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cougaraz

Live from Grand Princess, Roundtrip San Francisco, 14-24 August 2019

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9 hours ago, grapau27 said:

Looking forward to your review.

We are departing on the Grand from SF in November to Hawaii and keen to hear about SF and the ship.

Graham.

Hawaii is our favorite itinerary! I hope you have a great time!

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Posted (edited)
58 minutes ago, The Mikado said:

The wine police guy didn’t mention an additional corkage fee beyond the $15 and the dining room folks checked the sticker and were satisfied. 

 

Curious to hear your experience if it’s been different in the past than ours today. 

Usually if you pay the corkage you are fine.  There have been times when they didn't see a sticker, or a sticker was not provided, but having proof of payment helped to resolve the issue. 

Edited by jennybenny

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14 minutes ago, jennybenny said:

Hawaii is our favorite itinerary! I hope you have a great time!

Thank you,this will be our first time there.

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10 hours ago, Lucky TGO said:

Enjoy and have a great cruise 🚢 

Tony

 I hope I’m not hijacking this thread from the OP. But, thank you, Tony. 

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Additional observations:

 

The first hiccup came at dinner. We were “confirmed” for a table for 2 over 6 weeks ago as verified on our booking docs. We showed up to dinner and were directed to a table for 6... with all 6 seats occupied. Back to the maitre’d. The word “confirmed” has, evidently, been given a new definition by Princess. It now means “We really didn’t think you took us seriously when we promised you a private table just for the 2 of you”. So, they sat us at an empty table for 2 which, for some reason, we can’t have for the rest of the cruise, just for last night. Some sort of resolution was promised for tonight, but not necessarily involving a “We really mean it this time” confirmed table for 2. 

 

Dinner, itself, was somewhat disappointing. The “crab cake” appetizer was a lot more “cake” than “crab” with an unpleasant, vaguely crab-like doughy taste and consistency, on top of which was ladled a partially-congealed flour-based sauce. Ick. 

 

I had the mussels and chorizo main dish. The mussels were OK but the chorizo seemed to be more kielbasa-like. Again, OK but surprising. I grew up in LA and I ate a lot of chorizo over the years. I think all my old burrito stand cooks would have looked at this sausage and said, “Que?” It was served with a small bowl of ice-cold, underdone steak fries. 

 

The waitstaff was was excellent and very friendly. 

 

Really rough seas seas last night and into this morning exacerbated by our cabin location up high and far aft. My wife has her patch glued on and is sawing away. 

 

Minor quibble: our robes were also “confirmed”... which, I suppose, explains their absence from our room. 

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I'm confused. I thought this was a "live from.." By cougaraz. Are 2 of you doing a " live from..." on the same thread? 

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My apologies. I thought anyone on the ship could add to the thread. I’m brand new on the boards and was not aware of the “live from...” protocol. 

 

I will I’ll apologize to Cougar in person later this morning.  

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Well your comments and observations are certainly welcome since you are on the same cruise 🙂

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23 minutes ago, The Mikado said:

My apologies. I thought anyone on the ship could add to the thread. I’m brand new on the boards and was not aware of the “live from...” protocol. 

 

I will I’ll apologize to Cougar in person later this morning.  

The more reviewing the better.

I am reading with great interest.

Graham.

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1 hour ago, rocklinmom said:

Yes I was wondering the same thing...is this thread by cougaraz or The Mikado?

Both ... they're both on the same cruise and giving their opinions. 2 sets of eyes are better than 1 IMHO

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3 hours ago, The Mikado said:

 

 

Minor quibble: our robes were also “confirmed”... which, I suppose, explains their absence from our room. 

Just ask your steward, it sometimes takes a day to receive your robes because they may still be in the laundry from the prior cruise.

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16 hours ago, The Mikado said:

I also noticed this outside our room:imageproxy.php?img=&key=6ee4bfcebcfde1cb

D9A8BD35-36B9-445D-8681-D6538466C736.jpeg

This will be our cabin 12-3-19!!! Can't wait to see pics!!  Curious...  Do the bedside lamps have USB plugs?  Thank you in advance!!

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Mikado & cougaraz,

Do either of you have wifi?  If so, how is it?  I'm asking for a friend.  I thought i'd read before that it was pretty slow and not worth the $$ it cost. Would like to confirm.  Thank you.

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Mikado - Quick question... Once you paid your corkage fee, did you then need to lug the case of wine around with you until you had access to your cabin?  I'll be boarding in a couple weeks with a half case, which is a little more manageable, but still curious as to what to expect.  TIA!

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12 hours ago, jennybenny said:

Usually if you pay the corkage you are fine.  There have been times when they didn't see a sticker, or a sticker was not provided, but having proof of payment helped to resolve the issue. 

They gave us 10 stickers which destruct if you try to remove them but never asked to see the wine. Maybe the bag screener person tells the wine cop how many he counted on the X-ray. The screener DID comment that there was wine in our bag and the wine cop’s desk was fairly close but I didn’t see any formal procedure where info obviously was exchanged. 

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2 hours ago, Dietemann said:

Just ask your steward, it sometimes takes a day to receive your robes because they may still be in the laundry from the prior cruise.

Thank you. We got them this morning. The OSFM was not OSFMe. 

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2 hours ago, MishelleMcc said:

This will be our cabin 12-3-19!!! Can't wait to see pics!!  Curious...  Do the bedside lamps have USB plugs?  Thank you in advance!!

Yes, each lamp has a single USB plug. 

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2 hours ago, SmilesYourWay said:

Mikado & cougaraz,

Do either of you have wifi?  If so, how is it?  I'm asking for a friend.  I thought i'd read before that it was pretty slow and not worth the $$ it cost. Would like to confirm.  Thank you.

We have the unlimited plan for one device which can be shared among multiple devices, just one device at a time. 

 

It it is not super-fast. Or even fast, for that matter. I’m still running my business from the cruise so I didn’t really have a choice. Voice call quality has been adequate. 

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33 minutes ago, SactoSteve said:

Mikado - Quick question... Once you paid your corkage fee, did you then need to lug the case of wine around with you until you had access to your cabin?  I'll be boarding in a couple weeks with a half case, which is a little more manageable, but still curious as to what to expect.  TIA!

 Yes, any wine you bring on board has to be in your carry-on baggage. There won’t be any problem with half a case in a box but you will have to keep it with you once you come on board. I did see where they were offering to allow early boarders the ability to store their carry-on bags in the Explorers Lounge until the rooms were made available. 

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Thursday August 15th, At Sea

 

Good morning from Grand Princess, underway off the West Coast of the California, near Eureka and sailing north under clear skies.  Temperatures this morning are noticeably cooler than yesterday, with a predicted high only in the mid 60s.  The ride is comfortable with a little bit of vibration and movement that is mostly wind induced on our northerly transit.  The seas remain quite calm with some white caps, but there is very little swell running at the moment.  That being said, we are bucking headwinds of close to 40 knots.  The result is that the Promenade Deck is not available for walking this morning due to safety concerns, which is a bummer. My wife did attempt to walk outside on Deck 14 and 15, but after nearly being swept off her feet by the wind, we decided to head inside.

 

Returning to yesterday, we had the smoothest and quickest embarkation experiences we have enjoyed in all of our years of cruising.  We checked out of the Palace Hotel at 11:00 am in San Francisco and the doorman helped us catch a taxi and we were on our way.  The trip down to Pier 27 was quite quick and pleasant on such a gorgeous day.  I was momentarily worried when we turned onto the Embarcadero as the traffic was very heavy, but it was momentary and once we started moving it was smooth all the way to the entrance to the pier.  San Francisco has implemented some smart policies in the vicinity of the pier, especially putting crossing guards at the entrance to the pier taxi queue and parking area.  The Embarcadero is a very popular track for walkers and runners, so having someone there to deconflict the vehicle and pedestrian traffic is a great win for both groups and a solid safety improvement.

 

Our taxi driver had no problems making his way to the curb by 11:25 am and the loading and unloading area was active, but not busy.  The only hiccup or negative point in our embarkation was the porter service we received.  In Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Southampton the porters are friendly, proactive and more than happy to help get bags out of the vehicle and on their way to the ship.  However, yesterday in San Francisco the porter seemed more than happy to have us unload our own bags, was not friendly by any definition and seemed a bit put out that he was being asked to move bags.  Nonetheless, within moments our bags were on their way and we were headed into the terminal.  We had to show our passports and the entrance door and then proceeded to security.  The screening was painless and quick, with no need to remove shoes or belts.  From there we proceeded to check in and there were agents just looking for work, they were waving their little number signs and looking a bit sad that no one was using their services.  We checked in at the very last station and had a very nice older gentlemen checking us in.  He was new and in training, so it took a few extra seconds to scan our passports and deliver our cruise cards.  He was super friendly and given a few hours of practice will be great at helping people start their cruise.  Cruise cards in hand, we walked to the ship, with a momentary pause for the obligatory photo and we were onboard!  No lines, no waiting and no drama.  We were dropped off at 1125 and by 1145 we were sitting in the Davinci Dining Room browsing the lunch menu.

 

Our first lunch was precisely as we have come to expect it.  Ever since we learned about dining room lunch on embarkation day, our first go was on our South America cruise on the Golden, we have taken advantage and I have had a chance to compare various ships on a menu that remains largely the same across the years.  So, I ordered the bay shrimp and avocado appetizer, the cheese filled ravioli and the souffle for dessert.  Melissa also started with the bay shrimp and avocado, had the salmon for her main and the papaya frozen yogurt for dessert.  The service was friendly and attentive and the food was delicious.  Honestly, the ravioli might be the best I have had onboard, the cheese filling was light, creamy and full of flavor.  Our first impression, which would be confirmed at dinner was that the food and service are both outstanding and exceeding expectations.  We were pleasantly surprised to see Giovani as the head waiter in our section.  We sailed in a suite on our South America cruise and he was our host in Sabatini’s for breakfast.  He is funny, friendly, engaging and runs a very tight team that delivers great service.

 

After lunch, we spent a little while exploring the ship.  My impressions, based on my cruising experience and two decades in the US Navy, including two Executive Officer tours is that the ship is in very good condition, cleanliness is absolutely outstanding and new carpet and cosmetic refreshes are obvious in public spaces.  I did notice that the age of the ship is noticeable, not in terms of neglect or damage, but the aging and maturity that occurs on a well maintained ship over time.  The exterior paint on the hull looks like it could use a refresh, but I suspect that is primarily due to lots of salt and moisture on recent runs to and from Alaska and some very stringent regulations on the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in California.  All in, the Grand looks fantastic, the crew is warm and friendly, the new carpet looks great and you can see that Medallion installation is in progress.

 

During our walk around, we proceeded outside to take some pictures and enjoy the warm sunshine.  I don’t think many people say or hear those words when referring to San Francisco.  Having spent a lot of time in the Bay Area and Melissa having lived here for two years, yesterday was definitely a one in a million type of day for departure.  We did not hear an announcement about rooms being ready, but we were outside and fairly interested in other things, so we may have just missed it.  So around 1:20 we headed down to our room.  Fortuitously, it was ready and we headed inside.  We are in a Dolphin Deck mini suite and the room is great.  Everything is in good repair.  Recent upgrades include the installation of two flat screen TVs mounted on the walls to replace the previous smaller flat screens installed in the corner credenza.  Also, the lamps have all been replaced with new models that include a USB charging point.  I will go into a more in depth description and review of the room later.  When we arrived all four of bags had arrived, but I took a few moments to shoot some video of the room before we brought them inside and started to unpack. 

 

Unpacking went smoothly as Melissa and I deftly maneuvered around each other to stow all of our clothing and supplies in a little under 30 minutes.  During that time, our steward, Jimmy, stopped by to introduce himself and welcome us onboard.  Having unpacked and having some time before the Safety Assembly, which is the new term for muster, we decided to take a brief nap.  I have to say, it was a great call.  30 minutes of snoozing was just what the doctor ordered for some refreshment.  We proceeded to Explorers and as we arrived a few minutes early, we had not trouble securing a seat on the left side near the back.  While our steward said 3:15 and the Patter said 3:20, it was closer to 3:40 before things actually started.  Once the briefing began, it was less than 10 minutes total and was very direct and painless.  I still remember having to put on my lifejacket and actually stand under my assigned lifeboat, which seems like it was quite a waste of time.  There is now no requirement to bring your lifejacket and I think they have done a commendable job of making the briefing direct, to the point and a short as practical while still conveying the required information.

 

Following the Safety Assembly, we headed down to the International Café.  We are traveling with a substantial supply of unused punches on the legacy coffee cards thanks to having the worlds best mother who enjoys her daily dose of caffeination and International Café peanut butter cookies, so we are keen to use them up as we are the last in our family that will be cruising prior to their expiration at the end of August.  I retrieved two large lattes and headed to a table only to discover Melissa had secured a piece of pecan pie and a cookies and cream cheesecake.  I am not usually a huge sweet eater, but these were absolutely delicious, neither was over sweetened and they had great flavor.  We enjoyed our snack and then moved to the Promenade just as we started moving away from the pier. 

We had a fabulous perch on the port side to watch us making our way off of the pier and out into the channel.  When the ship was fair in the channel and headed outbound, we shifted up to our balcony and were treated to absolutely stunning views of the city and Golden Gate as we maneuvered out to sea.  Once underway and making way, the breeze became pleasantly cool and fresh.  This brings me to my first major tip for any cruise, but especially for Alaska, bring a good pair of binoculars.  We have a compact pair of mid-range Nikon binoculars and it was great to be able to see Melissa’s old neighborhood and the city up close.  There are a lot of reasons that the 10 day Alaska trip out of San Francisco is so popular, but I think that the chance to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the highlights and it is such a breathtaking and iconic way to begin the journey.

 

After a quick rinse in the shower and a change of clothes we were off to dinner in the dining room.  We had a very nice table for two and our waiter was Ramon from Mexico.  He was very friendly and the service was exceptionally efficient.  Generally, we like to take our time with dinner and enjoy each other’s company and a nice leisurely meal.  Last night perhaps wasn’t as long or drawn out as some nights will be, but we were understandably tired and in a mellow mood.  Melissa had the honors on the first bottle of wine and opted for a superb Col D’orcia Italian red.  It was pleasantly sharp and a great accompaniment for rich or meaty foods.  My dinner choices were the crab cake, the chilled cucumber and yogurt soup with the roasted pork for my main.  Melissa opted for an appetizer portion of the fettuccine alfredo and the Club Class special for the evening which was a LARGE cut of the prime rib served with a Yorkshire Pudding.  My crab cake was pedestrian, too much cake, not enough crab and the sauce was sort of congealed.  It was okay, but was not blowing my skirt up.  The chilled soup was light and refreshing, but I ordered it primarily as an homage to my late dad who loved the chilled soups on Princess.  However, my pork was a home run, it was moist and tender, the sides were a great compliment to the meat and the sauce was delicious!  Melissa was kind of quiet while her prime rib disappeared, save for a lot of satisfied mmmmmmm sounds, which I took to mean it was delicious.  

For dessert, I went with the flourless chocolate cake and Melissa chose a scoop of chocolate chip and a scoop of butter almond ice cream, both choices were big hits.  All in, our first dinner was a solid success with great service and food.  I would love to tell you about the wild evening we spent trying all the bars, checking out all the shows and putting a hurting on the casino, but we were tired, we are on vacation and we decided to go to bed early and enjoy our wonderfully comfortable bed.  As far as embarkation days and first impressions go, the crew is friendly, the ship is looking great, the food is delicious, and we have already met some great fellow passengers.

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27 minutes ago, The Mikado said:

Yes, each lamp has a single USB plug. 

Thank you!!!  makes life so much easier!!😎

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5 hours ago, The Mikado said:

My apologies. I thought anyone on the ship could add to the thread. I’m brand new on the boards and was not aware of the “live from...” protocol. 

 

I will I’ll apologize to Cougar in person later this morning.  

Please don't stop your live comments.  Having two people reporting on the same cruise makes for a more interesting perspective on the experience.

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28 minutes ago, cougaraz said:

 

"Thursday August 15th, At Sea...  I would love to tell you about the wild evening we spent trying all the bars, checking out all the shows and putting a hurting on the casino, but we were tired, we are on vacation and we decided to go to bed early and enjoy our wonderfully comfortable bed. "

 

Wonderful read!  Thank you!!

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