19/05/2011...9:00 pm

We’re Live on Grand Princess!

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Quiz: Is this a before (refurbishment) view of Grand Princess or an after? How can you tell?

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.



  • I have a special place in my heart for the “Grand”. I took my first cruise on her and she initiated my love of cruising.
    Sorry to see Skywalkers go but I like her new look much better. Congrats Grand Princess. May you always have soft winds and following seas.

    • Thad Lovell

      I miss the Grand in all her beauty. I joined the ship several months after she started sailing and worked on her for several seasons. I use to close down Skywalkers and the times watching the Youth Staff perform “Dancing Queen” is something I will never forget.

  • Iain McArthur

    Never been on Grand but I loved the high level Skywalkers on her sister Star Princess. A great place to have a quiet read and watch the surrounding glaciers on a South America cruise.

    • Iain, Skywalkers was my husband Teijo’s favorite bar on any ship (Star, etc.) anywhere. He had a favorite bar stool that he’d appropriate on every cruise (looked right out over the ship and the wake) and it just was his spot.

      He’s sad to see Skywalkers go as well.

      However, on Crown & Ruby, I really loved the Adagio (basically in that space) and the fact that it had outdoor seating. Gorgeous. Not sure what’s up there on Grand now (think similar) but I’m boarding tomorrow and will report back!


  • looking forward to our second meeting with the grand on the 29 June 2011, We sailed our first cruise last year on the Grand ….. have followed her refit online ……

  • It will be interesting to see your opinion of things since we just got off the Grand Saturday, May 21, 2011 in Southampton. When we embarked on the 5th, the ship was not very “grand” and I’m sure there will be lots of lots of negative posts regarding the condition of the ship. The ever hard-working Princess crew was very busy trying to make things right but things still were not 100% after 16 days on the cruise. Let’s see how things go with you this week.

  • I’ll be on the Grand June 15 headed for Norway. I read on a live blog during the TA that there were some problems with plumbing, the elevators, and the interior temperature on the ship. I would like to know if there is any indication of any of this being worked on.

    • cruisecriticuk

      Hi Cathy. I’m not hearing any complaints about the plumbing (we had a problem in our cabin with temperature; it was fixed promptly and works fine, just like any other cruise). No problem either with temperatures around the ship. Mind you people have different internal regulators and what’s too hot for some might be too cool for others but not hearing anything out of the ordinary. The elevators, particularly the middle bank (two of them are out of service and the other four are creaky and slow), are still a nightmare if you’re in a hurry. If you can walk, you may want to do so (or go to the aft or forward bank). I don’t think this is something that was addressed in the refurb. One thing that Pia mentioned a lot in her fantastic blog on the boards was slow Internet. The first day it didn’t work at all but ever since it’s been normal (slower than land but not slower than on other ships).


  • Cathy,
    Hope you have a better sailing then we did on the” Grand.
    I have sail on her before but this time she should have been left in dry dock for at least a few more weeks. The first night of the cruise the captain announced thst we would not be leaving port as scheduled because they had to wait until the ship was fully loaded with passangers and crew in order to perform certain tests to insure that the ship was sea wothy after the removal of the Skywalker disco.
    Some of the problems we encountered were as follows,
    We did not have hot water in our shower for most of cruise. Many times it was tepid at best. Conversly may times we did not get cold water from the sink tap, go figure. The pool areas on Deck 14, were totally wet with leaky pipes during the first week of the cruise.
    People were slipping and some fell trying to walk across them.
    You could see the water comming from the ceiling pipes yet cruise
    director told me he tought it was due to the pools splashing . We had very calm seas and it was visibly comming from the pipes.
    The elevators were horrible and we had no satellite for the first week as well as the inablilty to connect on the internet. Knowing that Princess made no attempt to put out any newsletters to inform us as what is going on in the world. I have sailed across the Atlantic several times and have never experinced this.
    We were in a obstructed ocean view cabin that had a
    life boat ouside it and they seemd to be having problems with the life boat because workers were always going in it and connecting what semmed to be generators to it which often remained on all nitght till we compalined becuse the buzzing noise kept us awake.
    We also had to keep the curtains shut to avoid prying eyes, so much for having an outside cabin.
    Many areas on the ship were not finished such as the new disco , the Crown Grill, wedding chapel and workers were constantly busy laying carpeting and working around the Atrium for the entire cruise.
    The food was very good and the room and wait staff were very nice and sympathized with us .
    We have taken 11 cruises on Princess but on this one we felt like
    we were being used as the paid guinea pigs for Princess.

  • Chris Hancock

    Hi, was interested in your comments. We have booked cabin E211 in August which is obstructed view, is it still a good deal? Wasn’t sure whether to upgrade to a balcony but the cheapest available was only a couple of cabins away from where we would be and didn’t justify the extra cost. I would really like to know more about your cabin if poss? Many thanks,

    • CruisecriticUK

      Did I get back to you? I have had obstructed view cabins, they’re fine. You still get daylight though for a view you’ll have to head to public decks. Let us know how your cruise goes….


  • Diana from CO

    We are travelling on the Grand in late April 2012. Any current insight on how she is doing would be greatly appreciated! THANKS

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