As promised I am continuing my review of the Grand Princess with a focus on two of the most common misconceptions that people have about cruising:
“I’ll be bored on a cruise ship with nothing to do”
“I don’t want to take a cruise because I don’t like crowds”
Neither of these misconceptions could be further from the truth. The truth is that cruise ships have an entire activities and entertainment staff who’s sole purpose is keeping you having a great time and coming back for your next cruise. If cruise ships were boring it wouldn’t be one of the most popular and satisfying vacation experiences. Cruise ships are designed with guests comfort in mind. The Grand Princess had ample deck and public space and so many different things going on at one time that no area ever felt crowded.
This ship had a particularly engaging activities staff. They hailed from all over the world including USA, Canada, Australia, and Mexico. As mentioned earlier, their job is to keep the fun going during the cruise hosting a variety of activities.
On embarkation day, our daily news and activities sheet, Princess Patter, listed some of the entertainment and activities we would enjoy during the cruise. Under the Princess Theater, they list the featured musicians, vocalists, comedians and production shows.
I was able to find videos of many of the performers on YouTube once I got home. Here are some of those videos. Of all the performers that we saw during the cruise, Stephani Whittemore probably impressed me the most. She performed pop and jazz standards, original music, and a Whitney Houston tribute show. She’s in the last video below and has many more videos up on YouTube, including her original music. After studying music in college, she became a Princess production singer and then has moved on to a solo performer and musical arranger for the company.
The Explorers Lounge hosted theme nights, game shows and musical activities. Under the Vista Lounge activities the Patter lists Zumba, line dancing, ballroom, hula classes and bingo. They also listed the line up for the Movies Under the Stars features which included Mockingjay – Part 1, The Fault in Our Stars, The Giver, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Get On Up. With that just being a portion of what the ship had planned for us we knew we’d be pretty engaged during the cruise.
Sea Days Headed to Hawaii and Back
This itinerary has four sea days going to Hawaii and four days going back. So how did we keep out self busy? Here’s an example of what the cruise offered hour by hour on all those sea days. I’ve consolidated the whole two weeks worth of activities below into a summary example of activities available at different times during the day.
6:00 am – This is the time to turn on your TV and check out the cruise director and members the activities and other staff as they present information on the events of the day. They also do a few commercials for the profit centers like specialty dining, the casino, and spa.
8:30 am – Informal Bible Study – (un-hosted) Princess provides a venue and bibles for guests to host their own bible study.
9:00 am – Your choice of Zumba, Speed Soduku, orchid lei making, other activities offered around this time of day on other days included Hawaiian crafts and knitters get together,
9:30 am – Ship orientation tour of all public areas, ping pong tournament, morning trivia
10:00 am- line dancing, a movie, or lecture from the naturalist on the topics including each of the ports we were to visit on their own day, Pearl Harbor, wales, volcanoes, California gold rush,
10:30 am – Basketball shooting challenge, ring toss,
11:00 am – Shopping show, ballroom dancing, Texas Hold’em, quilling class, origami class, other activities during different days included a movie about Pearl Harbor, martini making demonstration, fruit and vegetable carving demonstration, ice carving, and outlet sale.
12:00 – Casino Introduction, trivia, and music in the piazza including pianist Igor
12:30 – Cruise long scavenger hunt, Discovery@Sea Astronomy Presentations, pool golf chipping
1:00 Party by the Pool with pop hits band, Princess Pop-Choir rehearsal, art auctions, jewelry sales and indoor goofy golf.
2:00 – Art History presentation, lie making, hula lessons, un-hosted bridge and majong get together, pool games.
3:00 – Wine tasting, Golf putting competition, folk guitarist in Piazza, movie on the Movies Under the Stars outdoor screen
3:30 – Shuffleboard tournament
4:15 – Enrichment lectures: Subjects includes Hawaii Flora, Fauna and human migration, whales, ice ages, volcanoes, and history. Other afternoon activities included a book club sign up, trivia, and jack-pot bingo
4:45 – Classical music in Piazza with Rhapsody Trio or other performers
5:00 – Ballroom dancing to DJ music, other activities during the week a this time included the Pop-choir performance
6:30 – Soft rock, guitarist in Wheelhouse, Hawaiian Melodies in the Piazza with Elua Duo
7:00 & 8:30- Comedy Magician in Princess Theater
7:30 – Ball room dancing to live Tempo Quattro band in Wheelhouse
7:45 – Adagio Duo in Piazza
7:45, 9:15 & 10:30 – In the Princess theater a featured performance that might be a vocalist, classical & jazz harmonica virtuoso or the Princess production singers and dancers.
7:45 & 9:45 – Movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Mocking Jay, and The Fault in Our Stars on Movies Under the Stars Screen
9:00 onwards: Marriage Match Game show, Ballroom dancing with Tempo Quattro Band, Jeopardized Trivia, Piano Lounge Entertainer, Disco hour, party band, DJ music.
Other evening activities, hosted at various times, included the Princess Popstar contest, Karaoke, Hawaiian themed deck party, 50’s and 60’s night, 50th Anniversary balloon drop.
Your can see from the activities listed above that there were often several different choices of formal structured activities and events. In addition to these activities, there were movies and TV to watch in our state rooms, do your own thing activities like just visiting with friends, walking or jogging on the promenade deck for exercise, or working out in the gym. You could always find a deck chair by the pool and read or take a little nap too.
I had no trouble keeping busy. I’d usually start off my day with walk around the promenade or breakfast at the buffet. I loved the Zumba classes in the vista lounge hosted by activities staffer Karen. She did the same routines every time, but this gave us an opportunity to learn them and get more out of the exercise classes.
One morning I attended the cooking demonstration by the head chef and maitr’d. They were pretty entertaining and a walk through the the kitchen followed the demonstration. There is a joke about some of the chefs falling in the soup so they have to wear a life vest while cooking.
During some of the days I would go back to my room, shower and dress and then meet my husband for trivia and lunch in the buffet area. Trivia was usually very hard and very obscure, so we didn’t fare to well. It seemed like there were questions that everyone knew and ones that no one knew and very few in between.
Back in the room, the entertainment was limited as there was no on-demand programing on this particular ship. I’d usually put on the news or the Love Boat channel, which, you guessed it, showed 24/7 reruns of the Love Boat. As corny as it might sound it was kind of fun watching the old shows, many of which features stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. My fellow guests and I often found ourselves talking about a particular episode that we had watched. It would have been nice to have on demand movies, or a more impressive TV, as there is a time and a place, even on a cruise ship, especially a 15 day itenerary, when it is nice to just crawl into bed and watch a movie.
Most afternoons, I thought I was going to do Hula lessons, but instead I found myself in the Princess Pop Choir. This activity was not what I thought it was going to be, but I enjoyed my fellow guests so much that I stuck with it. I had thought that the program would be run by the music department, maybe a member of the orchestra with real music and real SATB parts, but instead it was run by the activities department, represented by Ana who had no music training. With that being said, for someone who had only been trained on how to direct our group with the supplied songs, she was fantastic. Ana made sure that we were focused and that we looked polished even if our singing wasn’t exactly what it needed to be. Most people in the choir has some singing experience, but for many this was their first time to be in a choir. The songs were all pop-standards what we all knew, and when it came to harmonies, the singers had to improvise them. Some how this pop choir with no musical notes, karaoke accompaniment, and director with no musical training, worked. We rehearsed 4 times and performed on the last sea day before we arrived in Hawaii. On the four days going back we had a new choir with new songs and the same four rehearsals. Songs included Oh What a Night, La Bamba, Your Just Too Good to be True, Blue Bayou, We Are the Champions. I have to hand it to Ana, if she could wrangle our group with no musical training, but instead just good organizational and people skills, she should go far with Princess. I probably would have preferred the program to be an actual musical activity, but for just a fun way to get together and meet other passengers, it was well worth my time. Here’s a video from YouTube of a typical Pop Choir Performance.
Cruise ships have to strike a careful balance in providing just enough, but not too much karaoke. What I mean by that, is that Karaoke doesn’t appeal to everyone, generally a few singers and their friends. So the cruise lines don’t want to take up a whole venue for too long every night just for Karaoke. I think that Princes struck the right balance. They had a Karaoke power hour about every third night, and then they had Princes Pop Star preliminaries three nights and the Finale on the last night of the cruise. For Princess Pop Star, it was a singing contest with guest getting voted into the finals. Once guests had competed and been voted in, they could not compete again until the finals. This gave an opportunity for more guest to have a chance to perform. During the Power Hour, most guest had a chance to pick one song and perform, though there were some nights when guests arrived too late, and other nights when the early singers got to sing twice. The activities staff did a great job hosting and made sure that most people got chance to sing.
I’ve posted videos of quite a few of the entertainers above. I wanted to also provide a little mini review of the production shows. Singing – great, execution – pretty good, choreography and song selection – seems like more of the same. Somewhere I think there must be a list of only 10 dance steps and about 200 songs from which producers can choose for their shows, and then there is a list of 20 that must be included on every cruise ship. I think for frequent cruisers like me, the production shows often seem like more of the same. Apparently, my favorite show, British Invasion, has been around since atleast 2011. I found this video highlight of the show.
The best way to explain how we never felt crowded on this cruise is to show you some of the pictures I took of the “crowds.” With so many things going on during he cruise and many activities in different places, the ship never felt the least bit crowded.
A few little tips we picked up were that the majority of guests wanted the 6:00 dining time or Anytime Dining. So by picking the 8:00 dining we had less crowded venues for our evening entertainment. By shortening the length of the production shows and adding a 3rd performance each night, there was also less crowding in the main theater. I always tell people who don’t like crowds, that this is never a problem on cruise ship since one can easily avoid crowds by just heading to another part of the ship.