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When Grand Princess was being built back in 1998, it was described by the company as “the biggest, the fastest, the most elaborate, the most technologically advanced … the grandest ship on the ocean”. More than a decade has passed and the ship still continues to uphold its sophistication. A multi-million dollar refurbishment in 2011 included a complete transformation of the ship’s atrium into the much jazzier Piazza. It got its own version of The Sanctuary, a popular adult-only sun deck that debuted on Crown Princess in 2006. Other additions included new restaurants and lounges ranging from Alfredo’s Pizzeria to the Tea Leaves tea salon, the Crown Grill steakhouse and the snazzy One5 nightclub.

Accommodation

Nowadays an abundance of balconied cabins is no big deal, but when Grand Princess was built, the concept was new. The outside cabins on the top four accommodation decks all have balconies, and one of those decks is dedicated to mini-suites. There is a desk/vanity area with a hair dryer and drawers, two end tables with drawers and a console with a mini-fridge and television. The twin beds convert to make a queen. Moving up to full-fledged suite categories, options include a family suite, which essentially is two standard cabins with a living room in the centre and an extended balcony. It sleeps up to eight. Grand Princess’ care for the handicapped is laudable. Handicapped-accessible cabins are available in almost all categories, have large roll-in showers and rooms large enough to support any turning radius. All show and dining venues are wheelchair accessible, and public bathrooms have accessible stalls. Kits are available for hearing-impaired guests and the cruise line even provides ASL translators.

Food

Princess features “Personal Choice” dining, where passengers may dine at will or traditionally, with two sittings in which you’re assigned a table and tablemates, nightly. Two restaurants are dedicated to the flexible dining concept and one to traditional dining. Botticelli, the traditional dining room, is located aft on deck 6; the two Personal Choice restaurants, DaVinci and Michelangelo, are located midship on decks 6 and 7, respectively. Another more cruise-traditional dining venue the Horizon Court, the ship’s buffet area. A fairly innovative design from the get-go, Horizon Court is set up in stations rather than one long cafeteria line in order to cut down on lengthy queues. Don’t miss out on free-dining and 24-hour Piazza, which has an International Cafe, where fresh-baked breads and cookies are available alongside time-appropriate small repasts, like panini sandwiches, salads, bagels, muffins, and to-die-for pastries.

Activities

The Lotus Spa is a self-contained environment located high up and over the bow of the ship. The spa and workout facility itself surrounds an outdoor pool enclosure, with hot tubs, sauna and steam rooms, chaises and chairs for relaxing. The workout room has a variety of equipment including treadmills, stair climbers, bikes and weight stations. A large aerobics room at the very front of the gym offers fabulous views. Pilates, yoga and group cycling sessions are available for a fee, usually $11. A jogging track is available on the Sports Deck and a tennis court. Moreover, a putting green and golf simulator are located on the sun deck. Passengers can always get a great workout and skip a beat by taking one of the many line-dancing classes, offered twice daily on most days.

Families

Princess does impose an age restriction: infants under six months are not allowed on board on most itineraries, and under 12 months on “exotic” itineraries. Although the children’s program is not available for toddlers under three years, parents can spend time with younger kids in the children’s centre, availing themselves of the toys, games and activities. Parents get some alone time with occasional evening programs for young kids. Group babysitting is available at night by prior arrangement; plan on spending $6 per hour per child. Kids are divided into the Princess Pelicans (three-seven years), Shockwaves (eight-12years) and Remix (13-17 years). Offerings for the younger set include crafts and games.

Verdict

A good-value, entertainment-packed choice for families with children aged three years and over and casual cruisers looking for a mix of relaxation and activities.

– Cruise Passenger 

“Princess does better than most lines is offer a seamless blend of traditional cruising with the more contemporary options that are necessary these days.”

– Cruise Critic 

“A multi-choice large ship for informal family cruising.”

– Berlitz

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