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.
On the up side, the food was excellent, even in the buffet. Breakfast in the main dining room was a real treat, and dinners in Michelangelo were superb. The only drawback is that Princess seemed to want everyone booked into fixed dining, and the wait time to dine in the anytime dining room was awful for the first few days. No matter what time you went, there were lineups and a real push to join a larger table. We did agree to that one day, only to discover that when we were the 4th and 5th people seated at a table for 12, we had to wait for the table to fill up (meaning 7 more people had to agree to sit at a large table) before they would take our dinner orders. We met some lovely people but also missed an activity as a result, despite all of us being asked if there was anything pressing we wanted to make.
We did take in a couple of shows, including a magician/comedian, a comedian and former police officer, and the British invasion music show. The shows were of a high quality and we very much enjoyed them. We often don't do the shows, but I would definitely look at them in the future. We also did the second wine tasting, and we always enjoy these activities. We do trivia twice a day on sea days, and I try to go to the crafting group in the mornings. These are activities we have come to really enjoy on Princess, and the staff typically go above and beyond to ensure the activities are fun.
We have always been fortunate enough to book mini-suites on Princess, and the cabin was mostly what we have come to expect, other than the issue I noted below in the cabin review.
We only did two excursions, but both were enjoyable. We visited the turtle sanctuary in Cuyutlan when we stopped in Manzanillo, and we did the luxury sailboat trip in Cabo. The sailboat excursion was excellent, and we would happily do that one again. We snorkelled, tried paddle boarding, and saw lots of whales. The crew went out of their way to ensure that we had a wonderful time.
For perspective, this is our fifth Princess cruise, and we have another Princess cruise already booked for next summer. We have sailed primarily with Princess because we have always enjoyed the ships, the food, and the service. This won't put us off Princess, but I would not sail on this ship again. I would, however, do the same cruise again if offered on another ship.
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.
This was an excellent excursion. We saw the Arch, then sailed to a small cove where we were able to snorkel and try paddle boarding. Afterwards, we sailed back slowly, stopping to see whales. The crew was wonderful, the food was excellent, and it was a great way to spend half a day.View All undefined undefined Reviews