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jondfk

Observations - Grand Princess 10 day Hawaii, February 21, 2019

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Going to post a few observations from our recent Grand Princess experience, these are written having read a number of 'concerns' posted by others around the condition of Grand.  Not really a 'review' though I'm happy to take on any questions.

 

Embarkation.  We arrived pier 27 just after 11:00.  Our past experiences embarking here have been quite mixed.  Since San Francisco handles security as a first step just after you enter the building, no one enters the terminal until security is ready, this can mean long delays outside, sometimes in less than ideal weather.  This time though things were smooth.  Just one lane was operating at this hour, there was a short wait, 10 minutes or less.
 
Moving on to the checkin line we started hearing welcome aboard announcements, the waiting room was basically empty.  Unusual in our San Francisco experience!  Having booked a beloved window suite we were checked in efficiently.  We were handed off to an escort who took us directly to the gangway, this was all new, wasn’t handled this way our last cruise - very nice!
 
As has been reported elsewhere we experienced cabins blocked off for cleaning until 1:00.  Our escort delivered us to international cafe to wait for lunch.  Others were escorted to horizon court.  I made the usual dash to Sanctuary to book our loungers.  Unnecessary really as never were more than 10 loungers booked on any particular day.  Still, the sprint for the Sanctuary is a day one ritual I enjoy (haha).  Lunch was in the Da Vinci with the ‘classic’ embarkation menu, for me:  antipasto, ravioli and the orange soufflé for dessert - now we’re cruising.  Access to rooms was granted at the stroke of 1:00 we were unpacked by 2:00.

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The ship.
 
We’ve sailed Grand a few times before.  And we’ve read some of the negative comments.  I have to say though this was one of our most enjoyable cruises.  Driving up to the ship a bit of rust was evident on the stern.  On board however we found the ship quite lovely, in good repair and aging rather well.  Yes, she is the oldest of Princess big ships, and yes some of the newest features aren’t there - but Grand is a fine ship and one we would cruise on anytime, anywhere.  Keep in mind ours was the final cruise before a 20 day major dry dock so, to some extent, we were seeing her at her worst, nonetheless lovely.
 
The good.   
 
Well, nearly everything really.  We had no, none, zero negative encounters with the crew.  Everyone seemed sincerely interested in our happiness and did all they could to serve.  One entertainer was especially good - Jumari- a solo guitarist was truly outstanding.  He was at his best working Crooners before dinner.  A dedicated show focused on Neil Diamond was less enjoyable, perhaps because it was more “canned”.

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The bad.  
 
WiFi.  Now let’s be clear, I know what shipboard WiFi is, and I adjust my expectations accordingly - think AOL dial up boing boing 56k access.  Compose your mail offline, get on and send.  Not great, but livable.  This trip was terrible however, think 14k text only terminal emulation and you get the right idea.  The Princess.com homepage took 2 minutes to load, if it loaded at all, clearly worse than usual.  Cards were placed in the stateroom mailslots on day 2 indicating WiFi problems due to Geographic conditions, obviously this wasn’t the real cause, but no further explanation was ever given.
 
Also, and I’m being a bit picky here, I’d say The Club Class meals prepared in the dining room were a reliable dud.  On previous occasions the host was actually ‘cooking’ this particular host was doing nothing more than combining prepared sauce with pasta.  Flavorless.  His personality clearly favored guest interaction, he loved this and did a great job.  The cooking station got in the way and he gave it little attention.  Don’t get me wrong we loved our host, but cooking just isn’t his thing.
 
Stand out staff.  
 
Kenny in Crooners was fabulous.  We’ve bumped into him previously on the Coral.  Kenny is Mr. Personality and puts on a great show shaking up your martini.  He’s also a genuinely nice guy who always greeted us by name and remembered our drinks - who needs Ocean Medallion if you have Kenny!

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About that dry dock.  
 
Staff were reluctant to speak in specifics.  It sounded to us as though there is a list of essential work and a much longer list of “we’ll get to as much as we can” stuff.  Here’s what I think we learned.
Grand will sail from San Francisco at noon Sunday with no passengers but 2000+ contractors aboard (some of these actually board in Portland).
 
Essential maintenance includes hull blasting and painting, there was concern that current weather might inhibit painting operations, and this might be adjusted if cold weather continues.  Other hull tests including thickness testing are a must.  There will be significant propulsion work, we were told slightly differing stories including swapping of propellers and other serious sounding work.  My guess is this level of information is seen as confusing or unnecessary for mere passengers - undoubtedly right though every one of us asked in our own way.
 
“Nearly half” of the contractors are on the Ocean Medallion team who will start installing “hundreds of miles” of new cable required for OM.  Completion work will be done sometime “next year”.  During our sailing it was normal to run into OM techs daily, no work in evidence perhaps just making the game plan.  We were told there were dozens of other contractors aboard getting ready, in no case did they interfere in our voyage even to the slightest extent.
 
We heard a variety of other things mentioned, the most major of which was a possible significant upgrade of the lido pizza / burger / bar area, perhaps bringing new options similar to those we experienced on CB after her last dry dock?
 
Everyone agreed carpet changes, upholstery upgrades and other similar things were on the “we’d like to” list.  I would stress that none of these things were in less than good repair for our cruise so if some or all were missed, likely no big deal.
 
Finally, we were told that many back of the house areas would receive repairs or upgrades not possible with passengers aboard, for example Crooners apparently has a serious water leak deep under the bar, will require the bar to be removed to repair - not possible with pax aboard.
 
This is a 20 day dry dock.  Longer even then the one where Grand received major surgery to remove Skywalkers.  Therefore one assume substantial work though much of this may indeed be behind the scenes.  
 
As luck has it we are again aboard Grand in April just 3 sailings after dry dock and will certainly report back any other changes we observe.
 
Sundry.
 
A throughly enjoyable cruise on a still quite lovely ship.  We look forward to seeing what’s new on our April voyage but frankly wouldn’t be a bit disappointed if all we experienced was more of the same lovely service.
 
Happy to field any specific questions.

 

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Just one more thing.  Our waiter on the last night mentioned that servers will spend part of the time in dry dock experiencing (meaning eating from) 'new' menus.  He explained that this was done so that they could make genuine recommendations when asked is A better than B.  

 

Now, this particular guy was something of a character and it's entirely possible that he was more looking forward to ANYTHING different from the usual day to day grind.  On the other hand there may be soft product changes coming too.  Something else to report back on after our April 6th return to the Grand.

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jondfk,

Thank you so much for taking your time to write your insights.  We will be in one of those sweet WS's on the March 20th sailing just after the drydock!  Am so looking forward to our cruise on this grand ole' lady.  This will be our first cruise on her(10th on Princess I believe) and looking forward to it.  In fact, we first saw her sailing away from Port Everglades with our daughter and new son-in-law on their honeymoon back in January, 1999!

 

Pooh

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Thank you for your post! I am really looking forward to your follow up after your next sailing on the Grand.

We're on her in July, also in a Window Suite. This will be our first time in one of those. Which room were you in? What were your thoughts on it? How was the cabin steward for the Window Suites (I've read mixed things about some of the suite stewards).

 

Do you know if the crew that was on this sailing will be staying on after dry dock?

Also, do you recall who the Cruise Director, Maitre D and Head Chef were on this sailing?

 

I'll be really interested to hear as well if they have a new menu on your next sailing. If you're able to get some pictures of the menus to share that would be awesome!
 

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Thanks for the post.  We are on the Grand shortly and are looking forward to seeing the changes.  We are also looking forward to getting away from winter but that's another post.  :classic_wink:

 

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Were you able to get a barrel chair for your cabin, if below mininsuite?i am also on March 20: sailing. Live in SF, so bringing a. Folding chair just in case

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Good stuff, thanks for the updates

 

 

I also board on the 20th, and look forward seeing the Old Gal spruced up a bit 😎

Srpilo

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1 hour ago, JF - retired RRT said:

Did I miss something?? TEN day Hawaii sailing?

 

Oops.  Mixed up the one we just did (Mexico) with the one just ahead (Hawaii)

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4 hours ago, Dani24 said:

 

Thank you for your post! I am really looking forward to your follow up after your next sailing on the Grand.

We're on her in July, also in a Window Suite. This will be our first time in one of those. Which room were you in? What were your thoughts on it? How was the cabin steward for the Window Suites (I've read mixed things about some of the suite stewards).

 

Do you know if the crew that was on this sailing will be staying on after dry dock?

Also, do you recall who the Cruise Director, Maitre D and Head Chef were on this sailing?

 

I'll be really interested to hear as well if they have a new menu on your next sailing. If you're able to get some pictures of the menus to share that would be awesome!
 

 

Our cabin steward (Raymond) was great, was his first cruise of this contract so his enthusiasm was high.  He will still be on until the very end of this year.

 

We've been in F305/307 & 309 on Grand (and F307 on both CB and Golden).  Aside from flipping the orientation, no difference we could see.  We love these rooms and will be sad to see Golden go fleet exit with her 7 Window Suites.  I do understand why some hate them though, there is some noise from promenade deck above (not bad in my opinion).  There are moments when you'd like to do an outside temperature check.  Overall though we love the space and suite perks.  They are often priced right at the same point as a CC mini - if so - it's a no brainer for me.

 

The entire crew stays on for the dry dock.  As they told us, those 2000 contractors have to be fed.  Apparently they have to be served drinks too - we were told about 2.5x the normal load of beer (per day) is loaded up for the dry dock - apparently the normal order increment is a bucket.

 

Sorry to say I don't pay attention to names of Cruise director etc.  I know the CD was Steve (British).  We met the hotel manager and shared a meal, but again, I don't commit names to memory except of those who directly serve me.

 

Our Club Class host was Peres from Portugal.  A really friendly guy who made it a point to interact with every table, every meal.

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14 minutes ago, jondfk said:

 

Our cabin steward (Raymond) was great, was his first cruise of this contract so his enthusiasm was high.  He will still be on until the very end of this year.

 

We've been in F305/307 & 309 on Grand (and F307 on both CB and Golden).  Aside from flipping the orientation, no difference we could see.  We love these rooms and will be sad to see Golden go fleet exit with her 7 Window Suites.  I do understand why some hate them though, there is some noise from promenade deck above (not bad in my opinion).  There are moments when you'd like to do an outside temperature check.  Overall though we love the space and suite perks.  They are often priced right at the same point as a CC mini - if so - it's a no brainer for me.

 

The entire crew stays on for the dry dock.  As they told us, those 2000 contractors have to be fed.  Apparently they have to be served drinks too - we were told about 2.5x the normal load of beer (per day) is loaded up for the dry dock - apparently the normal order increment is a bucket.

 

Sorry to say I don't pay attention to names of Cruise director etc.  I know the CD was Steve (British).  We met the hotel manager and shared a meal, but again, I don't commit names to memory except of those who directly serve me.

 

Our Club Class host was Peres from Portugal.  A really friendly guy who made it a point to interact with every table, every meal.

 

Thank you! We're in F301, which is the smaller Window Suite. It ended up costing us $1000 less than a CC Mini Suite, and only $100 more than a regular Mini Suite so we went for it. We've never been in a suite before so I think this will be a great treat. I had read about some of the noise from the Promenade. In your experience, was there much noise during typical sleeping hours? I had read there's not supposed to be jogging up there until after a certain time. Hopefully it won't be an issue. Did you find it easy enough to pop up to the Promenade from the cabin? It looks like there are some stairs right near the end of the hallway, and we figured we'd just use those to access the Promenade as our gigantic balcony. 🙂

 

Was this the Steve you had as CD? https://www.linkedin.com/in/steve-campbell-9a5724146/?originalSubdomain=uk

 

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2 hours ago, Dani24 said:

 

Thank you! We're in F301, which is the smaller Window Suite. It ended up costing us $1000 less than a CC Mini Suite, and only $100 more than a regular Mini Suite so we went for it. We've never been in a suite before so I think this will be a great treat. I had read about some of the noise from the Promenade. In your experience, was there much noise during typical sleeping hours? I had read there's not supposed to be jogging up there until after a certain time. Hopefully it won't be an issue. Did you find it easy enough to pop up to the Promenade from the cabin? It looks like there are some stairs right near the end of the hallway, and we figured we'd just use those to access the Promenade as our gigantic balcony. 🙂

 

Was this the Steve you had as CD? https://www.linkedin.com/in/steve-campbell-9a5724146/?originalSubdomain=uk

 

 

F301 is a bit an odd duck, a bit smaller than the others, but still far larger than any normal cabin.  As to noise, we’ve never heard anything while sleeping but you may hear joggers at times, not a big deal in my judgement.  One of the best features of these rooms is quick access from either end to prom deck, 2 minutes tops.

 

Make sure to go to Crown Grill for your suite breakfast.  The best perk I think.  Say hello to Zoran!

 

Yes that’s the right Steve (Campbell)

 

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If you are in a WS on the April 6 sailing we will be neighbors.  I remember Zoran, hope he is still there when we sail.  I too make a mad dash to the sanctuary as soon as I board and am glad to hear I won't have to risk life and limb scrambling to get there before everything is reserved. I really do not want to reserve for the entire cruise but do have several days in mind when the weather should be nice.

See you onboard.

 

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Thanks so much for the information!  We heading on the Grand at the end of June so I am curious as to what changes are made during dry dock.  We have only done the Caribbean Princess before.  Two questions:

 

1.  Are the beds the “new” beds?  When I was on the CB before, there was a lot of discussion on which ships had the new beds.  I wasn’t sure if they have all been changed at this point.

 

2.  Are the TV’s on demand?  My kids really enjoyed watching movies in the room when the Mrs. and I felt like doing more adult things.

 

Thanks!

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On 3/4/2019 at 7:06 AM, PoohUnderstands said:

jondfk,

Thank you so much for taking your time to write your insights.  We will be in one of those sweet WS's on the March 20th sailing just after the drydock!  Am so looking forward to our cruise on this grand ole' lady.  This will be our first cruise on her(10th on Princess I believe) and looking forward to it.  In fact, we first saw her sailing away from Port Everglades with our daughter and new son-in-law on their honeymoon back in January, 1999!

 

Pooh

We're on the March 20 cruise too! It's getting so close!!

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On 3/5/2019 at 12:39 PM, Bignickpsu said:

Thanks so much for the information!  We heading on the Grand at the end of June so I am curious as to what changes are made during dry dock.  We have only done the Caribbean Princess before.  Two questions:

 

1.  Are the beds the “new” beds?  When I was on the CB before, there was a lot of discussion on which ships had the new beds.  I wasn’t sure if they have all been changed at this point.

 

2.  Are the TV’s on demand?  My kids really enjoyed watching movies in the room when the Mrs. and I felt like doing more adult things.

 

Thanks!

 

I'll post, following the April 6 cruise regarding the beds.  I'm not especially sensitive in this regard, but recall the beds on CB being better than those we recently experience on Grand.

 

The TV's are most definitely not on demand and they will not be after the dry dock as far as I know.  As I wrote, the cabling bit of Ocean upgrade is being done, but not the antenna or connectivity bits so, no change to the very old TV systems is likely.

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On 3/4/2019 at 7:39 PM, gbldcl said:

If you are in a WS on the April 6 sailing we will be neighbors.  I remember Zoran, hope he is still there when we sail.  I too make a mad dash to the sanctuary as soon as I board and am glad to hear I won't have to risk life and limb scrambling to get there before everything is reserved. I really do not want to reserve for the entire cruise but do have several days in mind when the weather should be nice.

See you onboard.

 

 

Yes we are in a WS on April 6 and yes Zoran will still be aboard.  See you in the companionway or Crown Grill 😂

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We have cruised in F311, F305 and F301. We were disappointed with F301 because the hall exit door next to our cabin was often propped open. Across the hall is the smoking bar and the smoke would, at times,  filter  into our cabin. I would shut the exit door at every opportunity. 

 

 I suggest you check available cabins for openings in other Window Suite cabins. On our upcoming December cruise to Hawaii, W311 opened and I easily changed it from F305. Even so, F301 is still acceptable, because of all of the Suite perks and location on the ship. Enjoy your cruise. 

 

 

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6 hours ago, candide333 said:

We have cruised in F311, F305 and F301. We were disappointed with F301 because the hall exit door next to our cabin was often propped open. Across the hall is the smoking bar and the smoke would, at times,  filter  into our cabin. I would shut the exit door at every opportunity. 

 

 I suggest you check available cabins for openings in other Window Suite cabins. On our upcoming December cruise to Hawaii, W311 opened and I easily changed it from F305. Even so, F301 is still acceptable, because of all of the Suite perks and location on the ship. Enjoy your cruise. 

 

 

 

What’s the best way to check for one of the other window suites opening up? Right now all of the suites on our cruise are sold out. Should I just keep checking the Princess site to see if the suites come available again? And would I need to go through our TA (Costco) to switch, or can I do it myself?

I had read about the smoke issue with 301, and it is a bit of a bummer. But I felt like it might be worth the hassle for all of the other perks. Did you notice if the smell tended to creep into the room, or mostly just in the hallway? 

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 I checked almost daily and as sales occur, some cabins do open.

 

The smoke was primarily in the hall and it was rare the smoke came in the room. Closing the exit door helped greatly. I agree, the perks out weigh the the inconveniences. 

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We got off the Grand four days ago and hated to leave our beds.  Yes, they're the newer ones and yes, they're heavenly.  So comfortable and four great pillows, although I bring my own side-sleeper.   TVs?  Nope, old style, but maybe change out during the drydock?  Sometimes when we disembark we can see the new supplies coming onboard (mattresses, etc.,) but this one had so many containers being hoisted to the top deck by a huge crane, who knows?  And speaking of that, OMG, the planning that must go into a drydock ... sure glad I'm not the PM!

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