Having a Grand Time on the Grand Princess headed to Hawaii

SONY DSCI finally have my chance to make my first blog entry from the Grand Princess. We have been very impressed with the quality and the service thus far.
Our cruise began with an easy drive from Simi Valley to the Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Center in San Pedro. We opted to have a driver pick us up and take us home since it was infinitely more convenient than driving ourselves and parking and only slightly more expensive than parking for the two weeks. After dropping off our luggage with the luggage handlers, we headed upstairs to do our check in with no waiting really for anyone. We were then directed through security and then to the Elite lounge. (More about why I’m Elite on my first Princess cruise later.)
Once we were in our lounge we only waited for about 30 minute till they were ready to board the first group. We were on board and our room was ready right away for me to drop off my carry-on. We made our way up to the buffet for a quick lunch. I noticed immediately a higher level of service over my recent cruise when I was immediately greeted by a waiter who was ready to take my beverage order. After lunch we then spent the afternoon exploring the ship. That meant a lot of stairs since the elevators were being used for those still embarking.
The lay out of the ship was a bit confusing at first since it is quite different from the Celebrity and Royal Caribbean ships with which we are most familiar. Deck 7 has the majority of entertainment venues. Guests make their way along the starboard side of ship with entertainment venues on the port side of the ship. The other entertainment venues are located along the piazza.
We wanted to go check out our dining room assignment but the doors were locked so we didn’t know where our table would be or if we had been assigned a table for two until we arrived for dinner that night. Next was muster drill and the sail away party.

Our sail away was lovely. They had the Hawaiian duo of Elua playing music and teaching hula as we pulled out of port past the Queen Victory and the Battleship Iowa. We wanted a glass of the Robert Mondavi Cabernet, but the bar tender said he only had the house boxed wine by the pool, but no problem, he would get a waiter to get it for us. We headed to an upper deck and told him where to find us, and very quickly he found us with the glasses of wine. The views of Los Angeles and Palos Verdes, the Snoopy Metlife Blimp and the ocean were spectacular. We talked with a gentleman visiting from the UK who was in the states for the first time and very excited to be on his way to Hawaii.
We had research how to get the best value for our buck when it comes to beverages. We decided the gold wine package was the way to go. We had a waiter sell it to us at lunch so we were ready to go at dinner time. We figure we will save about 30% in the cost of wine.

We found the Vines Wine bar before dinner, voted by USA today as the best wine bar at sea. We met Arnie the attendant, and though not formally certified as a sommelier he has extensive training both on the ships and actually visiting wineries throughout the world. They do have good crystal wine glasses in this bar only and in some of the specialty restaurants.
After the cocktail hour we went to the welcome aboard show with some of the entertainers and a man who is probably the world’s best classical harmonica player.
After the show we headed to the 8:00 dinner. There was slight delay in getting into the restaurant as they had to show everyone to their tables the first night, but we were impressed with how uncrowded the 8:00 seating was and how there was more than enough staff per table. Steve had prime rib that was a little bit thin for his liking, but I had a wonderful Hawaiian pork dish and a Ceviche Mojito. Our waiter is a lovely young woman from Ukraine, and our assistant waiter is from the Philippines. The food came out fast and hot, and maybe a little too fast, but all in all very impressive first night in the dining room. We mentioned to our waiter that we had the gold wine package and before I could finish my request she finished it for me and offered to get us the crystal wine glasses rather than the standard glass wine glasses that they have in the main dining room.
After dinner we had Karaoke and then I was off to bed. I sang Don’t Rain on My Parade.

So then began the first of our pre-Hawaii sea. It always cracks me up that people who have never cruised think they will be board on a cruise ship. I start the day off with breakfast, then Zumba, then a mile around the promenade deck. Somewhere in there I had lunch and then it was off to hula lessons and choir practice. In the evening we enjoyed a glass of wine in the piazza and listened to both the string quartet and Elua the Hawaiian duet. We had a comedy magic show in the theater and then another wonderful dinner. I had the cioppino, and it was excellent. After dinner there wasn’t much going on so we headed to bed early.

Thursday, I enjoyed Zumba, then a little weight training in the gym. After lunch we had choir practice and then I took a quick nap before getting ready for the first formal night. Formal night was very elegant with most people embracing the idea of getting dressed up. We saw lots of tuxedos, dinner jackets, suits and even a couple of formal kilts. The ladies wore everything from nice pants suits to full elegant gowns.

Dinner was a special Princess 50th Anniversary celebration with Princess favorites from each decade that included Osso Bucco ravioli, mushroom cappuccino soup, beef tournedos and a very decadent raspberry mouse with choc