Grand Princess cruise

Here are our comments about our transatlantic voyage, Aug. 27-Sept. 12, ’04, aboard the Grand Princess of Princess Cruises (Santa Clarita, CA; phone 800/774-6237 or visit

On this trip, we flew from Detroit to Amsterdam, caught a flight to Copenhagen and boarded ship there. We stayed at the Radisson SAS, a wonderful hotel, near the center of Copenhagen. They have wonderful buffets featuring delicious seafood and luscious desserts. We had only a half day in Copenhagen, enough time to get a cab and visit the Black Diamond, their beautiful new library. There is a café and a good shop there, too.

Then we boarded the Grand Princess.

Many good shore tours were offered. We took ones that had less walking and still saw plenty of interesting sites.

The ship was late docking at our first port, Dover, as seas were very rough all night. We were pitched from side to side in bed! We took the “Historic Steam Train and English Tea” excursion on the historic Kent & East Sussex Railway. Train buffs have purchased the rolling stock, tracks, etc., of this antique train and run it as a labor of love. In a quaint dining car, passengers are served very good scones with clotted cream and jam and, later, assorted cakes with tea or coffee — quite a delight for the short ride.

At Falmouth there was a tour to scenic and historic Land’s End.

Dublin, Ireland, had a good, sunny day for the tour out to Powerscourt Gardens and Manor House. My husband and I took this for the limited walking — he found a bench overlooking the Wicklow Hills and I tried to get down to the gardens, but there were many stone steps without a handrail, so that stopped me from attempting to go down by myself. This should have been noted on the tour description.

I could walk the incline down and up to the vantage point of the Japanese Garden, but I did not venture all the way down the steps to the lower garden even though there was a handrail.

The manor house had a delightful small café with soup, sandwiches and sweets, and I had the best piece of lemon-filled cake ever made! There were also very good shops there with a wide variety of items, including some doll house furniture.

After stops in Scotland and Ireland we took the “Golden Circle” tour out of Reykjavik, Iceland — a very good tour. It included a fresh salmon lunch at the geyser area, where the Stokkur Geyser erupted often enough for us to get good pictures. There were good shops there, but with a large portion of the 2,600 people from the ship on the tour, the shops were so jammed that many people had to forgo shopping as the bus was leaving!

Reykjavik is quite a big city — interesting and clean, with an unusual domed building called The Pearl that offers food, a view of the city, etc.

Qaqortoq, Greenland, had a beautiful sunny day, cool but not cold. We could only walk to town on our own, up a hill to the post office where they gave us free cards and good stamps to mail home. Vendors on the pier area had very expensive handicrafts.

Continuing, we saw lots of icebergs pretty close.

St. John’s, Newfoundland, was a very good stop — a clean city, easy to walk, with good shopping. The city highlights tour was very good.

Now for our comments on the ship. The Grand Princess is a lovely ship but way too big, for our tastes — too much walking to various rooms for those who are not very able-bodied. Also, there are too many people going on shore at one time for site touring and shopping.

The ship had very good personnel.

We also liked having the tips added onto our bill at the end of the cruise.

We loved the 24-hour buffet on Lido Deck; the food was always top-notch and nicely served. We took late seating in the Botticelli Dining Room, but there were quite a few other dining options. We still prefer to have a stated table at a certain time. The food was very good in the main dining room, too, but I think some of the special foods offered in the Lido’s Horizon Buffet dining area were even better; there were particularly excellent desserts at the buffet.

Entertainment on board would be just one type of performer. One show would be just dancing and singing numbers by a young group. Another show would be a male or female singer or a juggler. Two comedians each had their own show, and a wonderful xylophone musician named Finkel did two solo shows. We still prefer the old variety shows in which there are different performers and they are alternated each night.

Princess has a reward system for those who take a number of cruises with them. We were at 15, so we were rated “Elite” passengers who got an extra 10% discount at shops; hors d’oeuvres and chocolate-coated strawberries brought to our cabin on several afternoons, plus free pressing and some laundry done.

Overall, we rate the cruise as very good for the ship amenities and the itinerary. Our only complaint is about the mob scene and confusion we confronted at disembarkation in New York.

St. Petersburg, FL