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Having read (and written) many cruise reviews, I've decided to take a different approach and cover issues I didn't find in many reviews......as well as some of the usual stuff. Grab a cup of coffee and be prepared to be here a while.....guess I got carried away LOL BACKGROUND: This was our 9th cruise, first on Princess. I had put together our little group of 10 (6 adults, 4 kids, 5 cabins total) in May, just 2 months from sail date. It was right after the Homeland Security threat level was raised, so corresponding rate drops found the Caribe balcony cabins just under $900 pp and the inside cabins across from them were just under $700 (I found that the kids could have their own cabin for less than putting them with the adults in the balcony cabins). We opted for a mini-suite as we wanted the extra room and the bathtub. Everyone was very pleased with their cabin arrangements. The 2 balcony cabins on Caribe were side by side, so they opened the balcony up. The corresponding kids' cabins were directly across the hall. This arrangement worked out great for all of them. One of the families had cruised with us last year on the Triumph from Charleston, SC to Bermuda. The other family had one RCL cruise under their belts. Throughout the planning, I often emailed them with cruise tips, packing tips, port tips, etc. About a month out, we all got together for dinner and then booked the Captain Marvin's excursion immediately afterwards. PRE-CRUISE HOTEL: We had made reservations for a one-night pre-cruise stay at the Amerisuites on 17th & 10th mostly because we knew we could leave our 3 vehicles there and ride the free shuttle (thereby saving the port parking fees~ nearly paid for the hotel right there). We had stayed there, pre-cruise for the Kirbi cruise on the Legend in February. The hotel is fine for one night & the included breakfast buffet suits our needs. About two weeks out, we learned the rates had dropped. A call to the 800 number and they honored the lower rate. Good customer service, Amerisuites! EMBARKATION: Soooooooooo smooth!! There was some miscommunication about what time embarkation would start (I've noticed a trend where no two people give out the same information, no matter which cruise/port. At any rate, we arrived around 11 am at the port and were quickly processed and onboard to begin a great trip with wonderful friends. The first charge on our account was just after noon ~ we love feeling like we get an extra day of cruising! MINI-SUITE: We loved the extra space, DH was especially pleased with the second TV. Our balcony was totally open above, but that was fine with us. The refrigerator was larger than what we'd had on CCL and cooled much better. We take a lot of stuff on cruises and had way more than enough closet, shelf & counter space. We had cabin 312 on the Dolphin Deck and the A/C worked great. The bed/pillows were more comfortable than we've had on other cruises. There was one outlet at the vanity with 2 plugs PLUS another one by the door to the hall, so the cabin steward didn't have to unplug your stuff in order to vacuum. What a novel idea! We felt little movement all week long on the ship. FOOD: This was our biggest disappointment. Meals were delivered in a timely manner (great service considering all 10 of us were at the same table & several in the group often asked for additional items, mid-meal). The food didn't seem to be as tasty as on other cruises ~ not bad, just not as good as we've had. One of our families had cruised on RCL earlier this year & they stated the Princess food was better. We've cruised CCL & NCL and Princess is at the bottom of that list, food-wise, in our books. The Lido pizza was very good, just not available all of the time. Room service was prompt & yes, you can add whatever to the breakfast menu. The buffet was plentiful and available around the clock. Sushi was there several times; Chinese and standard buffet selection. I only found deli meats one day. I prefer deli sandwiches for lunchtime. SABATINI'S: We all went to the specialty restaurant on Friday night (after Cozumel & on second formal night ~ it was the only reservation we could get). That, too, was rather disappointing. They advertise that's it's so and so many courses, but basically it's the same amount of food as in the regular dining room. The entire meal is an Italian/seafood theme. The staff push additional wine purchases ad nauseum, but our waiter finally got the message. SHOWS: We usually don't go to the shows, the others in our group did attend.......usual comments......some really good, some not. KIDS PROGRAMS: The 4 kids in our group ranged from 7 to 13 and all of them were very happy with them. They picked and chose which times to attend & hung out with us the rest of the time. PURSER'S DESK: We had several occasions to call or go there......never a long line when we went & very helpful staff. Note: you won't get a mid-cruise printout of your purchases, but feel free to go to the Purser's Desk & they will gladly print it out for you. BAR SERVICES: We had read about getting a card at one of the bars & having it punched at each bar & getting some Princess logo prizes at the end. They've stopped doing this, so don't bother to ask. New staff will give you that "deer in the headlights look." While we were glad not to be hounded (a la CCL) by Lido bar waiters, we did find it hard to get a waiter to take your order from time to time. I'm guessing they must not make much $ from the drinks. POOLS: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, those fresh water pools were awesome! We never had any trouble getting a nice deck chair by the main pool (around 9am), but were surprised that no staff monitored pool behavior. The cannonballs by the kids could get annoying at times, but I was shocked when nobody stopped the college students making 4 level pyramids in the pools. Can you say injury/lawsuit?? The outer area of the pools is a wonderful spot where you can sit or lay in approx. 4 inch water and cool off in case you don't want to get all the way in the pool. WEBCAMS: We had discovered that the 180 IPIX camera on the Princess website was scroll-able (is that a word?) just before the cruise. If you scroll down, you can see the observation deck (access just above Lido), so we waved at our landlubber friends as we sailed out of FLL. Too fun! INTERNET: Having read about limited internet access & $7.50 per 15 minute block, we just resolved to the fact that we'd check messages in port & never looked back. There's an internet cafe in Cozumel right at the pier shops & the price was much more reasonable....seems I paid $3.00 for both of us to check messages, etc......maybe about 20 minutes total. PORTS: We thoroughly enjoy the private island stops & Princess Cays was just great. Shopping is limited, food is plentiful & we had no trouble finding chairs. We had all signed up for Captain Marvin's in Grand Cayman ahead of time (our second trip with them) and found the half day trip to be just enough time to do a little shopping before getting back on the ship. I purchased the video of our snorkeling & stingray trip ~ it arrived yesterday (9 days after we were there ~ not too shabby) and it is AWESOME!!!!!!!!! It's a little over 30 minutes long & Kirsten did a great job of getting everyone included. I had contacted them ahead of time to express our interest in purchasing the video. Thanks, Ruth, for putting us in contact with them. They are a separate entity and don't go out on every Captain Marvin excursion, so plan ahead if you'd like this memory of your trip. The $54.00 (including airmail shipping) for a VCR tape is well worth the great memory(DVD is a little higher). They even added Caribbean music in the background. Now, we have a new "take me away" memento! Costa Maya now has a little shopping area, salt water pool with water fountain & local vendors. Next time, we'll just stay onboard, unless they build it up some more. There were plentiful grass shack looking shaded areas (their answer to beach umbrellas), which were nice. The beach area by the pool & shopping areas is just too rocky to access the water there, so the pool is your main choice for cooling off. Cozumel.....there is now a lovely shopping area at the pier where Princess docks. Since this was an Anniversary cruise for us, we had already planned to do some jewelry shopping. DH negotiated a mutually acceptable price for my tanzanite & diamond pendant (I had purchased a similar bracelet & ring on a previous cruise) at Tanzanite International. Then, it was his turn. We hopped about a block away to Diamond International & DH found a very tasteful onyx & diamond ring, but their asking price was wayyyyyyyyy up there! The store manager hopped by and dropped it nearly in half (a great deal considering they had to add 3 sizes to it), so "wrap it up, I'll take it" and we were on our way to expose our friends to the obligatory Carlos & Charlie's stop. After being thoroughly entertained there, we found the new shopping area right next door to be a welcome change from having to be hounded on the streets of Cozumel. CABIN AMENITIES: We'd been used to having the array of sample items (razor, mints, shampoo, tylenol pm, body wash, etc.), but were kinda surprised to find ONLY Lotus Spa (Princess) shampoo, conditioner & lotion. I liked the fresh eucalyptus scent, but I'm guessing the guys may be less than enamored with this. I've heard you can ask your cabin steward for other items if you forgot something, but the need didn't arise, so I can't confirm this. SHIP'S ANNIVERSARY PACKAGE: DH had ordered one of the Anniversary packages. When he ordered it, he was told to advise the cabin steward onboard as to which day he wanted it delivered. Whoops, miscommunication. It was delivered while we were on Lido on embarkation day. A nice bottle of champagne with two flutes, engraved with the Princess logo & the other side had "Congratulations" written in gold. The two red roses stayed absolutely beautiful all week. A nice note from the Captain was delivered at dinner on the day of our anniversary (Thursday) & we received a voucher for a framed picture of our choice. It was a very nice silver frame. Had I made our selection earlier in the week, I could haven chosen a gold colored frame as well. ON BOARD CELEBRATION: Because it was our anniversary, the ship put "Happy Anniversary" balloons on our door; even replaced them half way through the cruise (when the balloons were beginning to look like some of the over-indulged cruisers LOL). The wait staff also sang to us and gave us a very tasty chocolate cake on Thursday night. ORDERING SNACKS IN YOUR CABIN: DH had also planned a small in-cabin celebration on Thursday afternoon & we had the others in our group over. Before we went into Costa Maya that morning, he had placed an order for a tray of cheese & crackers, 2 bowls each of salsa and guacamole (sp) and chips (must order at least 6 hours ahead). Well, folks.......believe me when I tell you that when the menu says "serves 6", they must be talking about 6 ravenous elephants! We could have probably served 30 people with what they delivered! Sure wished we knew that ahead of time, we'd have invited more people!!!!! NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS: We found the soda card to be a big bargain, especially since DH & I shared the card with no problems. Bartenders will gladly give you a huge cup of soda, upon request. However, DH was saddened to learn there was no free-pouring punch, lemonade, etc. at the buffet. However, I had brought some powdered Gatorade & used the in-cabin bottled water to make our own. I had brought a Rubbermaid 1 quart water bottle & it fit perfectly on the inside of the refrigerator door ~ voila, instant mixers! WEATHER: We had absolutely perfect weather during this cruise. It was HOT, HOT, HOT so the Gatorade really was a life saver to replenish body fluids. There was an occasional shower, but mostly at night, so that didn't interfere with many activities. DECK PARTY: Princess did a great job here......lots of fun & well attended. We saw folks of all ages getting in on this one. CASINO: We only went to the casino a couple of times & played only the quarter slots. I did win $25, but promptly gave it back. We have a $20 limit per visit. I was surprised to see very few people in the casino when we went in there. ARCADE: DH made a pass through here, when taking ship photos & said it really looked great! SHOP SALES: About mid-week, the screenprinted port tee shirts went on sale........plenty of choices there. The nice surprise was the boutique sale on the last sea day (Saturday for us). It was held in the dining room across from the Purser's Desk. They put the nicer, embroidered shirts on sale (same ones they sell in the gift shops for $20 were suddenly $14). And, I hadn't been able to find a XXXL embroidered shirt for DH in the shops (the only onboard shop request that he made), but whodathunkit????? There it was in the $14 sale! There was a nice selection of foo foo clothing, Tommy Bahama, Nautica men's shirts and even souvenir magnets, keychains, etc. DISEMBARKATION: Again, Princess has this down & other cruise lines could learn a lot here. Simple & painless. We opted to take a taxi back to the Amerisuites to get our car (knowing that the shuttle would be busy with happy new cruisers coming to the Port), so the $3.25 taxi fee (plus tip) was well worth it. Would we cruise Princess again? Absolutely! We just won't be expecting tasty meals. We also decided that 4 stops in a 7 day cruise is a bit port-intensive, so won't look to do that again. More sea days is better for us. A THOUGHTFUL GROUP: Not only did our little group surprise us with hilarious gag gifts for our Anniversary, but totally surprised me with a gift at the end of the cruise. One had heard me comment that I liked the scent of the Lotus Spa lotion & shampoo in our cabins, so they presented me with a gift of 8 oz. bottles of Lotus Spa lotion and bath gel!!!!! I didn't even realize it was available in the gift shops, so I guess I'm slipping in my shopping talents! Note to self: must do more shopping till I get it right LOL

Grand Princess - Western Caribbean

Grand Princess Cruise Review by pmp

Trip Details
Having read (and written) many cruise reviews, I've decided to take a different approach and cover issues I didn't find in many reviews......as well as some of the usual stuff. Grab a cup of coffee and be prepared to be here a while.....guess I got carried away LOL
BACKGROUND: This was our 9th cruise, first on Princess. I had put together our little group of 10 (6 adults, 4 kids, 5 cabins total) in May, just 2 months from sail date. It was right after the Homeland Security threat level was raised, so corresponding rate drops found the Caribe balcony cabins just under $900 pp and the inside cabins across from them were just under $700 (I found that the kids could have their own cabin for less than putting them with the adults in the balcony cabins). We opted for a mini-suite as we wanted the extra room and the bathtub. Everyone was very pleased with their cabin arrangements. The 2 balcony cabins on Caribe were side by side, so they opened the balcony up. The corresponding kids' cabins were directly across the hall. This arrangement worked out great for all of them.
One of the families had cruised with us last year on the Triumph from Charleston, SC to Bermuda. The other family had one RCL cruise under their belts. Throughout the planning, I often emailed them with cruise tips, packing tips, port tips, etc. About a month out, we all got together for dinner and then booked the Captain Marvin's excursion immediately afterwards.
PRE-CRUISE HOTEL: We had made reservations for a one-night pre-cruise stay at the Amerisuites on 17th & 10th mostly because we knew we could leave our 3 vehicles there and ride the free shuttle (thereby saving the port parking fees~ nearly paid for the hotel right there). We had stayed there, pre-cruise for the Kirbi cruise on the Legend in February. The hotel is fine for one night & the included breakfast buffet suits our needs. About two weeks out, we learned the rates had dropped. A call to the 800 number and they honored the lower rate. Good customer service, Amerisuites!
EMBARKATION: Soooooooooo smooth!! There was some miscommunication about what time embarkation would start (I've noticed a trend where no two people give out the same information, no matter which cruise/port. At any rate, we arrived around 11 am at the port and were quickly processed and onboard to begin a great trip with wonderful friends. The first charge on our account was just after noon ~ we love feeling like we get an extra day of cruising!
MINI-SUITE: We loved the extra space, DH was especially pleased with the second TV. Our balcony was totally open above, but that was fine with us. The refrigerator was larger than what we'd had on CCL and cooled much better. We take a lot of stuff on cruises and had way more than enough closet, shelf & counter space. We had cabin 312 on the Dolphin Deck and the A/C worked great. The bed/pillows were more comfortable than we've had on other cruises. There was one outlet at the vanity with 2 plugs PLUS another one by the door to the hall, so the cabin steward didn't have to unplug your stuff in order to vacuum. What a novel idea! We felt little movement all week long on the ship.
FOOD: This was our biggest disappointment. Meals were delivered in a timely manner (great service considering all 10 of us were at the same table & several in the group often asked for additional items, mid-meal). The food didn't seem to be as tasty as on other cruises ~ not bad, just not as good as we've had. One of our families had cruised on RCL earlier this year & they stated the Princess food was better. We've cruised CCL & NCL and Princess is at the bottom of that list, food-wise, in our books.
The Lido pizza was very good, just not available all of the time. Room service was prompt & yes, you can add whatever to the breakfast menu. The buffet was plentiful and available around the clock. Sushi was there several times; Chinese and standard buffet selection. I only found deli meats one day. I prefer deli sandwiches for lunchtime.
SABATINI'S: We all went to the specialty restaurant on Friday night (after Cozumel & on second formal night ~ it was the only reservation we could get). That, too, was rather disappointing. They advertise that's it's so and so many courses, but basically it's the same amount of food as in the regular dining room. The entire meal is an Italian/seafood theme. The staff push additional wine purchases ad nauseum, but our waiter finally got the message.
SHOWS: We usually don't go to the shows, the others in our group did attend.......usual comments......some really good, some not.
KIDS PROGRAMS: The 4 kids in our group ranged from 7 to 13 and all of them were very happy with them. They picked and chose which times to attend & hung out with us the rest of the time.
PURSER'S DESK: We had several occasions to call or go there......never a long line when we went & very helpful staff. Note: you won't get a mid-cruise printout of your purchases, but feel free to go to the Purser's Desk & they will gladly print it out for you.
BAR SERVICES: We had read about getting a card at one of the bars & having it punched at each bar & getting some Princess logo prizes at the end. They've stopped doing this, so don't bother to ask. New staff will give you that "deer in the headlights look." While we were glad not to be hounded (a la CCL) by Lido bar waiters, we did find it hard to get a waiter to take your order from time to time. I'm guessing they must not make much $ from the drinks.
POOLS: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, those fresh water pools were awesome! We never had any trouble getting a nice deck chair by the main pool (around 9am), but were surprised that no staff monitored pool behavior. The cannonballs by the kids could get annoying at times, but I was shocked when nobody stopped the college students making 4 level pyramids in the pools. Can you say injury/lawsuit?? The outer area of the pools is a wonderful spot where you can sit or lay in approx. 4 inch water and cool off in case you don't want to get all the way in the pool.
WEBCAMS: We had discovered that the 180 IPIX camera on the Princess website was scroll-able (is that a word?) just before the cruise. If you scroll down, you can see the observation deck (access just above Lido), so we waved at our landlubber friends as we sailed out of FLL. Too fun!
INTERNET: Having read about limited internet access & $7.50 per 15 minute block, we just resolved to the fact that we'd check messages in port & never looked back. There's an internet cafe in Cozumel right at the pier shops & the price was much more reasonable....seems I paid $3.00 for both of us to check messages, etc......maybe about 20 minutes total.
PORTS: We thoroughly enjoy the private island stops & Princess Cays was just great. Shopping is limited, food is plentiful & we had no trouble finding chairs.
We had all signed up for Captain Marvin's in Grand Cayman ahead of time (our second trip with them) and found the half day trip to be just enough time to do a little shopping before getting back on the ship. I purchased the video of our snorkeling & stingray trip ~ it arrived yesterday (9 days after we were there ~ not too shabby) and it is AWESOME!!!!!!!!! It's a little over 30 minutes long & Kirsten did a great job of getting everyone included. I had contacted them ahead of time to express our interest in purchasing the video. Thanks, Ruth, for putting us in contact with them. They are a separate entity and don't go out on every Captain Marvin excursion, so plan ahead if you'd like this memory of your trip. The $54.00 (including airmail shipping) for a VCR tape is well worth the great memory(DVD is a little higher). They even added Caribbean music in the background. Now, we have a new "take me away" memento!
Costa Maya now has a little shopping area, salt water pool with water fountain & local vendors. Next time, we'll just stay onboard, unless they build it up some more. There were plentiful grass shack looking shaded areas (their answer to beach umbrellas), which were nice. The beach area by the pool & shopping areas is just too rocky to access the water there, so the pool is your main choice for cooling off.
Cozumel.....there is now a lovely shopping area at the pier where Princess docks. Since this was an Anniversary cruise for us, we had already planned to do some jewelry shopping. DH negotiated a mutually acceptable price for my tanzanite & diamond pendant (I had purchased a similar bracelet & ring on a previous cruise) at Tanzanite International. Then, it was his turn. We hopped about a block away to Diamond International & DH found a very tasteful onyx & diamond ring, but their asking price was wayyyyyyyyy up there! The store manager hopped by and dropped it nearly in half (a great deal considering they had to add 3 sizes to it), so "wrap it up, I'll take it" and we were on our way to expose our friends to the obligatory Carlos & Charlie's stop. After being thoroughly entertained there, we found the new shopping area right next door to be a welcome change from having to be hounded on the streets of Cozumel.
CABIN AMENITIES: We'd been used to having the array of sample items (razor, mints, shampoo, tylenol pm, body wash, etc.), but were kinda surprised to find ONLY Lotus Spa (Princess) shampoo, conditioner & lotion. I liked the fresh eucalyptus scent, but I'm guessing the guys may be less than enamored with this. I've heard you can ask your cabin steward for other items if you forgot something, but the need didn't arise, so I can't confirm this.
SHIP'S ANNIVERSARY PACKAGE: DH had ordered one of the Anniversary packages. When he ordered it, he was told to advise the cabin steward onboard as to which day he wanted it delivered. Whoops, miscommunication. It was delivered while we were on Lido on embarkation day. A nice bottle of champagne with two flutes, engraved with the Princess logo & the other side had "Congratulations" written in gold. The two red roses stayed absolutely beautiful all week. A nice note from the Captain was delivered at dinner on the day of our anniversary (Thursday) & we received a voucher for a framed picture of our choice. It was a very nice silver frame. Had I made our selection earlier in the week, I could haven chosen a gold colored frame as well.
ON BOARD CELEBRATION: Because it was our anniversary, the ship put "Happy Anniversary" balloons on our door; even replaced them half way through the cruise (when the balloons were beginning to look like some of the over-indulged cruisers LOL). The wait staff also sang to us and gave us a very tasty chocolate cake on Thursday night.
ORDERING SNACKS IN YOUR CABIN: DH had also planned a small in-cabin celebration on Thursday afternoon & we had the others in our group over. Before we went into Costa Maya that morning, he had placed an order for a tray of cheese & crackers, 2 bowls each of salsa and guacamole (sp) and chips (must order at least 6 hours ahead). Well, folks.......believe me when I tell you that when the menu says "serves 6", they must be talking about 6 ravenous elephants! We could have probably served 30 people with what they delivered! Sure wished we knew that ahead of time, we'd have invited more people!!!!!
NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS: We found the soda card to be a big bargain, especially since DH & I shared the card with no problems. Bartenders will gladly give you a huge cup of soda, upon request. However, DH was saddened to learn there was no free-pouring punch, lemonade, etc. at the buffet. However, I had brought some powdered Gatorade & used the in-cabin bottled water to make our own. I had brought a Rubbermaid 1 quart water bottle & it fit perfectly on the inside of the refrigerator door ~ voila, instant mixers!
WEATHER: We had absolutely perfect weather during this cruise. It was HOT, HOT, HOT so the Gatorade really was a life saver to replenish body fluids. There was an occasional shower, but mostly at night, so that didn't interfere with many activities.
DECK PARTY: Princess did a great job here......lots of fun & well attended. We saw folks of all ages getting in on this one.
CASINO: We only went to the casino a couple of times & played only the quarter slots. I did win $25, but promptly gave it back. We have a $20 limit per visit. I was surprised to see very few people in the casino when we went in there.
ARCADE: DH made a pass through here, when taking ship photos & said it really looked great!
SHOP SALES: About mid-week, the screenprinted port tee shirts went on sale........plenty of choices there. The nice surprise was the boutique sale on the last sea day (Saturday for us). It was held in the dining room across from the Purser's Desk. They put the nicer, embroidered shirts on sale (same ones they sell in the gift shops for $20 were suddenly $14). And, I hadn't been able to find a XXXL embroidered shirt for DH in the shops (the only onboard shop request that he made), but whodathunkit????? There it was in the $14 sale! There was a nice selection of foo foo clothing, Tommy Bahama, Nautica men's shirts and even souvenir magnets, keychains, etc.
DISEMBARKATION: Again, Princess has this down & other cruise lines could learn a lot here. Simple & painless. We opted to take a taxi back to the Amerisuites to get our car (knowing that the shuttle would be busy with happy new cruisers coming to the Port), so the $3.25 taxi fee (plus tip) was well worth it. Would we cruise Princess again? Absolutely! We just won't be expecting tasty meals. We also decided that 4 stops in a 7 day cruise is a bit port-intensive, so won't look to do that again. More sea days is better for us.
A THOUGHTFUL GROUP: Not only did our little group surprise us with hilarious gag gifts for our Anniversary, but totally surprised me with a gift at the end of the cruise. One had heard me comment that I liked the scent of the Lotus Spa lotion & shampoo in our cabins, so they presented me with a gift of 8 oz. bottles of Lotus Spa lotion and bath gel!!!!! I didn't even realize it was available in the gift shops, so I guess I'm slipping in my shopping talents! Note to self: must do more shopping till I get it right LOL
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