Hometown: San Jose
Joined: 03/20/2017
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About SanJoseDan

Our first cruise was a 10 day Mexican Riviera cruise on Sitmar (later bought by Princess) in 1979. We took a cruise every 5 years until I retired in 2007. Since 2007, we've taken a cruise each year and in 2017 we'll take two cruises - 10 day Mexican Riviera (just reviewed) and a 7 day Western Mediterranean cruise later this Spring. After the Sitmar cruise, the next 14 cruises were on Royal Caribbean, followed by the Princess cruise to Mexico this year.



SanJoseDan's Past Cruises

Freedom of the Seas

May 2017 - Freedom of the Seas to Europe - Mediterranean

Western Med. on Freedom

We last cruised on Freedom in 2014 to the Eastern Caribbean.  Same ship, same line, distinct decline in quality. 


Our flight left SFO at 8:30 AM Saturday, connecting through Philadelphia, arrived in Barcelona at 8:40 AM Sunday.  As we were processed through Customs, there were only 5 agents manning the 12 booths - so it was a long wait.  We later found out that flights arriving a few hours later had waits of over 3 hours at Customs.  Our departure from Barcelona was delayed since Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) will wait for flights booked through their travel Dept. Air2Sea.  Others not booked through Air2Sea were able to board late also. 


We boarded Freedom at 11:00 AM but our cabins would not be ready until 1 PM.  Most passengers went to the Windjammer Buffet for lunch.  We had lunch at the Café Promenade located in the interior Promenade street and open 24 hours.  No crowds and the shrimp salad sandwich was excellent.  Entertainment was provided by an excellent piano and violin duo performing on one of the bridges over the Promenade.


Service in Windjammer has declined since our last Freedom cruise and the food also seemed not as good as before - but still pretty good for a buffet.  The food in the dining room was very good and outstanding on a few nights (a decline from previous RCCL cruises).


Entertainment, in general was not as good as previous RCCL cruises, and on a par with our last Princess cruise.  The Princess Grand did have more outstanding non-showroom entertainers.


The only complication on the return flight was a 3 hour delay (at our connecting city Charlotte) in departure as we waited for a landing slot in San Francisco.  So instead of a 10:51 PM arrival, we landed around 2 AM the next day.


Specifics on the various categories are provided below.


Overall this cruise was disappointing because we've been on Freedom before and we know it can be much better.  Only the service from the dining room staff and cabin staff continued to be consistently outstanding.

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Grand Princess

February 2017 - Grand Princess to Mexico

Grand Princess Mexico Feb. 28th 2017

This was our first time on a cruise ship leaving out of San Francisco.  We live in San Jose, so we booked Super Shuttle to get us to the Terminal.  I believe the cost ($200 round trip for 2) was justified by the relative ease of traveling to and back from the ship home.  Parking in SF would have run about $165 with no shuttle service from the parking garage to the pier.  Princess provided transportation (for a fee) from SFO but not San Jose Airport.  The Boarding process and Departure after the cruise went smoothly and didn't take much time.  Super Shuttle dropped us off at the pier and the pick-up was at the same place.  We are 2nd time Princess passengers, so we had minimal Princess related perks.


Our cabin was ready when we boarded at 1:30 PM.  The cabin steward greeted us as we arrived and took our request for daily buckets of ice.  We later learned that Princess provides complimentary bath robes - which were convenient with the cool weather in northern California and the non-effectiveness of our room temperature controls (our cabin was cold during our time off the coast of Northern California).  The cabin was always clean and neat.  Although the Grand Princess had a towel folding demonstration, there were never any folded towel animals in our cabin (not a big deal, but I admit I missed them).


The dining room food was very good and outstanding on a few occasions (we have had outstanding meals for nearly every meal on other cruises).  The dining room staff was very good and at one time even went beyond their duties to help out a passenger in distress - on a non-dinning related issue.  The Buffet seemed small for a ship the size of the Grand Princess.  Seating was always an issue and the variety of dishes was limited compared to other cruises we have taken.  The quality of food was OK.  Coffee in the dining room and buffet was not very good and noticeably better in the Specialty Restaurants or when paid for at bars.  The Pizzeria Pizza was outstanding however, there was a wait for a table anytime near normal meals times.  Food at the 24 hour venue was very good but there was a fee for coffee (much better quality than the dining room coffee).


The entertainment was very good overall.  Most evenings had two different shows with two show times each (and each at a different venue - at opposite ends of the ship).  Depending on the popularity of the performers, we (and others) had to occasionally leave a performance early in order to get a seat at the other show venue.  In general, the non-showroom performers were very good.  Guitarist / vocalist Luca Cervo was outstanding.  His performances always seemed to be scheduled at the same times as the traditional seating early dining times.  Double odds at the Crap Table was something we had not seen before on a cruise ship.


Since we have been to the Mexican Riviera several times, we only took one shore excursion - to the Arches at Cabo San Lucas.  The boat trip to the arches was very good (we even got to see some whales), but the bus tour segment was just OK.  Walking through Mazatlan, through the old town area and over to the divers, was an easy and pleasant experience (following the "Blue Line" painted on the streets and with the assistance of several volunteer tourist guides).  The police presence along the walking route was reassuring.  The dockside shopping area at Puerto Vallarta was convenient although perhaps more costly than going into town.  Manzanillo seemed more chaotic and rougher (for lack of a more accurate term) than the other ports.


The vibrations from the propulsion system, especially when the bow thrusters were used, was very noticeable, even in our cabin on deck 10 and just at the back third of the ship.  Although the Fitness Center was well equipped, we missed access to a dedicated, continuous (without stairs or wind barriers)  running / walking track.


Forgot to mention that RCCL provides access to your cabin account through the cabin TV (as in many hotels).  On Princess, access is through the ship's WIFI so you view your account on your phone or I-pad.  You can also see replays of all the shows and shopping / port info talks throughout the cruise from your cabin on RCCL.  On Princess the shows are not replayed on TV.  Not surprisingly, Princess shows replays of the Love Boat TV series throughout the cruise on cabin TV (and I kind of enjoyed it).


Our first RCCL cruise was in 1985 and the dinners were all outstanding,  The quality has declined a bit since then so that on our last few cruises, from 2012 - 2016,  only 5 of 7 dinners have been outstanding (the other two were very good).  The Princess cruise dinners had 5 outstanding - 5 very good.  Can't really make comparisons here since this was our first Princess cruise in over 35 years (and first on the Grand Princess).  We've been on 15 RCCL cruises on 7 different ships.

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SanJoseDan's Tips

Freedom of the Seas Freedom of the Seas - Booking shore excursions from your cabin TV avoids long lines at the excursions desk. The Café Promenade provides quality snacks and drinks (coffee, iced tea, water) 24 hours.
Grand Princess Grand Princess - Room service coffee is the only good complimentary coffee (much better than in the dining room or buffet). De-caf coffee is not available in the bars. The fitness Center is well equipped. There is no dedicated outdoor track for running / walking. Pizzeria pizza is outstanding.

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received a helpful vote on their Grand Princess cruise review - Grand Princess Mexico Feb. 28th 2017

received a helpful vote on their Freedom of the Seas cruise review - Western Med. on Freedom

commented on a Navigator of the Seas cruise review. - "I think Navigator is a good ship to start for such a long cruise (as a first one - large but not one of the gigantic ships). The Ice Shows are a ni..." read more

commented on a Freedom of the Seas cruise review. - "We were on Freedom in May 2017 and encountered that same decline in quality (compared to Freedom in the Caribbean 2014). Unclear if this is a RCCL is..." read more

received a helpful vote on their Grand Princess cruise review - Grand Princess Mexico Feb. 28th 2017

received a helpful vote on their Grand Princess cruise review - Grand Princess Mexico Feb. 28th 2017

commented on a Navigator of the Seas cruise review. - "Sounds like the "cruise from hell"! After over 15 cruises, 12 with RCCL, that's by far the worst I've heard about RCCL. The issue may be the cruise ..." read more

commented on a Navigator of the Seas cruise review. - "Well, that certainly sounds like the "cruise from hell"!  Our experience has been that complaints sent directly to Royal Caribbean often are addre..." read more

received a helpful vote on their Freedom of the Seas cruise review - Western Med. on Freedom

shared a quick tip for Freedom of the Seas"Booking shore excursions from your cabin TV avoids long lines at the excursions desk. The Café Promenade provides quality snacks and drinks (coffee, iced tea, water) 24 hours. "