Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 370 out of 500
Accommodation: 147 out of 200
Food: 249 out of 400
Service: 285 out of 400
Entertainment: 76 out of 100
Cruise: 292 out of 400
Overall Score: 1419 out of 2000
Grand Princess Statistics
Size: Large Resort Ship
Cruise Line: Princess Cruises
Former Names: none
IMO Number: 9104005
Builder: Fincantieri (Italy)
Original Cost: $450 million
Entered Service: May 1998
Length (ft/m): 951.4/290.0
Beam (ft/m): 118.1/36.0
Draft (ft/m): 26.2/8.0
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (42,000kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 13
Total Crew: 1,100
Passengers (lower beds): 2,600
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 41.8
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.3
Cabins (total): 1,300
Size Range (sq ft/m): 161.4-764.2/15.0-71.0
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 710
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 28
Wheelchair accessibility: Best
Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 3
Hot Tubs (on deck): 9
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: US$
A multi-choice large ship for informal family cruising
Overview. Whether Grand Princess provides a genuinely relaxing holiday is a moot point, but with many choices and ‘small’ rooms to enjoy, it is an extremely well-designed ship - particularly for families with children. The odds are that you’ll have a fine time, in a controlled, well-packaged way.
The Ship. Grand Princess was first in a series of Grand-class ships, whose interior design and configuration evolved with each new ship in the series. It has a flared dolphin-like bow and a galleon-like transom stern. The ship was refreshed following an extensive 2011 refit. There is a good sheltered faux teak promenade deck - it’s actually painted steel - which almost wraps around, and a walkway that goes right to the enclosed, protected bow. The outdoor pools have various beach-like surroundings. One lap pool has a pumped ‘current’ to swim against.
Unlike the outside decks, there is plenty of space inside the ship - but also plenty of passengers - and a wide array of public rooms, with many ‘intimate’ (this being a relative word) spaces. The decor is attractive and warm, with lots of earth tones, and an extensive collection of art complements the interior design and colors well.
Four areas center on swimming pools, one of which is two decks high and can be covered by a retractable glass dome. The former Skywalkers Nightclub was repositioned to a lower deck (Deck 15) in 2011. Now called One5 (cute), it has improved the ship’s former shopping-cart look.
Other facilities include a new Piazza Atrium, with an integral International Café, Vines wine bar (including tapas and sushi items and wines for purchase); and Leaves Tea Lounge and Library (with ‘tea sommelier’ to create personalized ‘artisan’ teas). There’s a Wedding Chapel with a web-cam to relay ceremonies via the Internet. The ship’s captain can legally marry US citizens, due to the ship’s Bermuda registry and a special dispensation.
Another neat feature is the motion-based ‘virtual reality’ room with its enclosed motion-based rides, and a blue-screen studio, where passengers can star in their own videos. There is an excellent library/computer room, and a separate card room. Youngsters have a two-deck-high playroom, teen room, and trained counselors.
Gamblers should enjoy the large casino, with more than 260 slot machines with dolphin-shaped handles; there are blackjack, craps, and roulette tables.
Ship enthusiasts will savor the wood-paneled Wheelhouse Bar, decorated with memorabilia and ship models tracing part of the history of sister company P&O.
The dress code has been simplified to formal or smart casual. Gratuities are automatically added to your account, and tips for children are charged at the same rate. If you want to pay less, you’ll have to line up at the reception desk.
Accommodation. There are six types of cabins and configurations but there is a bewildering choice of price categories. Many cabins have additional upper berths (there are 609 of them), which is good for families with children. Many balcony cabins overhang the ship’s lower hull section.
(a) The plushest accommodation is the Grand Suite, with a hot tub accessible from both the private balcony and from the bedroom, two bedrooms, lounge, two bathrooms, a huge walk-in closet, and lots of drawer and storage space.
(b/c) Suites, with a semi-private balcony, have a separate living room with sofa bed, and bedroom - with a TV set in each. The bathroom is quite large and has both a tub and shower stall. The mini-suites also have a private balcony, and a separate living and sleeping area, with a TV set in each. The differences between the suites and mini-suites are basically in the size and appointments. Passengers in both receive priority attention, including speedy embarkation and disembarkation. What is unacceptable is that the most expensive accommodation has only semi-private balconies that can be seen from above, so there is no privacy (suites C401, 402, 409, 410, 414, 415, 420, 421/422, 423, 424, and 425 on Caribe Deck). The suites D105 and D106 (Dolphin Deck) are extremely large, but their balconies can be seen from above.
(d/e/f) Both interior and outside-view cabins - the outsides come either with or without private balcony - are functional and practical, although there are almost no drawers. They are attractive, with warm, pleasing decor and fine soft furnishing fabrics. The tiled bathrooms have a good amount of open shelf storage space for toiletries.
There are also two family suites. These consist of two suites with an interconnecting door, plus a large balcony, and can sleep up to 10 (if at least four are children), or up to eight adults.
Most outside cabins on Emerald Deck have views obstructed by lifeboats. Sadly, there are no cabins for singles. Your name is placed outside your suite or cabin - making it simple for delivery service personnel but compromising privacy. Some cabins can accommodate a third and fourth person in upper berths - but in such cabins, the lower beds cannot then be pushed together to make a queen-size bed.
Perhaps the least desirable balcony cabins are the eight located forward on Emerald Deck, as the balconies do not extend to the side of the ship and can be passed by walkers and gawkers on the adjacent Upper Promenade walkway. Also, passengers occupying some the most expensive suites with balconies at the stern may experience considerable vibration during certain ship maneuvers.
The cabin bath towels are small, and drawer space is limited. There are no butlers - even for the top-grade suites. Cabin attendants have many cabins to look after (typically 20), which cannot translate to fine personal service.
Dining. For formal meals, there are three main dining rooms, Botticelli (504 seats), Da Vinci (486), and Michelangelo (486). There are two seatings in one restaurant, while the other two have ‘anytime dining’ where you choose when, and with whom, you want to eat. All three split into multi-tier sections in a non-symmetrical design that breaks what are quite large spaces into many smaller sections. Each dining room has its own galley. While four elevators go to Fiesta Deck for the Botticelli and Da Vinci restaurants, only two go to Plaza Deck 5 for the Michaelangelo Restaurant - this can cause long waits at peak times, especially for wheelchair users.
Other dining options. There are several informal dining areas, open for lunch and dinner. The food is mostly prepared and cooked to order, and so there is much more taste, and it is perhaps worth paying the extra cost to get better food.
Sabatini’s is an extra-cost, reservations-required Italian eatery, with colorful tiled Mediterranean-style decor. It has Italian-style pizzas and pastas, with a variety of sauces, as well as Italian-style entrées that include tiger prawns and lobster tail.
Crown Grill is an extra-cost steakhouse - featuring premium American steaks and seafood in a very pleasant setting, with plenty of space around diners’ tables. There’s a cover charge (worth it), and reservations are required.
Painted Desert is an open area that features ‘Southwestern’ American food for lunch or dinner - but only on sea days.
The poolside hamburger grill and pizza bar (no additional charge) are additional dining spots for casual bites, while extra charges apply if you order items to eat at either the coffee bar/patisserie, or the caviar/ Champagne bar.
Other casual meals can be taken in the Horizon Court buffet - open 24 hours a day, with large ocean view on port and starboard sides and direct access to the two main swimming pools and Lido Deck. Oval, plastic plates are used (there are no trays).
Entertainment. The 748-seat Princess Theater spans two decks and has comfortable seating on both main and balcony levels. Princess Cruises has long been known and liked for its colourful Hollywood-style (rather than Las Vegas-style) production shows.
The Vista Lounge, a second entertainment lounge, presents cabaret acts at night, and lectures, bingo, and horse racing during the day. Explorers, a third lounge, can also host cabaret acts and dance bands.
Spa/Fitness. The Lotus Spa is a large complex that surrounds one of the swimming pools at the forward end. It comprises a large gymnasium with all the usual equipment, an aerobics room, sauna and steam rooms, salon, ocean-view treatment rooms, and a relaxation area. It is operated by Steiner Leisure.