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Princess Cruises: Grand Princess

Grand Princess Review

Insider Take

Overview

The original Princess "mega-ship" this ship made history as the largest premium ship in the 1990s.

Best For People Who Want

A roomy ship with ample choices for alternative dining, wide-ranging fitness programs; true onboard weddings as well as vow renewal; programs for children of all ages, tweens and teens; balcony cabins; lots of nightlife choices, extensive golf and snorkeling programs.

Decor

Unlike the theme park atmosphere of some other cruise lines, these Grand-class Princess ships decor bestows a refined, understatedly elegant atmosphere, with hand-painted murals and etched glass partitions in the dining rooms. Little apparent expense was spared on materials, with rich fabrics, beautiful woods, and marble everywhere, all topped of with a $2 million art collection aboard each ship. The cabins are tastefully decorated in soft, inoffensive shades - beiges, creams and muted pinks.

Public Rooms

The Vista Show lounge presents production shows, cabaret, comedians and magicians. The performers in the smaller lounges are of consistently high quality.

Skywalkers, the real disco, is suspended between two pillars protruding high above the stern, fully 18 stories above sea level. The moving sidewalk you ride up to Skywalkers is one of the most breathtaking views on any ship, and one that many passengers probably never discover.

As with all Princess ships, you will quickly find the Wheelhouse Bar and the Explorers' Lounge offering cabaret, trivia competitions, art auctions, and pre-dinner dancing. Churchill's Lounge, the one-time sports bar, is now behind the casino and is used for the cognac and cigars set. The sports paraphernalia is still there, but seems oddly out of place.

The main gathering spot, the maple-paneled atrium paneled, has boutiques, cafes and public rooms on each of its three levels, all connected by a circular glass staircase. A string quartet adds to the airy ambiance. The gigantic Casino contains some 285 slot machines and gaming tables beyond counting. You can view live sports on ESPN in the Sports Bar, or recline in leather chairs while perusing any of hundreds of books in the beautiful library.

The Internet room on these Grand-class ships do not qualify as "cafes" as there are no cafe-style treats available. Even worse, there is no tech support and if you can find the printer you may have to fix your settings on your computer to make it work yourself. The connection is generally slow and inconsistent. Sadly, these are some of the worst, and most under-utilized, Internet centers at sea.

Those who want the captain to pronounce them man and wife will meet him in the Hearts and Mind Wedding Chapel, which has much stained glass.

Restaurants

The three principal restaurants, Botticelli, Da Vinci and Michelangelo Dining Rooms, seating from 486 to 504 passengers, feature hand-painted murals and etched-glass partitions. The drapes and carpeting in the main dining areas absorb sound efficiently enough to preclude diners having to holler across the table to one another.

Personal Choice Dining offers either traditional cruise dining (in the Botticelli), with a set seating time (6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.) and the same waiter and tablemates each evening, or new restaurant-style seating, allowing passengers to dine when and with whom they choose, with each party seated at its own table, as at a restaurant ashore (offered in the other two dining rooms). Restaurant-style diners may be seated in either of the two elegant main dining rooms any time between 5:30 and midnight. Many passengers are understandably grateful for this reprieve from having to hurry to dress for dinner in the traditional way after a long day ashore.

Sabatini's, (surcharge $20 per person) described above, seats 100, the Sterling Steakhouse features Angus beef and other grilled red meats (surcharge $15 per person). The Horizon Court is open 24 hours per day, with menu service at night, plus casual breakfast and luncheon buffet. There's also a festive pizzeria. For $100 per couple, you can book the Ultimate Balcony Dinner, to be served by a butler who discreetly makes himself scarce behind drapes or out in the hall between courses. The ship's photographer snaps a complimentary photo while you're eating.

Service

While Princess has a well-deserved reputation for good service securely footed in its British roots, truly personalized service may be too much to expect on a ship this size. That noted, cabin stewards and waiters are both efficient and personable. And rote processes that should be standardized and well executed on other ships but often fail miserably, such as efficient disembarkation, are generally practiced and polished to the point of excellence here.

Tipping

A charge of $10 per person per day (including children) is automatically added to your stateroom account for dining and stateroom personnel. This applies to all passengers, adult and child alike, whether or not they choose traditional or personal choice dining. The amount may be increased or lowered at the Purser's Reception desk during the cruise.

A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Gratuities for spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.

Cabins

Cabins are built out from the body of the ship so as to permit bigger staterooms. Seven hundred ten of the 1300 staterooms have balconies, ranging up to 257 sq. feet, but they're not very private, as they're in plain view of the occupants of the cabin on the next deck up. Standard inside staterooms are 160 sq. ft., while outside cabins range from 168 to 210 sq. feet. Closet space is minimal except in the suites; leave some things home! Mini-suites with private verandas are 325 sq. feet. Vista Suites, called mini-suites on other Princess ships, range from 515 to 800 sq. feet. Sun and Dawn Princess offer larger minisuites for less money.

All staterooms have color TV with CNN and movies, a radio and small refrigerator, and spacious bathrooms with storage space and hair dryers.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

A more personalized cruise experience on a smaller ship, world-class cuisine.

Onboard Experience

When she entered service in 1998, the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess was the biggest cruise ship at sea, and the first of Princess' Grand-class, which would soon come to also include Golden Princess, Star Princess, and Caribbean Princess. Despite their actual size, the fact that Grand Princess and her sisters carry far fewer passengers than competing mid-class cruise ships of similar size means that the space per passenger ratio on these ships results in lounges, theaters and dining rooms that are are all intimate enough to make passengers forget they're aboard a megaliner.

Thanks to shrewd layout, multiple dining venues, four expansive outdoor deck areas (1.7 acres!), multiple sports facilities, four pools, and nine hot tubs, passengers are rarely concentrated in any one area. As a result, these ships often feel almost too spacious, eerily empty at times. Not that this is a bad thing, most luxury ships have the same feel. Meanwhile, the mega-ship amenities included for those who can never get enough dining, entertainment, and fitness choices, means the Princess ships of this class are as good as it gets. Their programs for younger passengers are exemplary, and their Lido buffet dining spot is open around the clock.

Having offered the first wedding chapel at sea (with the Captain doing the honors), Grand Princess now also features a complete professional digital photography studio in the F/X Digital Photo Center for those all-important wedding photos. The medical center is one of the most advanced at sea, the first to offer real-time teleconferencing support from a leading national cardiac care center in the United States.

The most incongruous factor about these mega-ships is that the public rooms aren't much bigger than those on much smaller ships, and there are surprisingly few bars and lounges for a ship this size. The one head-scratcher to the design is the compromised privacy of many balconies that extend out far enough from the ship that people from several decks above can look right down into your "private" enclave. From the Baja Deck, for instance, you can watch other passengers on their Caribe and Dolphin Deck balconies. Caribe occupants can in turn observe their counterparts on the Dolphin Deck.

Cuisine

What can you say about a ship that offers three main dining rooms instead of the usual multi-tiered, bigger than life one? They are more intimate and definitely quieter, but like the Princess "included in the cruise fare" cuisine, they are not likely to elicit a "wow" response either. These main dining rooms predictably offer Princess' Continental-style cuisine unlikely to win any culinary awards, but also elicit few complaints. For gourmet dining, try the alternative option, refined but not snooty, Sabatini's Trattoria for a wonderful selection of Italian antipasti, complemented with such garnishes as Sevruga caviar, delicious pizza, homemade pastas, soups and breads. Salads are tossed before your very eyes, and soup ladled into fresh bread bowls. Seafood predominates on the list of main courses; there are lobster, langoustines, tiger prawns, Chilean sea bass and scallops, with red meat dishes also on offer. Save room for the exquisite Italian pastries that will be wheeled before you toward meal's end.

Entertainment

With a dozen or so venues for nightlife, you're virtually assured of finding something that floats your boat, to coin a phrase. There's no faulting the lavishness of the production shows, which feature extravagant special effects. The performers in the cabaret are a talented bunch.

Fitness/Spa

We can't recall having seen superior fitness facilities. The four pools, including a "swim-against-the-current" lap pool, are uniformly gorgeous, thanks in no small part to colorful mosaics and surrounding palm trees. Low marks, though, to whoever decided to put the separate jogging track right above the spa, as the relentless thundering of hooves overhead isn't terribly conducive to one's enjoying her massage or beauty treatment. Even though prices are substantially higher than ashore, spa services are very popular, especially in the afternoon. You'll occasionally have to stand in line for some of the more popular workout apparatuses in the gym. There's a golf simulator and 9-hole putting green, and courts for basketball, volleyball or tennis.

Attire

Seven- to 14-night cruises offer two opportunities to put on the Ritz in formal attire. Many men opt for dark suit instead of tux, while their distaff companions often prefer dressy pants to gowns. The rest of the time, think smart casual.




Ship Overview

Launched in 1998 as the world’s largest cruise ship and Princess Cruises’ first Grand-class ship, Grand Princess expanded on many of the line’s most successful features, such as the atrium as a gathering spot, and introduced others, including the line’s signature Italian specialty restaurant. A major renovation in 2011 added even more of the line’s newer elements that include Movies Under the Stars and The Sanctuary.

When Grand Princess was introduced as the world's largest cruise ship in 1998, futuristic Skywalker's Disco hovered approximately 150 feet above the waterline, but in a dramatic—and fuel-saving—transformation, it was removed from Grand Princess in 2011 and replaced with a more conventional nightclub in the heart of the ship. Subsequent ships did not have the same design problem, so Skywalker’s remains.

Like their predecessors, the interiors of Grand-class ships have splashy glamour in the sweeping staircases and marble-floor atriums. Surprisingly intimate for such large ships, human scale in public lounges is achieved by judicious placement of furniture as unobtrusive room dividers. The 300-square-foot Times Square–style LED screens that hover over the pools show up to seven movies or events daily.

Princess Cruises may be best known for introducing cruise travel to millions of viewers, when its flagship became the setting for The Love Boat television series in 1977. Since that heady time of small-screen stardom, the Princess fleet has grown both in the number and size of ships. Although most are large in scale, Princess vessels manage to create the illusion of intimacy through the use of color and decor in understated yet lovely public rooms graced by multimillion-dollar art collections.

Princess has also become more flexible; Personal Choice Cruising offers alternatives for open seating dining (when you wish and with whom you please) and entertainment options as diverse as those found in resorts ashore.

Lovely chapels or the wide-open decks are romantic settings for weddings at sea with the captain officiating.

What You Should Know

Pros

  • Skywalker's Disco on Golden Princess and Star Princess is virtually deserted during the day, when it's the ideal quiet spot to watch the sea
  • Self-service passenger laundry rooms have ironing stations
  • The nautical Wheelhouse Bar is a Princess tradition for cocktails and dancing

Cons

  • Sports bars get jam-packed—and stuffy—during big games
  • Accommodations aft and above the Vista lounge are noisy when bands crank up the volume
  • Minisuites don’t include the perks offered to full suites
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 1,100
  • Entered Service 1998
  • Gross Tons 109,000
  • Length 951 feet
  • Number of Cabins 1,300
  • Passenger Capacity 2,600
  • Width 118 feet
  • New

Mar 23, 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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  • New

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 25, 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.

  • New

Jul 11, 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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  • New

Jul 11, 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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