We sailed on Grand Princess on February 11th, 2020, out of San Francisco and south along the coast of Mexico. We chose this cruise because friends were going, and because we had never visited any of the ports before, so we thought it was a good way to get a snapshot of these ports.
The cruise got off to a poor start, which was not the fault of the staff, but we felt we paid for it in substandard service for the first couple of days. There had apparently been a medical emergency on the ship on the cruise just prior, and the ship arrived in San Francisco 9 hours late. That meant that passengers like us had to check out of hotels in San Francisco in the morning, with nowhere to go until we were finally allowed to line up to embark at around 9 pm. Princess did give each passenger a $25 US refundable credit, ostensibly to cover dinner, as we were supposed to board in time to sail at 4 pm. They also clawed back $15 of that credit for a tip for a day on which we only spent two hours on the ship. I know tips are optional, but it wasn't the fault of the crew and we didn't feel comfortable punishing them for the late departure. Unfortunately, because of the late arrival and subsequent rushed preparations for the next cruise, it took at least a couple of days before members of our group were able to get things as basic as bathrobes, wine glasses, and distilled water. We were told at one point part way into the cruise that they had not had time to load wine, or relish for burgers on the ship in San Francisco, and the crew was not particularly helpful or even pleasant on occasion. There seemed to be a turning point at dinner time on the third day out, and things were mostly better from that time. Again, we understand the delay on departure day would have been very hard on the crew, but it wasn't easy for embarking passengers (or I expect for those disembarking who missed flights, etc). It was no one's fault, but somehow we felt we paid for it anyway. Other than the initial glitch, embarkation and disembarkation went exceptionally smoothly. San Francisco is an excellent port.
Grand Princess is showing her age. The ship has visible rust on the hull, and balconies. There was a bucket catching water dripping from the ceiling in the middle of the corridor a little way down from us for nearly the whole cruise. There were two elevators not working midship for pretty much the entire cruise, and one at the back that was also down by times. That one was one of the only two that went to the 15th and 16th decks, so for anyone who is mobility challenged, getting up there was tough. Unfortunately, there are also no stairs midship, so while I am normally happy to leave the elevators for those folks needing them, there wasn't an option. As a result, the waits for elevators were often very long, and some people resorted to getting on and riding in the opposite direction to where they were going just to be able to get on. That was a lot of fun on disembarkation day when elevators would arrive at the 14th floor full of people with their suitcases while people were trying to leave the buffet.
The cabin would have been quite fine but for a terrible experience with an odour in the cupboard that turned out to originate in the safe. It smelled like someone had dumped a strong B vitamin in the safe. We discovered, very late in the cruise, that it was coming from a wrist watch with a leather band that had been left in the safe and not found by the cabin steward. At this time, I have a passport case, a jewelry pouch, and my passport that smell so bad I can't stand to be around them. The passport has to be kept and fortunately, seems to have been somewhat protected by being inside the pouch, but the other items will likely have to be thrown out as there doesn't seem to be any way of removing the terrible smell. And we had to spend the entire cruise dealing with the stench in the closet despite our steward scrubbing it out at the beginning when we asked him about the smell.