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Grand Princess Cruise Review
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Copyright © 1995-2002 
Linda Coffman

Eastern Caribbean
July 21, 2002

By L. Shapiro

We just returned from the 7/21, Grand Princess-Eastern Caribbean sailing. This was our 14th cruise and the second on the Grand Princess.  We cruised the Western side last year. We were in Florida on other business and decided to take a break. We originally planned a 5-day Carnival Cruise, but discovered that the 7-day Princess Cruise was less expensive. We like Carnival and still do. Last year my review met with some hostility from Princess Zealots who couldn’t understand how we could prefer Carnival. We like Princess, but still prefer Carnival. From informal conversations, we find that we are not alone. It is important to understand that these reviews are very subjective. We have read reviews of other cruises that we were on and couldn’t believe that we were on the same ships.

We are by nature a bit critical, but become less so each cruise. We see little things that bother us (they bother us less as the years go by). We will report these things at the risk of someone saying “who cares about that,” or “these people are mad.” We feel that since cruise ships are so similar, it may be the little detail that will help someone make a decision.

Princess does a great job with check-in. For the most part it is fast and  efficient. We booked a JJ and were not upgraded. We like inside cabins because they are so dark in the morning. We don’t care for a balcony and are not willing to pay for something we will probably not use. This cabin was nice, standard fare.

The Ship is still very nice, a bit worn in places but age does that. It is elegantly appointed with much marble and wood.
Service: We have found that throughout our cruising career, service has been about the same from ship to ship. We have sailed all the major cruise lines including Cunard and find that, with the exception of a waiter or cabin steward here and there, they are all trying to do a good job. We don’t believe that there is a cruise line that doesn’t tell its staff to give the best possible service. Some people are better at what they do than others and some people are nicer than others. So, we believe the service is dependent on the individual and not the cruise line.
Entertainment: There was usually something to do in the evening but, for the most part, we found the entertainment mediocre at best. We only went to one production show, since we had just seen the same show last year. It was entertaining and not too dissimilar to the 20 or 30 other shows we have seen. The comics were good, one better than the other. The comic Juggler was OK. We were always entertained, maybe not to the caliber of Broadway but adequately. We have never seen and were bothered by the use of movies as the main source of evening entertainment (We say main because they were in the main theater). The movies were OK, but not that new; all of them could have been rented. There was always gambling, nightclubs and lounges etc. They have trivia twice and even three times on some days, which is unusual. Since we are big trivia fans, this made us very happy. We met some wonderful people at Trivia, which greatly enhanced our trip. They should have a Trivia Theme Cruise. The mandatory art auction was on, most every day. Bingo about 10 times a day. What bothered me about Bingo was the size of the progressive jackpot ($2,200), they must have taken in 20 times that amount. I have seen Jackpots as high as $6,000. This was the first cruise for the new Cruise Director. We felt that she was too gushy, perky and phony. Back to cruise director’s school, Please.
Food: This, to us, is the main area of interest and comparison to other cruises we have taken. We are not ashamed to admit that this is one of the main reasons we like cruising, so here is where we will get picky. First, we wanted traditional early seating and we were put on a wait list (155) and never got past (119). If so many people want Traditional, why don’t they rethink their dining policy? We decided that if we did not get Traditional we would try Personal Choice. We give Personal Choice mixed reviews. We like to meet new people and feel that eating alone diminishes the cruise experience. Since we ate before 7 and we were willing to sit with others, we did not have to wait for a table. Only once at 8:15 did we have to wait 20 min. Personal choice is OK, but we are still not sure if we would do it again. The Dining room food, in a nutshell, was just OK, the same menu as last year, good but never outstanding. We ate beef 3 times for lack of something else to order. The lobster was good, as were the escargots. Desserts were poor to average. We ate lunch in the dining room once. It was adequate. We never had breakfast in the dining room. Horizon Court Buffet is still among the best we have ever seen on a cruise ship. Very good selection for all meals and the food was comparable to the dining room. There were, however, a number of those picky details that we noted that bothered us last year and have still not changed.
No Lemonade (never saw that). No half and half for coffee (we did ask the headwaiter and he brought us whipping cream each morning, so we made our own half and half. We did, however, have to ask every morning). It wouldn’t be such a big thing to serve half and half instead of non-dairy creamer. No omelet station, all the eggs (and omelet, of their choice) were pre-made (I know, if you ask they will make it to order). If you like French toast, wait until you get home. They brush the bread with egg, but it never gets inside (check it out). This year we mentioned the French Toast situation to a Waiter Captain. We told him that it was no big deal, and I wasn’t doing to write a letter about it, he told us that it was a big deal to him. He later told us, after I asked,  that “that’s the way they make it.” When I said, “maybe I should write a letter” he came over and told us that they would make it especially for us the next day. Well, we tried and it looked just about the same with a bit of raw egg in the middle. Since it was all kind of a joke to me, we did without French Toast for the rest of the cruise. It wasn’t that there was a lack of food. On the plus side, great selection of Fresh fruit. Fresh bread and rolls were plentiful. Smoked salmon (Lox) was available on the Buffet 5 of the 7 days. There were even Kippers one morning.
Ice Cream: Yes, more on the ice cream controversy. A charge of $2-$4 for ice cream, even premium, is outrageous! All the other ships we have been on had free soft ice cream machines for all (RCCL had yogurt only and was not worth eating). A new development this year, each day from 3:30-4:30 (don’t be late or it will be gone) they had FREE make your own Sundae in the Horizon Court. Pizza was good; much better than RCCL, no comparison to Carnival. The Hot Dog, Sausage and Hamburger bar was good as well. Princess has stopped Midnight Buffets. They seem to feel that since the Horizon Court Buffet is open 24 hours a day, it is no longer necessary. We feel that at least a Grand Buffet, with the ice carvings, fancy platters, bread figures etc. add to the cruise experience and should be reinstated. A word on pool towels: one per person is left in the cabin at night. No towels available by the pools. A bit inconvenient and something that we have not  seen on any other Cruise Ship. The pools were very nice, fresh water, open all night. From what we saw there were many children in the pools and hot tubs late at night. Speaking of children, there were many on board and some who needed and did not get the proper supervision from their parents or whoever was in charge. Gym facilities were inadequate for a ship this size.
Tipping: A charge of $10.00 per day (up from $6.50) is added to your cabin charge account for everyone, not just personal choice diners. This bothers us. It’s true that you can go the Purser to remove the charge, but now you have to do something to stop a tip (something like implied consent). Next it will be added to your cruise fare as a service fee. Don’t misunderstand, we believe in tipping. I worked my way through college and Grad School waiting on tables, but we do believe that A TIP (To Insure Promptness) should be earned.
Ports: We have been to the ports countless times.  We stayed on board and played Trivia.
OK, granted that these reviews are very subjective. Some of the things we mention are not great problems and this we admit. The review is only our opinion and is meant to enlighten future travelers. Personally we like to read “picky” reviews. For, by hearing the worse, we can better understand the entire picture. We met some great people and had a great time. As we get older, different things become more important.
Enjoy your cruise…

Photo: Courtesy of Princess Cruises

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