|# of Nights:|
Grand Princess ? February 24 ? March 3, 2004
As I have read reviews, I have often wondered about the people writing them and how they relate to my taste, generation or cruising experience. That said, I would like to tell you a little about my wife and I and who we are so you may categorize us a little while you read what I have to say.
Present address: Lindon, Utah (35 miles south of Salt Lake City)
Ages: Byron ? 37 Valeri ? 40
Both raised in Utah
Previous Cruises ? 3 ? (all Royal Caribbean)
Places visited on cruises ? Western Caribbean
Hobbies outside cruising ? Harley Davidson Motorcycles, Cooking, Reading, Investing, Scouting, NASCAR
Occupation: Byron ? Computer Engineer, Mortgage Broker, Investor.
Valeri ? Marketing, Mortgage Broker, Real Estate Investor.
Children: 8 (Byron 5 ? Valeri ? 3)
Grandchildren: 2 (One due in August 2007)
Favorite TV shows: 24, Alias, Lost, Prisonbreak.
Valeri and I have been married for 2 years now.
To start this trip, we flew out of Salt Lake City international airport on Saturday, February 24. We left a snowy cold (26 Degrees F) and icy morning at 6:00 am to arrive just before 7:00. The airport was crowded and under construction. We arrived to Houston Intercontinental airport about 12:30 and met our transportation which got us to the port of Galveston by about 2:00. The transportation was on time and comfortable. It cost 4 of us $175 after tips to get to the port from texascruiseshipshuttles.com. They are always on time and have adequate equipment.
The port of Galveston is most known for transporting oil. There are lots of oil tankers and some fishing boats. We arrived about 2:30 (After a stop at Wal-Mart for candies for our room) and waited in line about 30 minutes before we were through security and checked in. Princess was very comparable to our past experiences with Royal Caribbean in the check in process which was easy and professional.
A short walk up the gangplank and we were on deck 6 right outside the casino. The crew was very friendly and more than excited to help us find our stateroom. Our cabin steward was a young man from Thailand and he was also very friendly and had a great smile.
I found the stateroom to be larger than the previous cruises I have been on. The beds were more comfortable, the sheets had a very high thread count and pillows much better. They provided a down duvet that was not too hot and I found it to be very comfortable. Needless to say, Valeri and I slept very well the entire cruise. Other things that I noticed are refrigerators in the room and an option to have fresh fruit delivered daily by filling out a card and hanging it on your door. The showers were plenty big enough for me (6 feet tall, 175 lbs) and the lighting was very adequate with switches next to your bed so you don?t have to get up to turn off the lights. The 19 television was mounted high and out of the way, but easy to see. The closet space was enough for all my wife?s things and I even managed to convince her that there was room for all my shirts and even my Tux. There were plenty of drawers for socks, bathing suits and everything else in our 4 suitcases! The suitcases stored nicely under the beds.
The Grand Princess is a 109,000 ton vessel and was the largest cruise ship in the world when introduced in 1998. My first impression of the ship was a year ago when I saw it in port at Galveston and seeing how large it was compared to the Splendour of the Seas I sailed on at that time. I said then that I would go on the Grand Princess one day because it just looked fun. (Here I am).
I would say that the ship is named well. Grand is a very appropriate description for this ship. There are 16 decks on the ship. (There is no deck 13 in order to elude superstitious passengers) The other ships I have been on were 76,000 tons, ? the size of the Grand Princess. I thought that bigger might possibly be better. In many ways it is, there is plenty of room for all the passengers. I did find that we had to walk a lot further on this ship than what I was use to, and that was not always better ? just bigger.
All four swimming pools have plenty of chairs for everyone. All the lounge chairs have very comfortable mattresses on them that are clean and made of quality material. This was a pleasant upgrade that I did not expect. There are plenty of bars and food available at all hours. They hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers of all sorts available at all hours of the day and night that people might be roaming the ship. I never saw them closed. The Casino was plenty big enough for all who wanted to gamble. They had a nice variety of games to play with many variations of blackjack. They also had a craps table and 2 roulette tables.
I got up before 6:00 am one morning and found that the crew was already up (sleepy, but up) and they were putting out chairs, cleaning the deck, stairs, windows, pools, hot tubs, carpets, railing, corners, bathrooms, and other places that I have never considered as a man who doesn?t notice many things in that arena. You might be able to find something that had dirt or dust somewhere on this ship, but I would not be able to tell you where it is. This is the cleanest well kept ship it could be. The ship is 10 years old now and has made 709 voyages, but I could not tell that it is not more than a couple years old. This crew really impressed me in this area.
The d?cor is very nice. All the material on the chairs is very high quality, the carpet is nice, the woodwork is impressive, the decks are well maintained and clean, there are plants everywhere, there is very nice lighting (I never saw a light bulb that was out) The stonework is beautiful, there are plenty of tables in the veranda for all the people watchers to lounge in, and plenty of places to hide if you are not a people watcher.
There are also laundry facilities on every other floor. They provide washing machines, dryers and several irons and ironing boards to take care of your own clothes. I was very impressed with this amenity. They also offer all dry cleaning and laundry services if you wish to pay to have it done for you.
There are three sets of elevators on the ship for passenger use (2 additional sets at the very front and rear for crew use). 4 in the front and aft of the ship and I think 6 in the middle. I did not find that I had to wait long periods of time when I chose to take the elevator over the stairs. They also seemed to move very fast.
Crew: The crew has a mission statement that is hanging up in the middle of the ship. I was standing in a line for pictures when I read it. It talked about being kind and recognizing that we the passengers are the reason they have a job, and without us, they would not even be here. It essentially says that if they don?t take care of us, then somebody else will. After cruising with them, I see that they want to take care of us and there is no need to look elsewhere.
They were always dressed well, and wore their name tags at all times, even when off duty. 90 % of the time I was greeted with a smile and hello when passing a crew member.
Food: The buffet for this ship was in the aft as well as the dining rooms that are included in the price of the ships fare. They had a couple of dining rooms for a cover charge, but I did not find it necessary to try them as the food everywhere I went was well above average. The buffet had a lot of tables and a lot of food. There was not very much change in the menu at breakfast from day to day, but there was plenty to choose from and I always found something different that sounded good every day and enjoyed a favorite pastry every day as well. They had options for traditional or anytime dining. This means you can eat at the same table at the same time with the same waiter every night, or go to a different dining room that you can just go and get whatever table is available at anytime between like 6-9 at night.
The hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken burgers, kraut dogs, brauts, pizza, and many other varieties of food near the pool were always tasty and always hot. They were prepared fast and tasted like what I cook at home on my barbecue. This was a nice touch.
There was an ice cream stop where they would make you any kind of shake, banana split with strawberries or whatever else you could think of for about $3. I only went there once, but was very satisfied with what they made and really enjoyed the ice cream. I did not see free ice cream you serve yourself in cones like other lines have.
Entertainment: The entertainment itself was actually good. They had a comedian that performed a couple times who was very funny. I found myself needing to take a break from listening to him at times just so I could rest my mouth from smiling and my gut from laughing. Everyone had a great time listening to him. The cruise dancers and singers were as good as I have seen on a cruise ship. (I am not one to judge them very well, as I personally don?t care for that type of entertainment) They also brought in a hypnotist who was also on the okay list for me. He was funny, but I have seen better in Vegas. I think he was more interested in selling us his special quit smoking/lose weight class coming up on Friday. I did volunteer to be one of the people who was hypnotized, and found a lot of people staring at me for a couple days after. I guess I must have done something funny.
This ship also offers things to do from playing board games, puzzles, ceramics (the kind you paint and put in a kiln), video arcade, golf simulator, movies in the theatre, smash ball tennis, and many other things that seem too many to mention.
I was not as impressed with the cruise director or his staff as I have been on my past cruises. The cruise director was a bit older and it seemed to me that he has been doing this for so many years that he has just lost what it takes to really convince myself that he still enjoyed what he was doing and really cared that we should be having a good time. I am not sure that is a great description, but he was not very believable to me. His staff seemed to have about the same amount of enthusiasm as he did. In fact, I remember the names of 6 of the cruise director?s staff from my last cruise and can tell you where they are from. I don?t remember anything about this cruise director?s staff at all. This is one area that could use a little improvement.
Costa Maya Mexico:
I have been here before and would recommend seeing the Mayan Ruins with David and Ivan at thenativechoice.com. They were as much fun as I have had at a Mayan Ruin.
We ended up laying on the beach right outside the dock all day and swimming in the pool they had at the dock. I would have liked to go into town and sit on the beach there which I think is much prettier.
We ended up hiring a taxi to take us around the island for about $15 per person who drove us around the entire day. We had him take us to the Pirates of the Caribbean zip lines that had about 8 platforms. The staff was very helpful and fun. The views were very nice and although we were up in the trees I felt safe strapped to the cables. You did have to do some type-rope walking while you hung onto a different cable and also had to cross a couple monkey bridges. I found it fun and would recommend this to most people to do at least once. The cost for the zip lines was $45 per person.
We went to a beach on the other side of the island and it was beautiful, but I think average. We were talked into going there and looking back, I would have just gone to a place called Fantasy Island that was right by the zip lines. I have read good reviews on that place and it would have taken 45 minutes of traveling off our agenda that day and turned it into laying on the beach.
Belize City Belize ? Cave Tubing:
I booked this cruise specifically because it went to Belize. I have read several reviews about cave tubing and wanted to give it a try. I read about the ship excursions and then came across a review about cave-tubing.com. They seemed to have their act together and their price was half of what the cruise ships charged. Their busses were adequate, and they were on time. The best part about them was the staff. They were some kids in their 20s who worked to earn your money. They were very entertaining and very serious about earning a tip, and they proved themselves well.
We started out by getting our tubes and head lamps and meeting for our walk to the caves. They have a place you can use the restroom as the drive to get there is about an hour. I found it interesting that there is no door on the restrooms, just an entrance and you can look right in to see all the men?s urinals. No hiding your business in this country, just a place to hang out and take care of business.
The walk to the place you put your tubes in is about 30 minutes. This place is in the rain forest, and is one of the most beautiful walks I have had.
We docked at 8:00am next to the Voyager of the Seas. We scheduled an excursion to go snorkeling off a boat that was canceled because of high winds and waves. We ended up renting a jeep and driving around the island. We ended up stopping at a nice shack and beach at the south end of the island and eating some food and getting some drinks. The waves were very large and very beautiful. We drove a bit further and saw some people para-surfing. I have never seen anyone do this before, but they have a large kite that looks like a small parasail and a small surf board that I would say looks more like a snowboard and wakeboard that attaches to their feet. These guys would zip up and down the ocean and jump waves that allowed them to get about 10 or 15 feet up in the air and the sail-kite thing they hang on to just pulls them further into the air. It looked like a lot of work, but those guys were having fun and it was fun to watch them.
Cozumel is recovering well from Hurricane Wilma 16 months ago. The foliage is green and thick. There are a lot of things to do on this island that I have not done. I would have liked a little better weather because I hear snorkeling and scuba can be amazing.
The next day was spent at sea and we arrived at Galveston on time and ate one last meal before disembarking. The process of going through customs moved pretty fast and we were on our way home.
I would recommend Princess to anyone who also likes the Royal Caribbean line. I found the staff to be similar and a few things to be a little better in quality. Staterooms, lounge chairs with mattresses, movies under the stars, more options for dining, hamburger/hotdog stand always open and custom ice cream for a small price all topped Royal Caribbean in my past experience. I will sail with Princess again, but I will also sail with Royal Caribbean again. There are other lines I would like to consider so I can broaden my horizons.
The Grand Princess was a very clean ship with great food, good entertainment and quality in the furniture. It offered many varieties of entertainment. The value on price was also there. The ports we traveled to were also very nice and had plenty to offer.