Travel operator: kinaird travel
We were a group of Me, hubby, daughter 18, daughter 11, Mother and father in law in their late 60's.
We decided to travel down to Southampton the night before and stayed in a travelodge, wasn't the ritz but it served its purpose!
Next morning we couldn't wait to get down to the cruise terminal and actually see the ship!
It didn't disappoint!
It is a beautiful sight!
We got out of the taxi and porters are waiting to take your cases, they go on a conveyor belt and onto the ship! (they appeared a couple of hours later at your cabin)
We kept hand bags and went into the terminal!
This is like a huge airport check-in but very well organised!
A member of staff realised my Father in Law walked with a stick and has a very obvious disability!
She discreetly approached us and asked us if we would like wheelchair assistance (he doesnt use a wheelchair in everyday life, but he has a spine disorder and has a curvature of the spine!)
So at first he declined, but then he realised he had no idea how far we had to walk and so changed his mind and went for the wheelchair assistance!
A very nice man came over, he was very chatty and helpful!
So once we checked in and got our cruise cards (your room key, your pass on and off at ports and your 'money' whilst onboard) we were good to go!
The man wheeled us up ramps and then to a small lift!
He asked if we were ready to eat (I think they try and get you to go to one of the restaurants so they have longer to get the cabins ready)
We were happy to go with the flow, he asked if we wanted buffet or waiter service and we opted for the buffet!
He took us up in the lift and out onto the deck where the buffet was, it was so exciting for us all, first cruise and everything a new experience for us!
He got us seated and left us to it!
We tipped him and off he went!
So that was the first hour!
I wont bore you with the rest of the 14 days and will just summarise the rest!
The food was excellent!
For some reason it took us a few days to venture into the restaurants and tended to eat in the buffet!
The food was lovely in the buffet, lots of choice!
There was always soups, rolls, salads, cold meats, then the whole of the back section was the hot food!
Things like curry, pasta dishes, rice, things like pork in gravy, there were lots of veal, always a hot roast at the carving station, always lots of fish and seafood!
There were also 'themed' days like curry day and sushi day and lobster day!!
The desserts were amazing, always a sugar free option for diabetics, plus lots of others for the greedy people like me who sometimes had to have 2 because I couldn't decide!!
We went into the 'midnight feast' a few nights and it was always well filled up!
It was kind of geared to what you would have after a night on the town, so curry, nacho's with guac, sour cream and salsa, fries, pizza, chicken and buns, club sandwiches, toasted sandwiches, cakes etc..
We soon realised, we would be seriously FAT if we continued, and so we decided to have continental breakfast in the cabin (each evening your room steward left you a card to fill in for drinks and food for the morning and what time to deliver it)and go to the a la cart at night!
The a la cart was amazing, really lovely quality, and if you weren't sure about something, they would let you try it and if you didn't like it, it went back and you got something else!
One evening there was a greek dessert on the menu, it was pastry and honey and cream and I was pondering it, and in the end I went safe and had the very lovely New York Cheesecake, and the waiter brought me both!
The burger place was very good, good quality burgers with salad and fries and all the relishes and sauces you would need!
Daughter said the hotdogs were good too!
We never used the Pizza place but it looked very nice, cooked fresh and lots of people had this round the pool on sea days!
I have to give an honorary mention to the waffle station!
I had no idea this existed, If we did go up for breakfast I saw some people with waffles but by the time we found a table, sat down and shuffled round the buffet I had clean forgotten about the waffles, but if you are going, it is situated where the icecream bar is, and only serves for a limited time, from 7.3o to 10.30am or something like that, but they are cooked fresh and are amazing!
There was always syrups, jams, a huge bowl of whipped cream and fruit like chopped strawberries and pineapple!
DON'T MISS IT!!
Ok I think I have covered the food, if there is anything else you wanna know PM me!
We had a restricted view cabin on Emerald deck, mid ship!
Loved it and would go for that again as the view was absolutely fine and could clearly see out!
It was supposed to be 3 in each cabin, but both my kids wanted to be in with us and it wasn't a problem, they were nice and roomy!
We had the beds apart with the bunks above and we never got cabin fever!
Our cabin steward was a gem, he was lovely he was called Abraham!
Nothing was too much trouble, the towels and toiletries were always well stocked!
Well we tried most things, we did the quizzes, the comedians, the shows, the bingo (daughter won $250 yayy) the theme nights, the singers, the karaoke (didn't sing) the comedy night (the passengers telling the jokes and stories)
and all of this is there because of the wonderful entertainment team!
I have to say they never stopped, from the early morning ping pong tournaments, to the dance lessons, to the full blown West End quality shows, they worked so hard keeping us lot fully entertained!
Great stuff entertainment team!
And how did we know what was going on and where??
Why the 'Patter' of course!
Every night we would get back and waiting for us would be the patter for the next day!
It included any info about the next days port of call, plus what was happening throughout the ship all day and night!
There was something happening every hour of the day and most of the night!
And if you couldn't be bothered to read the patter, then the cruise director sat the next morning and told you everything on your dedicated channel on your cabin TV!
You have to go and properly sign up for this, as they ask if your child is capable of signing themselves in and out!
So for instance, if they wanted to go at 10am for face painting, but then didn't fancy the next task, they could sign out and find you (hard to get lost) and then take themselves back and sign in for whatever session they wanted!
My youngest daughter is 11 and sensible enough to sign herself in and out!
But to be honest, she went once!
She is quite a shy girl and felt happier with us!
But the kids club is very well run, the woman who lead the talk to sign up was an ex teacher from the US, she was really good and I should imagine the kids had a brilliant time in the club!
They even ran the club on port days, so you could check your child in if they didn't want to go ashore, and know they were in good hands!
I know this is a bone of contention with some, and the Princess cruise lines do add $10.50 PPPD including kids!
I was quite happy to pay for me and the hubby, so $21 a day be put on our onboard account!
But the inlaws were less than happy!
So the day after we sailed I went to the pursers desk and asked if it would be possible to erase my in laws tips and for them to be provided with envelopes and if I could knock the kids off and just pay for us 2 adults (eldest kid is still a student and so we were paying for her)
The purser was lovely, he said
Madam, this is your holiday and we want yot to be happy and comfortable with your cruise and so I am gonna remove all the gratuities and you pay whoever and whatever you want at the end of the cruise!
There were several people at the other pursers and all were doing the same and you were never at any time made to feel cheap or stingy!
So please, if the tips are a problem with you, please go and have a word with the purser and it wont be a problem I can assure you!
Formal Nights (3 in the 2 week cruise for us)
Well this was another fear for us, we just didn't know if we would be formal enough!
I spoke to a friend who had done lots of cruising and he said take a dark 'lounge' suit for Tony and black evening pants and nice tops for yourself and you will be fine, see I don't do dresses and Tony would feel trussed up in a DJ!
I mean we wouldn't have turned up in a footy shirt, even on informal night (though some did!!!!!! *sigh* )
We felt fine in our suit and such, and it was lovely to see the fine Kilts and the lovely DJ's and cummerbunds etc..
Very well organised, we went on only 2 organised trips, one to Rome and my hubby and eldest daughter did Pompeii from Naples, and they said the guide they had for Pompeii was amazingly knowledgable, witty and inteligent!
The trips are expensive, but I didn't want the worry of doing Rome ourselves as it is so far from the port, and they wanted a tour guide for Pompeii, so for us, it was worth the money spent!
Our ports were
Malaga: disappointing, we did the tour bus and were a bit meh with it all!
Cartagena:Amazing little gem, lovely palm lined 'front' good shops and very picturesque!
No shuttles in or out from the ship (this was a standard $10 return for each shuttle!)
Barcelona: got the shuttle and it stopped where the tour buses picked up, we did that, we enjoyed the sights, and I love Gaudi so it was thrilling to see all the wonderful architecture!
Monte Carlo: As an F1 fan, I was completely giddy for this port, I got up extra early to watch us sail in, and was so excited!
It was a humid cloudy day, you could walk in from the ship (we did dock and not launch)we did some of the F1 circuit, walked past all the famous little places like the Rascasse, Casino Sqaure etc..
A lot of the grandstands were still up and the grid markings were still there on the 'pit lane'
Civitavecchia: Organised trip to Rome and a lightning tour of Vatican city, loved it, couldn't believe i was seeing the sights of Rome (the Coloseum is amazing)
Naples: for Pompeii and the Amalfi coast, my family did Pompeii and were blown away!
Corsica: docked at Ajaccio and it was lovely, very French, very quaint, I loved it to bits!
Gibraltar: wasn't sure about it before we got off, but really enjoyed it, and it really is like the UK in the sun, complete with M&S, Morrisons, Top Shop and all the other familiar places, but it also has a Mediterranean/Moorish feel to it!
It was a blazing hot day and decided not to do the apes!
The sail away from here was so BRILLIANT!
We all got union flags, and we had the DJ and entertainment team and we sang Rule Britainnia, Land of hope and glory, Sailing, time to say goodbye, Last farewell, plus I'll take the high road, green green grass of home and Danny boy!
Truly fabulous and I am so glad I didn't miss this sail away!
Have I missed anything?
God I hope not!
I am so sorry this is so long, but I sat for many many hours looking for the little details I have put in here, like the food and the entertainment and the getting onboard routine!
I hope I have helped at least someone, and now I have to go as I have RSI!
Travel operator: Princess Cruises
Went for lunch in the Horizon court. Bit busy but lots of choices and waiters clearing tables to ensure room for all. We were late sitting dinner so we had plenty of time to wander the ship and get our bearings. We had sailed on Grand Princess once before so we were just refreshing our memories as to where things were.
Dinner each night was excellent and our waiters were very attentive. If you didn't like what you'd ordered it was no problem getting another dish. You could have two puddings if you had room. As we were six in our party, we had just us at our table.It was our wedding anniversary on the first formal night and the waiters sang to us and we had balloons outside our door. We also had a little cake. There was no charge for this but you can order a bigger cake and breakfast in bed for a fee.
I cannot comment really on the entertainment as by the time we finished dinner it was a rush to get to the theatre for the second show. The ones we did go to were very American and I didn't enjoy them. Kelly Monteith was the comedian and although we stayed to the end, lots of people were walking out.There was a pianist,/singer in one of the bars we walked through and she was good but she didn't need the microphone as it made her too loud.
Our cruise was port intensive and we only had two sea days.After all the sight seeing we were glad to just sit by the pool and read or sleep. I didn't feel there was a lot I wanted to rush off and 'do' There was a quiz but we seemed to always miss it as it was indoors. Who wants to be inside when the weather is nice. Not a lot on in the evening if you didn't see the show. No dance classes unless it is line dancing.There is a gym and golf and a jogging track for those with more energy than me.
Our cabin steward, Joel,looked after us very well as did our waiters. We had an enjoyable cruise and would be happy to sail on the Grand Princess anytime.
Travel operator: Princess
The food was fine but the background music in the Dining room was overpowering. After a few nights, it stopped! Perhaps it annoyed other passengers more than me. Coffee was not so good. We tried Coffee in the bar and even though this was chargeable it was still rubbish. British tastes in entertainment are different from Americans, but the pianist playing in the lobby was a great success with everyone. The Ports of call were very varied. The Autumn colours were a bit late for this cruise, but the warm weather was a bonus. The cruise staff did not cope well with immigration on entering Bar Harbour. Although this was done on board, many UK travellers including us waited over 3 hours to even see the immigration people. When we did, it took a matter of minutes to complete. As we had booked a tour, all the tours were running late and the organization went to pot.
We shared a dinner table with six other passengers and although we were a little apprehensive we all got on very well.
All the facilities were first class,and the only other thing which was a bit sad.. We never saw the Captain except for a few minutes at the cocktail party. I wouldn't know him again if I fell over him. I would sail again with Princess as their standards are very high, but not with The Grand Princess.
On flying home overnight from New York we had paid extra to travel premium plus with BA. We were seated in Economy with no explanation. Its only when you are on board you realise the mistake. There were no seats available and this matter has been raised with Princess cruises who had dealt with the booking. They are looking into the matter as I write and I hope for an early explanation and settlement
Travel operator: Cruise Connections
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