Six months before taking this cruise, my husband (Justin) and I (28 at the time; Justin is 35 and it was our first cruise) were in Fort Lauderdale for the weekend. Our hotel was not far away from Port Everglades, Princess’s port of call. As we mentioned it, the concierge told us that a lot of ships were leaving on Sundays and it was well worth a glimpse. We took his words. It happened that we were thinking of sailing on the Grand and, surprise, there it was! I have never seen a ship this huge. My jaw dropped at its sight. Not only was it massive, but also elegant with the nightclub hanging over the water like a whale‘s tail. Other people were there to enjoy the show. And what a show! Once the anchor was off, this huge ship backed up a little, turned around, put her nose toward the sea and sailed away, all of that seemingly without an effort, just by gliding. It was so awe-inspiring that I dreamt of it the same night.
Needless to say we were exited once we arrived at Fort Lauderdale. The taxi ride from the airport is not expensive, the harbor being so close. If you have a car, know that parking doesn't’ come cheap ($12/day) so you might as well find some kind of arrangement if possible.
We bought our ticket online at the price of the lowest level inside cabin, having a guaranteed reservation but we didn’t choose our room yet in the hope we might be upgraded. And surprise, when we received our ticket, we were indeed upgraded to an outside stateroom with a partially obstructed room. So that is a thing to remember when you book a cruise. Once you arrive at the terminal, there are employees who are taking charge of the luggage you’ll be checking in (don’t forget the tip).
The embarkation is quite similar to what happens at the airport. You show your ID, your ticket and you receive your cruise card, which you must have at ALL INSTANT. It will be your embarkation card, your credit card on the ship (and on Princess Cays) and, of course, the key-card to your room. You go through the metal detector thing and you are on your way. Despite the number of passengers the ship was sold out which means they had to process 2600 passengers), we didn’t wait too long and everything went smoothly. Just before the gangway, a photographer is already there, prompt to immortalize the smiles on all those happy faces. My heart raced as I climbed on the gangway then stepped down on the boat for the first time. I could already feel a gentle rocking. And how beautiful! You access the ship via the Atrium, which is quite "Grand" with lovely tones of beige. The first thing you do is of course, go to your room and drop your stuff. We were quite in a hurry and exited. We took the glass elevator to our stateroom located on the Emerald deck (deck 8), approximately mid-ship. Since the atrium is in front of the ship, the corridor was quite long and it was quite impressive to see.
The room was just the right size, not too small but not big either (actually bigger than I expected) with two beds put together and forming a queen size bed, a mini-fridge, a desk on the right of the bed with a chair and a big mirror above (the old trick of the mirror to make a room loom bigger. And of course, a TV (which broadcast CNN, Discovery Channel, TNT, a Movie Channel (with movies that have not been released in video yet), the Princess Channel (which gives you information about what‘s happening on the ship), ESPN... We also had a big enough closet (in which there is a little safe) and a smaller one for T-shirts and underwear. The bathroom is small but that didn’t bother us. However, if you’re tall and/or large, fitting in the shower may be a little tricky. The ship has its own water-recycling unit and the water is probably one of the best I have ever tasted. Our window was partially obstructed indeed but, of course, it didn’t matter and we were not there to spend the day in our stateroom. Shortly after we entered our room, our stewardess came to greet us. Her name was Ana-Maria and it was her first time on the Grand Princess. She explained to us some of the basics of our cabin and the ship, showed us how the safe was working and asked us if we had any special request. Nice lady but I was able to notice a hint of authoritarian character. But she was impeccable during our entire trip. The great thing for those who like to eat is, as soon you embark, you can go straight to the buffet. Having had one of those deli-style bag on the plane from Chicago, we were quite hungry and headed for the Horizon Court.
Hopefully, one of the first thing you notice in the large room is a little plan of the ship you can carry in your pocket because it is quite easy to get lost in the first couple of days. The Horizon court is located on the Lido Deck (or deck 13) on the aft side of the ship. It was really crowded as a lot of people have the same idea as soon as they embark: eat! The buffet line was ornate with watermelon and ice sculpture and everything looked REALLY appetizing (especially the dessert). We sooned discover they were the best part of the buffet. I tried not to stuff myself already because I really wanted to enjoy my dinner in the main dining room.
I was so excited, I caught myself dancing on the island beat that filled the restrooms and the corridors. At 4pm, there is a mandatory Safety Drill. You won’t escape it since the stewards are checking every room.
You will have to carry with you your life jacket. On our way to our muster station, we already had our jackets on, playing sumos in the hall. After the drill (you will be pleased to know that there is enough lifeboats to fit all passengers in the improbable case you’d have to abandon ship), we decided to carry on visiting the ship.