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Caribbean 1203
Caribbean 1203

Cruising on the Grand Princess

Ft Lauderdale - Princess Cays - at sea - George Town, GC - Costa Maya, Mexico - Cozumel, Mexico- at sea - Ft Lauderdale

 
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Rating (out of 5):    Ship    Food    Service    Itinerary

This cruise was booked as the second leg of back-to-back cruises (see our Century cruise for details). The cruises were out of sync by one day, so we did a night on land in between itineraries. Dave and Joan joined us for the second leg on the Grand Princess. Here's the scoop.

Day 1 (Dec 7) - Boarding in Ft Lauderdale

We were just getting our land legs back from the previous cruise, and it was time to board the next one. Ft Lauderdale was still experiencing below normal temperatures, and it was quite cool. The embarkation process went fairly quickly and we were soon on board. It was about noon and the cabins weren't supposed to be open until 1:00, but we slipped in anyway and dropped off our carry-on luggage. Then we headed up to the buffet for lunch.

After lunch, we did a tour of the ship. It was the largest ship that we had been on, and the top deck seemed huge. There were 4 pools strung the length of the deck. We had to pop up to the "shopping cart handle" and check out the 18th story disco. Lots of lights and glitter there! After that, we did the life boat drill and then watched the sail away from the top deck.

Day 2 (Dec 8) - Princess Cays

We arrived at Princess Cays early the next day. It was overcast and still very cool (I think about 17 or 18 degrees). We tendered in and sat (shivered) on the beach. The snorkelling was quite good along the edge of the beach. Very convenient and a lot of fish. Princess Cays reminded us a lot of Half Moon Cay (HAL's private island). The sand and ocean were just as nice. This is NOT a private island though. It is a peninsula at the end of Eluthera Island, which is inhabited by several thousand Bahamians. There was an area near the beach where locals were allowed to peddle their wares. Not obtrusive at all.

Instead of doing the beach BBQ, we decided to head back to the ship and do the lunch in the dining room. We can have hamburgers at home! Then we went back to the beach to read on the sand. If it had only been warmer, it would have been a perfect day. This is an awesome beach!

Day 3 (Dec 9) - A Day At Sea

The weather was warming up as we sailed south. Now it was feeling more like the Caribbean. There was lots happening all over the ship. Princess has added some new programs like ceramics and pottery. They also offer scuba certification packages (but only on Caribbean itineraries).Trivia contests are very popular. We participated in one where you had to identify Beattle's songs based on the first bar or so of the music.

The Grand is a wonderful ship. The only thing we noted as strange were the 8 balcony cabins (4 each side) by the promenade deck stairs near the bow. Passengers walk by on the outside of the balcony enclosures and can look right in to these cabins. Weird!

Day 4 (Dec 10) - George Town, Grand Cayman

Unlike our previous visit to GC, this time we made it in time for our excursion. This is a tendering site, so it does take some time to get on shore. We had booked the Captain Marvin's Stingray City tour. We met at the dive shop just a short distance from the tendering pier. From there we were bused to the north end of the island and boarded a small boat. The trip to the stingrays was across a huge bay that seemed 10 to 20 feet deep. Stingray City was amazing. The water is only chest deep, but schools of stingrays swim all around you. Our tour guide seemed to be best buddies with the stingrays and held one out of the water so that we could all see it. Definitely a worthwhile excursion.

After lunch on the ship, we headed back into town at did some shopping. GC is a very interesting island to visit. really enjoyed it.

Day 5 (Dec 11) - Costa Maya, Mexico

Costa Maya is a new stop for cruise ships.If you're looking for shopping and night life, this isn't the place. There is a small shopping village at the end of the pier and that's it. Dave and I booked a bicycle/kayak excursion. We received our bikes at the pier and took off along the coast line for about 3 miles. There we encountered a Mexican village - dirt roads, kids on bikes and dogs running around. We stopped at a nice beach and got into kayaks. We could see the ship from where we were kayaking. After the kayak outing, we hopped on the bikes again and rode back to the ship. It was really fun. The sun was shining and it was quite hot, so I got a bit of a burn.

After lunch on the ship, we wandered around the small town at the end of the pier. If you like peace and quiet, you'll love this port. If you're into shopping, hotels or bars, you won't like it.

Day 6 (Dec 12) - Cozumel, Mexico

Another hot and sunny day. This was our second time to Cozumel, and this time we had booked an all day excursion to Tulum and Xel-Ha (pronounced "shell-ha"). We were picked up at the cruise dock by a ferry that crosses over to Playa del Carman on the mainland. After a 45 minute ferry ride, we walked half a mile or so to the buses that would take us to Tulum. The trip to Tulum is also about 45 minutes (south), but we stopped at a handycraft shop along the way. Tulum was amazing. There are a lot of Mayan ruins there, and the site is right on a cliff overlooking the blue ocean. This would have been the Mayan Club Med (if they had one).

On the way back, we stopped at Xel-Ha, which is a manmade lagoon with beaches and water sports. We did the snorkelling thing. There wasn't a large variety of fish there, but the fish were HUGE. There was a school of rainbow parrot fish that must have been 3 - 4 feet long. The excursion was really great.

Day 7 (Dec 13) - Another Day At Sea

It's a fair hike from Cozumel back to Ft Lauderdale, so the Grand Princess was travelling near her cruising speed. It's amazing how much ocean there is. There are so many islands in the Caribbean, but all you can see is ocean. Our favorite place on the promenade deck is aft, looking at the wake. When we do our laps, we generally stop each time we pass the wake and watch the roiling water.

Most of the ships seem to have nice internet cafes, and they never seem to be too busy. We always like to keep in email contact with our kids, making sure that they (and the house and the animals) are all doing fine. The rates are a bit steep though, and the Web can be very slow at times.

Day 8 (Dec 14) - Ft Lauderdale

We arrived back in Port Everglades early in the morning. While waiting in the Explorer lounge to disembark, the TV news on the big screen showed the captue of Saddam Hussein. That made everyone happy! Disembarkation went pretty well and we caught the Princess bus to the airport. It was a great two weeks (2 cruises, remember?).

There are pros and cons to doing B2B cruises on two different ships. If you do a B2B on the same ship, the entertainment and dinner menus will repeat each week. On different ships (and especially different lines), this doesn't happen. Different ships also gives you the chance to explore 2 ships rather than one, and to experience the differences that each has to offer. Staying on the same ship does save packing and unpacking, assuming you can get the same cabin for both legs. We have since done a 14 day cruise, and it has the advantage of not going back to Ft Lauderdale on day 7 and having to trip over luggage in the hallways. I think the 14 day route is the best, but there aren't too many of them available.