Cruise Diary by Cruise Diva
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Copyright © 1995-2003 
Linda Coffman


Cruise Diva's CRUISE DIARY
~ Grand Princess Caribbean ~

by Linda & Mel Coffman

Mini-suite E728, Category AD

September 21-28, 2003
We could have been sailing into troubled waters—this is hurricane season, after all. With good luck and fair weather, our Western Caribbean itinerary proved uneventful, except for a few sprinkles and a single serious downpour ashore.

The Cruise Diary takes a bit of a turn this time around as Mel joins Linda to offer observations and commentary in addition to his usual photo handiwork. Follow our "He said" and "She said" journal for the highlights of this GRAND cruise.

Getting There—Saturday
Call us weird, but we take to the open road when sailing from Florida ports—in our case, I-95—and really enjoy the drive to embark in Fort Lauderdale. 

She said: I admired Grand Princess from the moment I spotted her in Istanbul and hoped her redeployment from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean this summer would mean great fares. I wasn't disappointed with those offered by Skyscraper Tours and, with the assistance of Lori Cunningham, was able to secure a Category AD mini-suite (E728) for a most attractive price. It was just a matter of convincing Mel...

He said: Smaller ships, a more casual dress code, and open seating dining are my preference. Linda managed to catch me at a weak moment, but the promise of a mini-suite with an over-size balcony and Personal Choice (open seating) dining were deal makers.

She said: My planning progressed to hotel reservations and through Amber Blecker's Bidding Fun website, I gained enough confidence to make my first deal on Hotwire... the Embassy Suites for a mere $50 for our pre-cruise overnight stay. Even better, we could park our car there for the duration of the cruise for $6 a night. We also had to pay for parking the night we were staying in the hotel, but the savings was substantial—parking at Port Everglades is $12 a night.

He said: After a 9-hour drive, the tropical setting of Embassy Suite's pool area was a good spot to wind down. Linda agreed to hit Publix supermarket across the streets for deli sandwiches and we called it an early night.

Fort Lauderdale Embarkation—Sunday
Did we mention that Embassy Suites served complimentary evening cocktails in the atrium shortly after we arrived and a cooked-to-order breakfast the next morning?

She said: Two couples I met on the Enchantment of the Seas group cruise last year also booked our sailing on Grand Princess! I was delighted to sail with Rox and Ron and Deb and Mike again—none of us realized until recently that we were booked on the same cruise. Coincidentally, Deb and Mike were right next door to us at Embassy Suites and we reserved four spots on the 12:45 complimentary shuttle to Port Everglades.

He said: We checked two suitcases through to our room. Can someone explain to me why we each had a rolling carryon in addition to my camera bag, plus Linda's briefcase, a garment bag, tote bag, and purse?!?

She said: Check-in was swift (I pre-registered online at the Princess website) and there was no line for security. We were on board within fifteen minutes of arrival. I immediately fell in love with the light and airy pastel decor in the three-deck high atrium.

Mini-suite E728 Balcony

He said: What a room and look at that balcony... two chaise lounges, two deck chairs, a table we can actually sit at to eat, and there's still room to move around.

She said: Thank goodness Mel overlooked the length of the Emerald Deck passageway—Grand Princess is 951 feet long! E728 is the furthest aft mini-suite on the port side of the ship. Only aft-facing balcony cabins and vista suites are behind us. I just knew he'd be taken by the balcony; not only is it nearly twice as large as other mini-suite balconies, but it is totally covered. The higher category mini-suites up on Dolphin Deck where our friends settled in are open to the sky and in full view of balconies above them.

He said: At least we aren't too far from an elevator.

She said: Luggage arrived promptly and everything was stored in the abundant walk-in closet, ample shelves, and drawers; then it was time for the muster drill. Princess makes that mandatory procedure very civilized, mustering in a lounge instead of the hot boat deck.

He said: I'm hungry.

She said: Our friends joined us for sailaway festivities on our balcony so, in addition to the champagne awaiting us (gifts from our travel agent and an associate), we ordered canapés from room service... a really nice assortment at $11.50 per tray.

He said: I wonder how many cruise ship passengers take photos of the condos lining the port each year. Thousands?

She said: We were having too much fun to get all gussied up for dinner—and we'd devoured those canapés—so the six of us opted to test out Personal Choice and headed for the casual Horizon Court buffet. Great idea! The buffet selections were good and we were finished in plenty of time to make it to Snookers Sports Bar for Mike's televised football game.

He said: Snookers is also "cigar-friendly" but pretty noisy. I'll have to find a quieter spot for an after-dinner cigar.

She said: It's been a long day and we'll be ashore on Princess Cays in the morning. I wonder what it will be like tendering ashore with nearly 2800 passengers?

Grand Princess Cruise Diary -> Part Two

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