ABOARD the GRAND PRINCESS – In addition to a very comfortable bed and bright new carpeting, our compact, and well organized, inside stateroom is equipped with a large high definition TV screen.
Upon first turning on the TV, a 14-minute video starts up playing the familiar theme song to the classic TV show The Love Boat, but with new safety lyrics. Several of the original actors from the show charmingly ham it up while welcoming passengers on board to safely experience the activities and features of Princess ships.
The TVs in all staterooms feature a daily information video hosted by the ship’s cruise director, Kevin Tugwell, called The Wake Show. Activities on board for the day and upcoming excursions are announced that are intended “to keep everyone busy.” The list is quite extensive with choices offered ranging from the usual trivia contests, karaoke, champagne reception and art auction, ballroom dance classes, and casino, to others as disparate as line dancing and acupuncture for seasickness. Of course there are the requisite bars, clubs and lounges, a dozen strategically located onboard. Some of the drinking spots provide live musical entertainment, both instrumental and vocal.
If the ship somehow doesn’t offer enough entertainment to please everyone, there are TV channels MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, the BBC, ESPN and ESPN2 received live via satellite available in every room. NFL games also appear live on the big screen poolside, normally the venue for Movies Under the Stars. No need to miss out on the latest news and sports while at sea.
On our first morning aboard, Jialin attended a Zumba class in the ship’s Vista Lounge. Afterward we both attended a presentation in the Princess Theater on the first Hawaiian island to be visited, the Big Island of Hawai’i. “Ambassador of Aloha” Rowena Vasquez, a native of Hawai’i, introduced the many attractions to be seen on the Big Island. In the coming days at sea, Oahu, Kauai, and Maui will be subjects of her talks. During her appearance, passengers were invited to attend classes during the cruise in celebration of a “King Kamehameha Festival” where instructions on making leis, learning to dance the hula, ukulele playing and other aspects of Hawaiian culture are to be covered.
Princess likes to emphasize that the Grand Princess is a big ship with a small ship feel. Numerous restaurants, theaters, bars, swimming pools and gathering spots are intended to foster an impression of intimacy despite the large number of passengers on board.
The genius loci on the ship is the centrally located Italian-style Piazza. Princess converted an ordinary mid-ship atrium into the colorful Piazza – decorated on the Grand Princess with giant Hawaiian cloth prints — to use as an all-purpose hub of activity. Live entertainers ranging from pianists to Mariachi musicians appear regularly. Traditional events held there are the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party and Champagne Waterfall — during which bubbly is poured over a tower of glasses by passengers – and a popular balloon drop in celebration of the end of the cruise.
Comprising three decks connected by spiraling staircases, passengers can gather in The Piazza or may linger there over coffee or drinks at popular lookout spots. Unobstructed views of The Piazza, from the International Café (coffee by day and cocktails at night), Vines (wine bar), Crooners, and the Piazza Bar encourage people watching, including periodic action on The Piazza’s dance floor.
Entertainment in the Princess Theater changes nightly throughout the cruise. While the seating capacity is undersized based on the number of passengers on board, the stage sets and lighting are first rate. A big plus is a sound system that delivers clearly to the farthest corners of the theater.
The second night’s entertainer, accomplished vocalist Jennifer Singer, was a hit in the Princess Theater. Broadway songs made popular by Carol King, Barbra Streisand, Sarah McLachlin, Tina Turner, Gloria Estefan, and Celine Dionne were performed to standing-room-only crowds at both 7:30 and 9:30 show times.
Dennis Cox is All Things Cruise Writer and Official Photographer (©Dennis Cox/WorldViews)