ABOARD the GRAND PRINCESS – Like a comfortable decades-old La-Z-Boy reclining rocker that you couldn’t imagine parting with, the 22-year old Grand Princess keeps sailing on with a satisfied clientele that does not dismiss the benefits of maturity. Only partially refurbished, mainly with new carpeting in much of the ship, the traditional cruise ship ambiance of the public areas obviously suits the tastes of many old-time cruisers.
From all appearances passengers on this cruise have enjoyed themselves. At one of two Captain’s Circle cocktail parties for members who have qualified for membership by virtue of having taken five or more Princess cruises, it was announced that over half – nearly 1,500 – of the passengers on board were members. Strongly represented were cruisers from the San Francisco Bay area and other Californians. The few elevator glitches, door malfunctions, and occasional leaky pipe on the ship are not likely to discourage any of them from sailing again with Princess.
Tradition aside, Princess is not content with standing still in the competition among cruise lines to innovate and enhance their fleets with larger next-generation ships.
Two Sphere Class megaships, with capacities of approximately 4,300 passengers and dual-fuel powered — primarily by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), an environmentally friendly advanced fuel technology — are expected in 2023 and 2025. Both will be approximately 20% larger than current ships in the Princess fleet.
Three new marginally smaller 3,600 passenger capacity Royal Class ships are also being added to the Princess fleet. Sky Princess debuted in October 2019, Enchanted Princess is due in 2020, and the Discovery Princess is scheduled for 2021.
Photos/Captions (top left to bottom right): Captain’s Welcoming Party and NFL Football on Movies Under the Stars Screen, Explorers Lounge, Captain John Harry Smith, Hula Dancer in Princess Theater, Sunset from Bow of Grand Princess and Grand Princess Singers & Dancers (©Dennis Cox/WorldViews)
An exciting innovation currently underway by Princess is making most of its ships Medallion Class. Grand Princess will join the growing fleet utilizing the Ocean Medallion, a first-of-its-kind wearable device on March 29, 2020.
Promising to “make cruise vacations even more enjoyable,” passengers will receive the new complimentary devices, slightly larger and thicker than a quarter coin, a couple of weeks before departure. Medallions can be worn as a wristband, pendant, clip, or kept in a pocket or bag.
The medallion can be pre-programed with each passenger’s unique digital identity to include only the personal information the client wants entered. Enabled are food and drink preferences, interactive gaming, custom entertainment, smart navigation, and the ability to locate other passengers wherever they are onboard. Medallions can be used for payments, unlocking stateroom doors, speeding up embarkation, and finding the way around the ship turn-by-turn. All of Princess’ Medallion Class ships are scheduled to be in operation by 2020.
Another welcome aspect of the new technology will be MedallionNet, which is being promoted as the “fastest Wi-Fi on the high seas.” It will come to the Grand Princess on February 21, 2020, and to six additional Princess ships this year. Eight ships are already equipped.
For those interested in cruising in the future on the Grand Princess, upcoming itineraries beyond the next two Hawai’i cruises, include a Mexico cruise over the holidays and an Alaska cruise next spring, all out of San Francisco. Southeast Asia itineraries out of Singapore are scheduled to begin next fall and 2021 cruises will depart out of Southampton, England.
Story and Photos by ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews
Dennis Cox is All Things Cruise Writer and Official Photographer
NOTE: Photos from this cruise will be included in my forthcoming book, “Cruising the World, From Gondolas to Megaships,” to be published in February 2020. –Dennis Cox