It may be hard to believe this but when Princess Cruises launched Grand Princess 13 years ago the vessel was the Oasis of the Seas of its time. It was, like Oasis, the biggest cruise ship ever built when it debuted in Manhattan (to fireworks and a successful champers smash by godmother Olivia de Havilland). It was brash (the “shopping cart handle” that perched on top of Grand Princess’ top-deck Skywalkers nightclub, not to mention the horizontal escalator you had to ride to get there inspired numerous diatribes from maritime design purists).
It was more like an on-land resort than anything we’d ever seen; with numerous restaurants and bars and entertainment venues. And Grand Princess’ revolutionary design has led to even more outrageous ships (from NCL’s Norwegian Epic to Royal Caribbean’s aforementioned Oasis and its sister, Allure).
But like the mathematical equation that says a cat clocks seven years for every human year, ships age quickly and, often, not so gracefully.
For all that it did have, Grand Princess, as it turned 13 this year, didn’t have a lot. And so Princess is spending millions – it won’t tell us how much, exactly – to incorporate some of the now-popular features, like a vibrant piazza, Vines, the wine bar, the Crown Grill seafood steakhouse, and a tearoom, found on newer ships.
And it’s entirely done away with the bizarre shopping cart-shaped disco.
All this new stuff – will it make cruising better on Grand Princess? Will it make the experience more fun? Can you teach an old ship new tricks? We’re curious – and are hopping onboard Saturday for a week long cruise on Grand Princess from Southampton. Stay tuned as we’ll be chronicling the changes – and the voyage itself, Internet-permitting.