Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grand Princess - Life on Board

For those who are considering cruising, this is the life!

Wake up when you want, or if you have an early tour, get a wake up call! We booked all our tours in the afternoon that way we had plenty of time to get organised in the morning.

We go to breakfast to Horizon Court, the on board 24 hour buffet. The selection is great, cooked breakfast, freshly baked pastries, breads, jams, muffins, fruit galore - it is a paradise of food selection for any taste.

After breakfast we would take Michael to Kid's Club (more on that in another post) which he absolutely loves, then go to the Grand Atrium coffee lounge and get a Capuccino. I bought a Coffee Card on board which gives you discount on coffee, hot chocolate and espresso whilst on board. Remember that drinks and real coffee are not free. After the coffee fix it would generally leave us time to go for a walk, check out the photo board or sit in a lounge and just relax.

The photo boards are good to look at. The ship employs photographers/videographers who go along on tours, take photos at dinner, do formal portrait photos and theme photos. Then each day the photos of everyone are put on the boards, you can then select any you want to buy. They also use the video they shoot to create a cruise DVD that you can buy at the end of the cruise with all the ports of call, special ship events, and lots more.

We had a family formal photo done on formal night when we were all dressed up and purchased the photo. For US$260 we are also getting a canvas print of it in a huge size framed and shipped directly to our home. Even in AU$ we would not get that for the same price. It was a good opportunity to get a family portrait because we would never get around to it once we got home.

Lunches are served in all the dining rooms (there are three main dining rooms), the buffet, the Pizzeria and the Grill. Lots of choice for everyone whether you want a light lunch or a big sit down affair.

After lunch on a sea day, we have had the choice of movies in the theatre, trivia, wine tasting, shopping on board and much more. Princess is good at their sales. They have jewellers, clothes, perfumes, and much more on board. They time their sales well with sea days and they hold the sales in Grand Atrium or in one of the dining rooms. The prices are tax and duty free and heavily discounted at times. Some stuff is junk but lots of good opportunities for good gifts. They had my Guess handbags and Svarovsky jewellery, watches (which I bought many of) and of course lots of trinkets and cruise junk but must haves!!!

Money on board. When on board a cruise, all transactions are cashless. When you get on board they give you a cruise card which is your stateroom door card, ID for getting on and off ship and your method of payment for those items which are not included in the cruise fare. Great not to have to carry money around!

Don't get me wrong, a lot of stuff is included in the fare:

  • Accommodation

  • Gym facilities

  • Pools and all lounges

  • All shows and entertainment

  • Food in all dining rooms, dining areas except two alternative dining areas (the Steakhouse and the Italian restaurant but here you pay a $20 cover charge only)

  • The ice cream parlour is also extra

  • The Lotus Spa is extra for hair and beauty appointments as you would ashore

  • Room service

Really the only extras are:

  • Drinks

  • Shopping

  • Tours if you book any

Other special things on board are:

The Princess Patter - this is the daily ship newsletter, every cruise line has one. Each night you receive one in your stateroom and it has all the activities for the next day on it. It includes shows, games, movies, weather, sales etc. It is a lot of fun to look at each night and plan out your next day. Michael even gets one for the Kid's Club and he loves reading it to find out what he is going to do each day.


There are many dining options on the ship. When you book your cruise with Princess they ask you if you want traditional fixed dining or Anytime Dining. Traditional is a set time each night at the same restaurant, same table, same people. Anytime is basically just that, you turn up anytime and have dinner. If they have no places at that time, they give you a pager and page you when a table opens up. This has only happened to us once so we went to a bar to get a drink and I did not even get to finish it because they paged us so quickly. We love anytime dining. It is good because you do not have to worry about what time your tour gets back or if you want to have a later dinner, you can.

The alternative restaurants like the steakhouse and Italian restaurant are good too but you need to book there to get a table. They charge a cover charge of $20 but it is really good value and the food is great. The cost covers entree, main and dessert a la carte.

Kids are not forgotten either. There is a kids menu and there is always the grill or the pizzeria!!

More next post

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