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Grand Princess April 1 to 8
      #29939 - 04/15/01 09:48 PM (

This is our trip report from our April 1 to 8, 2001 trip on the Grand Princess. This was our 27th cruise (more or less), (all but two in the Caribbean), 5th on Princess, with other sailings including Celebrity, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL, Star Clipper, Dolphin, Cunard Crown, Costa, Crown, etc. We booked this trip primarily for the itinerary--3 days at sea, a day at Princess' private island (which we treated as a day at sea), St. Thomas and St. Martin. We have been to every island in the Caribbean a bunch of times already and have little interest in the frenetic island-a-day schedule favored by many cruise lines. Lately, we have become more “island people” than ship people, and our priorities in vacations have changed. We are not really interested too much in dressing for dinner or having to eat at an assigned dinner table with the same folks every night. Our general impressions are that the Grand Princess is ugly as a son-of-a-gun from the outside, the interior is nice, although not nearly as pretty as Sun Princess, that most of the balconies on the ship I would not want, and that the itinerary and the array of dining choices for the evening makes this ship the best ship in the mass market arena for us at this time. That's the short version, for anyone with a short attention span.

We booked this trip on a category guarantee basis, booking a category CC, which is right below the balcony cabins. We figured, stupidly, that there wouldn't be much trouble getting upgraded to a balcony cabin and were distressed when we got our initial cabin assignment, to be exactly the category of cabin we booked, CC. We found out around 10:30 PM the night before we sailed that we did in fact get upgraded to a balcony cabin (YIPPEE!!!!), to a category BA, on Lido Deck, which we found to be the best category of balcony cabins for our purposes, by far. More on the cabins later.

Our sailing day didn't start off well, as we got to bed very late, and April 1 was the date that we switched to Daylight Savings Time, AND then our alarm did not go off. I woke up at 6:50 AM. Our flight was due to leave National Airport (which is a good 40 minute drive, if you drive FAST), at 8:00 AM. Fortunately, we were all packed and were out of the door in about 5 minutes. We made it to the airport and of course had to park in the muoy expensive $14 per day lot in order to have any chance to make the plane. We made it about 5 minutes before they closed the door. Our flight went through Raleigh and we had about a 3 hour layover there. When we finally boarded the plane for Ft. Lauderdale, we sat IN the plane by the gate for two full hours, as they closed the airport due to thunderstorms. Lovely. The plane had been supposed to land at FLL at 2 PM and we landed a few minutes after 4 PM. We were not concerned about our cruise leaving without us, as Grand Princess does not leave until 7:45. Unfortunately, many other folks on the plane were freaking out, as they had scheduled departures around 4:30. Based on the number of cruise line representatives that we saw in the airport upon arrival, it appeared that the cruise lines kept several or all of the ships later than normal, as there were as many as 10 ships still in port when we arrived at the port around 4:30. All right, after the 5 PM lifeboat drill, we finally were able to get a bite to eat at the Pizza restaurant, then went back to the room to unpack and start to relax, after what had been a very trying day. Our bags arrived within about 30 minutes of when we got onboard, which we thought pretty good, considering the size of the vessel. In fact, even GP left around 30 minutes late, as a bus pulled up around 8:15 PM with a load of about 20 very happy folks. We were on the pier side of the ship and a cheer went up from our side of the ship, as those very relieved folks boarded the ship. Apparently, there had been bad weather up and down the whole East Coast. We ate in the main dining room that evening, even though we were dog tired. We ate somewhat sparingly, then hauled ourselves off to bed.

Our first two days were at sea, which is our favorite part of a cruise. On Monday, we woke around 9 A.M., feeling considerably better than the previous morning. After breakfast at the buffet, it was off for some sun. Even though GP is a huge ship, most times it doesn’t feel that big. The sun decks, I think, are arranged surprisingly well to divide up the crowds. On Lido Deck, there is the main pool, which is where the hamburger and pizza restaurants are. Then you have the solarium area, which has the sliding roof to cover the area in case of bad weather, then, after you walk through the Horizon Court (buffet restaurant) all the way aft, you have another, adults-only pool. The main pool and solarium area have very shallow areas so that you can lie in the water without actually being in very deep water. Around the main pool, the chairs are nice PVC, with nice comfy pads. In the solarium area, they are metal-type chaise lounges with pads. Aft, some of the chairs are the PVC chairs. Along the top decks, there are many small areas with chairs, divided up in many smaller areas, so that you don’t have any huge long expanses of chairs. This makes the ship appear smaller. The complaint that I had was that many of the chairs scattered around the decks were those uncomfortable type that have that fabric covering that shifts on you when you move on the chair. I hate those. Also, Princess has always treated their deck towels like gold, giving you one clean towel in your room every morning per person, and having none available on deck. Come on guys, it doesn’t cost THAT much to launder extra towels....

Our cabin was on Lido Deck, and was the most expensive category of standard balcony cabins, and for once, we agreed with that assessment, as we felt that Lido Deck is by far the best deck of the standard balcony cabins. It is the deck where the Horizon Court and pools are located, AND the balconies are much more private than the ones on the lower decks, in that there is a full roof above you, so that folks cannot look down on your balcony, like those on the lower decks. The balcony in category BA on Lido Deck (and the cabin) seemed to be SLIGHTLY larger than the ones in the standard balcony cabins on Sun Princess. Furniture on the balcony was two regular sized chairs (not the small ones like on Sun Princess) and a dining height small table. The cabin seemed to be a little larger inside than the Sun, and the bathroom a nicer size, with a decent shower, so that one could take a shower without getting so intimately acquainted with the shower walls. Princess provides a minimal selection of toiletries, with just shampoo, conditioner and body lotion provided. Unfortunately, those are provided in those horrible paper containers, which I guess are supposed to be environmentally friendly. Oh well.... Interestingly, you now have to REQUEST that there be robes placed in your cabin, along with the fruit baskets. We have always just had both in our rooms when we embarked on Princess before, so were somewhat surprised. I guess a lot of people don’t use the robes or the fruit basket, but we do. The balconies on the next two decks down from Lido also have decent privacy, and they would be my second and third choices of decks. BTW, on the last day, we checked out one of the mini-suites and frankly I would prefer to be in a category BA on Lido Deck than one of the mini-suites. The mini-suites are only minimally larger than the regular balcony cabins and the balcony is totally NON-private, as everyone along that whole side of the ship can see you sitting on your balcony. The balcony itself is maybe only twice the size of the regular balcony and the furniture on the balcony includes four regular chairs and a couple of tables, no chaise lounges.

Lunch on Monday was at the buffet, more sun, then a trip to the casino, some pizza on deck, then back to the casino. A tough life... Even though the SouthWestern Restaurant doesn’t SAY that they require reservations, if you want to eat there on a particular night, better make reservations, as they do fill up. Monday evening, we went by about 8:30 and they said we could come back at 9:30, so that’s what we did. We listened to the “country” duo, (On the Verge) who do play some country, but also play a mix of Buffet and a bunch of other stuff, most of it older. We enjoyed them immensely. We also enjoyed talking with the bartender there, whose name escapes me at the moment. You would recognize her if you saw her though, as she’s a short English gal with blond hair and a kind of an attitude. Nice person. In addition to the bar, there are a few seats in the SW restaurant for those who don’t want to eat, but merely listen to the music. If you sit at the bar, you can get chips and salsa (free), provided the kitchen is till open. I believe it closes around 10:30 or so. There is no cover charge to eat at the SW restaurant (as opposed to the Italian restaurant, which has a cover charge of $15 PP). I had the tortilla soup (good!) and Eric the quesadillas (which were also good). I had the chicken entree (which was dry and kind of listless, NOT recommended). Eric had a seafood enchilada with a black bean sauce, which was excellent. No dessert for us. After dinner, we went to the comedy show, which was OK, NOT r-rated, so I’m guessing that’s why it wasn’t tremendously funny. After that it was off to the casino. We must have had a good time, as we ended up in the disco at 3 A.M., which is entirely too late for me!! They were playing some nice music at the time, not all that horrible all bass stuff that they often play in discos, and we stumbled off to bed.

Tuesday was another day at sea. We woke around 9:30, since we were so late the night before. We took our buffet breakfast to the tables which are all the way aft outside. That area is nice, and kind of under-utilized. There are several tables–under cover, not in the sun–there, and the adults only pool. It’s fairly quiet back there and enjoyable, not particularly crowded. We had burgers for lunch, more sun in the afternoon, then the evening meal was the first formal night.

As of January 1, 2001, Princess has now gone to what is called “Personal Choice Dining”. On the Grand Princess, two of the three dining rooms are allocated to “regular” assigned first and second seating dining. The third dining room is personal choice dining, which means that you can appear at any time from 5:30 to 10:00 P.M. for dinner and be seated for dinner. We did not elect that seating, but those we talked to indicated that they were asked whether they wished to dine alone or with someone else and they indicated that they rarely had to wait more than 10 minutes to be seated. Frankly, this is the epitome of why we enjoyed dining on the Grand Princess so much–choices in dining. Choices for the evening meal for dinner included the Southwestern Restaurant, the Italian restaurant ($15 surcharge per person), the buffet and the main dining room. Also, if you ate early (before 7 P.M.) there was also the pizza restaurant and the hamburger restaurant. Tips for the restaurant staff were handled in what we thought was an intelligent way–they were automatically charged to your room account in the “recommended” amount. This was the case, regardless of whether you elected “personal choice dining” or regular dining. You could go to the purser’s desk and take them off if you wished. We saw some people standing in line at the purser’s desk doing that, but it struck me as being extremely cheap. We always tip the recommended amount or more, regardless of service. Tips for the cabin steward could be charged to your stateroom account if you wished, by going to any bar, or you could tip the steward in person, in cash, the same as normal. Overall, a convenient, logical way to charge the tips, given the different choices for dining.

I don’t know what the evening meal dress was BEFORE they went to personal choice dining, but now the GP evening dining in the dining room is 2 formal nights and 5 casual nights. Frankly, that is wonderful for us. On Tuesday evening, our table of 6 was full, with a couple from Alaska and a couple from California. Actually, we had a wonderful time at dinner that evening, laughing and joking, almost making us wish that there weren’t so many options for dinner in the evening and that everyone was eating at dinner at the same table, as I’m sure we would have had a howling good time. Frankly, I don’t remember what we had for dinner, but don’t think it was particularly memorable. We noted with DISpleasure that Princess has apparently done away with table-side preparations of pastas and desserts by the maitre D’s, which was always an enjoyable part of their cruises. I had pasta one evening, and it was less than memorable. Princess has also done away with wine stewards. Your waiter takes care of that now. Frankly, on the Grand, I guess it’s not that big of a deal now, as the dining room, even on formal nights, was not that busy on our trip. Often, the tables were half empty. I questioned the bus boy about it, as to whether it made their job harder. He said “no”, actually, as those who were in the dining room were there because they WANTED to be there, not because they HAD to eat there, as they had no other choice. Interesting outlook. After a brief trip to the casino, it was off to bed.

We never ate in the dining room for breakfast or lunch, so do not know what was available there. We always ate at the Horizon Court for buffet breakfast. It has been a couple of years since we have been on Princess, but we were very favorably impressed with the selection of foods that they now have in the buffet, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as they have upgraded those selections greatly. They had an extremely large selection of foods for breakfast at the buffet, including such items as pancakes, french toast, corned beef, smoked salmon, in addition to the eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, etc., items. The only real complaint that we had was that there were no omelettes cooked to order. I guess they just felt there was no way they could keep up with demand. There were pre-made omelettes available every day, in various flavors, but they were uninspired, as they were usually fairly chilly by the time we got to them and the amount of fillings and cheeses was somewhat light. Other than that criticism, buffet breakfasts were pretty good. We ate at the buffet several days for lunch, with the rest of the days being split between the hamburger place and the pizzeria. Unfortunately, the Grand does not have pizza to order, like the Sun Princess, etc. The pizzeria on the Grand is up on the pool deck and serves pizza by the slice, with two different pizzas offered each day. The pizzas were good, provided they were hot, but sometimes the pizza had been sitting there for a while. We often grabbed a slice or two and took it back to our room, since we were on the same deck and just down from the pizza place. The hamburger place is also upon the pool deck and serves burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, sausages and fries. The burgers were OK, but nothing tremendously exciting. The buffet had an extremely large selection of foods, both for lunch and dinner, including a very nice salad bar, with most anything one could want to put on it. The evening meals, most of what was available in the dining room was available on the buffet. On days at sea, the SW restaurant is open for lunch and the Italian restaurant is open for brunch. For the latter, the cost is $15 per person, but includes wine or mimosa. That sounded tremendously intriguing, but we never got around to it. Next time!!

Wednesday morning began our big adventure. Before leaving home, Eric had come up with the idea that it would be really cool if, instead of spending Wednesday in St. Thomas and Thursday in St. Martin, if we could spend BOTH days in St. Martin. We bought plane tickets from STT to SXM, at $94 PP (one way). We knew that there were any number of things that could go wrong with our plan, so we told NO ONE (except the folks that the hotel where we would be staying) that we were coming early. We had planned the big April 5 party at Papagayo’s from home, but we hoped to just surprise TTOL folks on the beach, with our early arrival. We hopped off the ship in STT with our bag full of TTOL merchandise and caught a taxi. The driver was kind of a wacko (talking to himself) but whatever. We had a direct Liat flight from STT to SXM, leaving at 9:50 AM, arriving in SXM at 10:30. We landed without any problem in SXM and went to rent a car. Our only problem was that we wanted to pick up the car there at the airport and drop it off at the pier, or have the car rental guys drop us off at the pier. The first couple of car rental places in line told us no way, but we hooked up with Europcar eventually. They gave us $35 per day for an automatic with a/c, no problem, and said they would drop us off at the pier.

By the way, for those of you who arrive by cruise ship in SXM the regular way, instead of by ship and airplane , supposedly they will be having a car rental place at the pier soon. However, the rumor that we heard is that it was going to be VERY expensive, like $60 - $70 per day during high season. That is way too much. Avis and Dollar have a rental place which is only about two blocks walk down from the pier, so that would probably be the best bet. Also, your other choice would be to take the water taxi or a regular taxi to downtown and rent a car downtown. The water taxi is $5 PP for a unlimited pass for the day, regular taxi is $3 PP each way. Also, I wouldn’t recommend walking from the ship to downtown, as it is probably close to a mile to the middle of downtown from the pier. Too much work for folks on vacation.

We then headed over to LaVista Resort, where we would be staying that evening. We ended up having a wonderful lunch there at LaVista, then headed over to Orient Beach to surprise some folks. On the way, we stopped at Match to buy bottles of wine and champagne to take back to the ship. Wow, have they spruced up Match!!! Finally arriving at Orient around 2 P.M., we trudged down the beach a while, toting TWO bags, one for our towels, and the other containing our TTOL stuff. We found a couple of chairs close to the ocean and plopped down our stuff and started taking off clothes. Unbeknownst to us, Steve and Cathyg and Don and Linda were in chairs about 20 feet from where we plopped down. We didn’t even get our clothes off before they recognized us and came over. Peace and Sandy were gone somewhere at the time we arrived, and Cathyg and Don and Linda had a good time introducing Peace to us. We had a great time, and met a bunch of other folks. Sorry, I have a bad memory! Eric walked down to Baywatch and delivered a CD of do-wop tunes to Andy from Carl Stone, which Andy immediately stuck in the CD player. We then invited ourselves to the Club O wine and cheese party and it seemed like we met another 20 folks there. We felt like we were more popular than the Brinks!! After that, we went back to Peace and Sandy’s unit there at Club O and I took a shower, then we headed out to dinner in Grand Case. It is interesting that Peace and Sandy use our theory of eating there–go park the car and walk down the street till something looks good! Anyway, we ended up at La Soline (?????). I had the chicken stuffed with crab, Eric the salmon, Peace had the duck and Sandy the chicken stuffed with crab. Peace and I had the trio of creme brulee (the flavor was MAHVELOUS, just the temperature was a little cool), Eric had some type of dessert but he doesn’t remember what!! and Sandy had the winner dessert---the profiteroles. He didn’t share any of it with us though, darn him!! That a couple of bottles of wine and everyone was very happy. Nice restaurant. After dinner, it was 10:30 or so. Went back to Peace and Sandy’s and had a couple of glasses of MaDouDou, then we headed back to Lavista for the night. A very successful first day!

Thursday morning we first had to head to the dock to make sure that the Grand Princess had in fact docked in St. Martin. When we saw to our great satisfaction that the big ugly gal was in fact there, we headed over to Baywatch for breakfast. I enjoyed some french toast and Eric had a cheese omelette with mushrooms, and we finally headed down the beach around 10:30. April 5 was Andy’s one year anniversary on Orient Beach and he invited us back down later, after the big TTOL get together, for drinks. We got ourselves set up in chairs on the beach and time flew till noon, which was the BIG party. We had at least 28 people there for the party. Some folks may have snuck out before we passed around the list of folks to sign. Most folks had some lunch, we enjoyed some nice talk and took up about half the restaurant. Before folks left, we had everybody put on some clothes so we could take a group picture. Great time! The party broke up around 2 PM and we had to head back to the ship at 3, so it was almost time to leave! BOO! Cathyg and Don and Linda wanted to go down to Baywatch and they convinced Eric to go along. I was too lazy to walk down there, considering we only had another hour left on the beach. I threatened Cathyg on her life, telling her if Eric didn’t return to our beach chairs by 3 P.M., SHE would be in big trouble. Apparently Eric outdrank the rest of the crowd 2 to 1, but Cathyg did bring him back in time, as I had all the stuff packed up ready to go.

Strangely enough, while on Orient, we met up with some nice folks that we met while staying at Club O for the millenium, who were also sailing on the Grand. Eric was just walking down the beach and saw a guy that he thought he recognized. Len and Lisa recognized him also, and asked Eric whether we were staying there. Eric said “No, we’re on the Grand Princess!!” “We are too!!” Of course Grand Princess has 2600 passengers, but funny we didn’t see them till then. They were on first seating dinner though. Anyway, we made arrangements to get together onboard ship, especially when we found out they had a SUITE, we said the party was at THEIR house!! We got back onboard around 4:15, took a shower and changed clothes, and by that time it was time to leave port. We went to their suite, all the way aft on Caribe Deck. This was a true suite, with separate bedroom and sitting room, a huge bathroom and a huge balcony, complete with two cushioned chaise lounges and a dining size table with four chairs. This was living!! We drank a couple of bottles of wine, ate some hors douvres hastily put together by their BUTLER (!!) and toasted a successful visit to St. Martin. Len and Lisa said that they wished they had thought to do as we did, and spend an extra day in St. Martin. Funny, we only saw them two times after that, once on formal night, standing by the elevators and once walking through the casino, and I’m sure we probably would never have ever realized we were on the same ship if we hadn’t seen them in St. Martin.

(All right, guys, you know that I am a lawyer, so here is the “lawyer talk” and the disclaimer about our extra night in SXM. Please do not attempt the maneuver at home. This maneuver was performed under strictly controlled circumstances by experienced travel professionals. First, when you pay for a seven day cruise and fly ahead to the next destination, you basically do yourselves out of one day food and lodging that you have already paid for, plus you will have to pay for food and lodging for one night in the new destination. Next, there are MANY things that COULD go wrong, if you decide to “jump ship” as we did, and fly ahead to the next destination. The worst thing that could happen, of course, is that, for whatever reason, the ship could not dock at that next port. There are many reasons why this could happen. First reason of course, is bad weather, winds or waves. We checked the weather and if the weather had been bad, or had been forecast to be bad in either STT to SXM, we would not have gone. The ship could have mechanical difficulty. We were in the middle of the cruise, and arrived in STT on time, which we assumed meant that everything was okey-dokey with the ship. There could be some kind of an emergency, which is totally outside of anybody’s control, that for some reason, the ship would have to skip a port. Particularly on the Grand, if the ship does not make St. Martin, you are pretty well screwed, as the next REAL port is Ft. Lauderdale back on Sunday, although the ship does go to Princess’ private island in the Bahamas on Saturday. Before we left home, we checked on air flights both from SXM to Eleuthra (which is where Princess Cays is) and on to Miami (which is where our return flights were booked out of). Both were running around $450 pp one way, so we knew it would be a very expensive proposition if the ship did not dock in SXM on Thursday. The plane tickets that we bought on Liat were refundable, except for a $25 fee, so we tried to cover ourselves there a little bit. BTW, we were somewhat concerned that we would hear something from the ship, but we did not. Princess has a plastic card, which is your cabin door key, your credit card while onboard ship, and you have to put it in a slot in order to board the ship each time. We wondered whether they would question us when we got back onboard in St. Martin, since we hadn’t gotten OFF the ship in St. Martin, but we heard nothing from Princess at all. Overall, we had a fantastic time and we would do it again.)

Since we felt like we had gambled and won so big with our trip to St. Martin, we felt it was time on Thursday evening to head to the casino. On Thursday night, Eric shared a blackjack table with a big roller (or at least, a bigger roller than we are!) who said that he had spent the day at Papagayo’s and saw our big group there. He said that he had never met anyone on a ship before that admitted that they went to Orient. He was a good guy. We enjoyed talking to him and giving him some info on nudism in general. We enjoyed his company at the blackjack tables for the rest of the cruise. Thursday evening we weren’t interested in the menu offered in the dining room, so we ate at the buffet for dinner and had a relatively early night.

Friday was another day at sea. We got our hot breakfast at the buffet and brought it back to the cabin to eat on the balcony. BTW, we didn’t get room service at all on this trip. They don’t have hot breakfast, which is what we would have ordered if we could. The do have some sandwiches and french fries from room service, but we never felt that need. We thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast on the balcony Friday morning. We accomplished not much on Friday, sat in the sun and read a book for most of the day, lunch at the buffet, the casino for a while, then went to the dining room for the second formal night. Dinner was lobster tails. They served two tails, which were small, but very tasty. After dinner, it was to the casino for a while. I attempted to watch the champagne waterfall, but it was just too crowded, so headed back to the casino, then it was off to bed.

Saturday was Princess Cays, Princess’ private island. We have been there several times before and so decided not to bother getting off, especially on such a huge ship. To Princess’ credit, they did a great job of getting folks off the ship and I think they were not requiring tender tickets by 11 A.M. Earlier in the week, they were saying the weather would not be great at Princess Cays, with possible rain, which we were quite distressed about, as we hoped for everyone to get off the ship so that we could have it to ourselves. Thankfully, the weather was grand and most folks got off. We sat by the main pool and had the section of the deck almost to ourselves till after noon. I had to complain about something, though, so complained about the horrible disco type music (you know the kind I mean, that you can only hear the bass??) that was playing. They did turn it off, thank goodness and I read my book in peace. The pool deck started filling back up around 1:30 or so and the ship sailed for Ft. Lauderdale at 3:00. Interestingly, there was a helicopter shooting promo shots of the ship as we left Princess Cays. We will be looking forward to seeing some of those shots in a future Princess brochure. We went back to the cabin for sunset and enjoyed our bottle of champagne and some snacks as the sun set. Life is good.......

For Saturday night, we wanted to eat at the SW Restaurant again. We called for reservations at 5:30 and there were none available. I guess I can’t say I’m surprised, as I guess a lot of folks don’t want to bother with the dining room that evening. So, after sunset, we headed to the casino for a while, then to the buffet for dinner around 9 P.M. At the table next to us there was a young couple with two toddlers, both of which were fussy and screaming. Imagine that, it was only 9 P.M. Anyway, we headed back to the casino and had one of the best runs we have had in quite a few cruises. I sat down to roulette and won, Eric sat down to Caribbean stud and won, Eric and I both went to blackjack and won and we happened upon ONE roller at craps (we walked up, won a bunch of money and then left!!), and ended up for the evening QUITE a bit ahead for the evening and for the cruise. Life is REALLY good.

Sunday morning we had been concerned, as we had booked an 11:30 AM flight out of MIAMI. The ship sails from Ft. Lauderdale. However, prices to fly out of Miami were $130 and FLL $250. Duh! Anyway, we purchased Princess transfers to get us to the Miami airport, at $15 each. They told us we could exchange our colored bag tags for an earlier disembarkation the last morning, but we found out that they disembark the ship from the top down anyway, so we were in the 3rd group to disembark, so didn’t bother. As it turned out, it really didn’t matter, as many of the folks who were on our bus were in the very first group who disembarked anyway. They called our color about 8:30 A.M. However it was about 9:15 by the time they filled our bus and we departed for Miami. That still gave us plenty of time to get to the airport. However, it did seem strange to us that they filled three busses at the same time, instead of one bus at a time, so basically all three busses left within five minutes of each other. Flights coming home were on time, thankfully, and we arrived home to 65 degree temps, not nearly as bad as we had feared.

A couple of miscellaneous thoughts that didn’t seem to fit in anywhere–

Physically, this ship is ugly as a son-of-a-gun from outside. The disco sticking out her _ss, and the bridge make her the most ugly thing I’ve ever seen from the outside. Inside, she is OK, but not nearly as pretty as Sun Princess. Just kind of blase. The casino is particularly bland. The Wheelhouse Bar is small, compared to Sun Princess, although of course there are many other bars on GP. The Explorer Lounge is nice, although I wish they had some better talent playing in there, as we never saw anything in there that was worth listening to. The atrium is not nearly as attractive as either the Sun Princess or the Crown Princess. The addition of the Southwestern Restaurant, with the added attraction of decent music playing in there, added greatly to our enjoyment of the cruise.

While I'm thinking about it here, a word regarding sales of liquor onboard the ship. We hadn't been on Princess for a couple of years and they have changed their policy regarding liquor and no longer sell liquor onboard for onboard consumption. We had inquired about that before we left home and so had brought along mixers and some liquor in plastic flasks, but it was still a pain in the _ss. Actually, the Grand doesn't even have a shop that really sells liquor. They basically set up some liquor on a table in one of the shops on the last day, for purchase and delivery to your cabin the last night. Well, guess what guys, you don't sell too much like that. With all the balconies on this ship, they must realize that people do a lot of drinking in their rooms and I guess they would prefer that folks buy their liquor in St. Thomas and St. Martin than onboard. Way to lose money, guys.

All right, here goes my other pet peeve about the ship, the sports bar. Now, I will tell you folks, the IDEA of a sports bar on a ship is great. I know that NCL has them on their newer ships, but have not been on any of those ships, so don't know whether they are worthwhile or not, but I will tell you that the sports bar on the GP is a waste of time. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice room, with sports memorabilia, several TV's, nice bar, nice location down from the casino. What would have been nice is if they had shown some SPORTS in there. We sailed the week of April 1 to 8. At that time, the following professional sports were playing regular season games-professional basketball, professional baseball, professional hockey. In addition, on Monday night was the NCAA men's championship basketball game. Also, starting on Thursday was the Master's Golf Championship. Let's see, which ones of those events were they showing in the sports bar. Try NONE! All right, well you ask, what was playing on the TV's there then? ESPN Sportscenter was on. We went into the Sports Bar three different evenings between 9 and 11 P.M., just trips over from the casino. Each evening there were RERUNS of golf or soccer was playing. Lovely. On the night of the NCAA championship game, I asked one of the crew who was there(it was obviously only crew that hung out there, as there were no passengers), what the deal was. He said it was that the ship did not subscribe to any of the proper satellites to get the game. There were no regular network channels available on the ship anywhere other than CNN. Why waste the floor space for a sports bar if you're not going to subscribe to a satellite to allow you to show anything there??

Guess that’s about it. We loved the itinerary, especially since we made it to suit OUR tastes–basically two days at sea, two days in St. Martin, two days at sea, what more could one ask for?? The dining alternatives make this ship my choice for the future (either the Grand, or her sister ship, the Golden, when she comes online in a couple of months) Let us know if you have any questions.

Carol & Eric

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