Station drill (they all ended up loosing their place in line because of the mandatory drill). I also seem to have forgot to mention the excellent food, I saved menus from each dinner as a reminder). I didn’t mention how helpful the staff and crew were in making our trip enjoyable. I didn’t mention the workout facilities, which were state of the art. I didn’t talk about the laundry, where we did our washing and drying and for one of the first times ever came home with almost all clean clothes. I didn’t mention the kids zone with the fabulous video and simulation games, including my favorite “Wave Runner.” I also forgot to mention the Painted Desert and Italian themed restaurants where you have to pay a cover charge (we didn’t go into those actually). I also forgot to mention how beautiful the ship is itself, all gleaming and polished and clean 24/7. Seems I forgot to mention quite a bit! Anyway, the voyage we had looked forward to for so long was over in what seemed like the blink of an eye. We’ve got pictures and video to remember it by luckily, but we, and I’m sure the rest of the passengers, were wishing we could stow-away to keep going, it was that much fun. I wish you a happy voyage as well. If you plan on taking the Grand Princess I’m sure you’ll have a great time, the staff and crew will make sure of that. After all, this ship is beautiful and quite majestic, but she’s still just a ship made of steel and wood. It’s the people, the crew and the staff in her that make her the fabulous ship that she is. Enjoy, and Bon Voyage!

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Cruise Line: Princess Sailing Date: September 22nd, 2002 As an experienced cruiser, I thought it was time to finally sit down and write a review. Together, my wife and I have taken 7 cruises on a total of 4 different lines (Princess, RCI, HAL and Celebrity) and I think I am qualified to comment on our experience. We usually go away for our wedding anniversary and this year was no exception. I booked this less than 2 weeks before the

sailing date and I think I got a very good price on the cruise and my airfare, which I booked on my own. I will assign a final grade based on the A to F scale to various categories, and then expand on some details. I have high expectations and my comments may be more critical than other reviews you may have read. I am just trying to be as honest as I can, so please remember, “your mileage may vary”. I hope that you find the information and tips I provide to be useful. Embarkation: A We arranged our own air and transfers to the ship. If you are a smart shopper, you should be able to get a better price on your airfare and also be able to pick your flight times better. A short Taxi ride to the Port Everglades is $10 or less on the meter. There is no reason to use their transfers and be herded like cattle onto a bus. We got to the cruise terminal by about noon and got our business squared away pretty quickly. We were onboard shortly thereafter. The Ship: The Grand Princess is a big, magnificent vessel. We sailed on her last year and were happy to be back. It’s a big ship but we felt right at home. The layout is pretty good, but there are a few dead-end spots to look out for, like near the dining rooms. The mid-ship stairs stop at deck 7, and it was a pain to wait for the elevator to go to up one floor to our cabin on the Emerald deck. The elevators are slow and patience is required for those people who seemed like using an elevator was a new experience. Be sure to check out the very tip of the ship, located forward on Deck 8. You can get there from the Promenade deck (Deck 7), which actually goes up one level near the front. Or, you can try the secret door at the end of the Emerald Deck (forward), which also gets you right there. This is a very sleek looking ship. It has nice, flowing lines. I especially like the rear section, the part that looks like an air wing! This actually contains Skywalker’s Disco, which is 210 feet above the sea! Nice view from up there! This ship makes an impressive statement when you see it for the first time, or anytime for that matter. It truly is a GRAND ship! We docked next to an NCL ship in one port and I was not impressed. That ship had cartoon-like images painted all across the promenade deck, and it looked very tacky! The Room: B- We had Emerald 620 on Deck 8, port side and aft. It had a partially obstructed view with the front of a tender boat hanging outside. The view was fine for us even when the tender was there, and when they took it down to use for the day at Princess Cays, the view was totally unobstructed. The noise during this process is a bit loud, but since we were already awake at the time, it didn’t bother us (too much). We were just outside one of the self-service laundry rooms, which was a big plus because we both used the (free) irons available in there each night before we got dressed. There are also washers and dryers available for a small charge, but we didn’t need those. I was surprised to find that the mid-ship staircases did not go all the way up to the Emerald deck; they terminated on Deck 7, one deck below. The floor plan I referred to when I chose my room did not indicate this fact, and this turned out to be pretty inconvenient as far as I was concerned. Our room was tight but functional, however storage space was limited. A TV with A/V inputs, refrigerator, and safe were included. The beds were not very comfortable since they use thin cots as mattresses, and they have minimal support. After a few days our backs were not doing the best. Temperature control was good, and the A/C worked fine. The bathroom is very tight and I seemed to bang my elbow on the support bar in the shower a few times – ouch! Water temp in the shower was constant and did not vary like on other ships. Cabin steward was efficient and kept the room in order. I asked for some real feather pillows and she provided them right away the first night. If you feel the need to spend more on a balcony, remember that most of them are not actually “private”. I’ve had them on different ships in the past, and we really didn’t spend enough time in the room to get full use from it. TIP: Ask your cabin steward to bring you some terry cloth robes to use for the week. You can’t keep them (you can if you want to buy them), but you can use them all week for free. The Food: Overall B- Dining Room: B+ We chose Anytime Dining (formerly known as Personal Choice) and we elected to sit at a table for two each night. Only one of the three main dining rooms was for the traditional fixed seating people. I like the flexibility of Anytime Dining; you can come anytime you want between 5PM and 10PM. Keep in mind you will have a wait if you arrive around 8:00PM since this is prime time. They will assign a huge beeper to you and you will be called when your table is ready. TIP – Make a reservation to avoid the wait. If you show up at 9:45, you won’t have a leisurely dinner, since the waiters have to set up for the next day and would like you out ASAP. The Dining room food was generally good and presented well. Service was usually attentive and friendly. My favorites during the week were the Prime Rib, Rack of Lamb (I had an extra order!) and the Twin Lobster tails (moist and succulent).TIP - You can order espresso or cappuccino with dinner, no extra charge. Horizon Court: B- Horizon Court buffet was fine for a quick breakfast. TIP – You can order a custom made omelet if you just ask for it. There was not enough variety on the muffins for my liking; I only saw the same 2 or 3 types during the entire cruise. How about a good old CORN or BLUEBERRY muffin once in a while? I thought the orange juice was pretty watered down, and the regular coffee was too weak for me (but hey, I like Starbucks). Lunch and dinner items were acceptable, but in my opinion bland and uninspired. The location was clean and organized. Seating during prime times was difficult. Sabatini’s Trattoria (Italian): C+ Make reservations early for this alternative dining experience. It is truly an experience, and a long one at that. It involves a t