When Princess Cruises 109,000 gross-ton, 2,590 passenger, $450-million MV Grand Princess entered service in 1998, it was the world’s largest cruise ship. All but two of the Grand Class platform ships were built by Fincantieri’s Cantieri Navali Italiani shipyard at Monfalcone, Italy. The yard was formerly known as Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico and produced some of Italy’s most revered ocean liners and cruise ships. Prior to embarking on its inaugural cruise on May 26, 1998, Grand Princess was named in a gala ceremony presided over by Hollywood screen icon, Olivia de Havilland, who served as the ship’s godmother. When built, Grand Princess created a sensation, not just for its massive proportions (951 by 118 feet with a 26-foot draft) but for its unusual architecture, which included a futuristic, whale-inspired bow and a visor-like,159-foot-wide, glass-enclosed bridge that were created by Italian marine architect Giacomo Mortola. Not only does the bow have a finely tapered “nose,” it also has what resembles a whale’s mouth in the form of the ship’s unique walk-around promenade. The Grand Princess’ most distinguished external feature was the suspended Skywalkers Disco atop the stern. Offering striking views from a 19-story level, it was accessed via a glass-enclosed escalator. This image was taken in 2008, showing the ship as built. In 2011, Grand Princess received an extensive, 24-day makeover that saw the removal of Skywalkers (among many other renovations) at the Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport. Although the views from within Skywalkers will be missed, the stern of the ship will no longer be hidden in its shadow. Grand Princess is manned by a crew of 1,100, which includes British/Italian navigation and deck officers and an International crew. The ship is powered by six GMT V-16 diesel engines that drive two fixed-pitch propellers at a service speed of 22 knots and a maximum speed of 24 knots. The Grand Princess has 18 decks and 123,000 square feet of outside deck space. Located at the very top of the ship, just aft of the funnel, there is a netted-in games court offering paddle tennis and basketball. The next highest accessible area on the ship is a small midships observation platform located between the adults-only Sanctuary and the open-air Neptune’s Reef pool area. This is the view from the midships platform, facing aft over the Neptune’s Reef pool area. Sheltered by a bowl-shaped structure at the base of the funnel on Deck 16, Princess Links is a 9-hole putting course. Adjacent to the putting course is a Golf Simulator featuring some of the world’s most challenging courses. Located at the forward end of the ship under canvas awnings on Deck 16, the Sanctuary is an adults-only “pocket of tranquility” that is staffed by Serenity Stewards who provide signature beverages and light meals for a nominal fee. It is available for up to 70 guests on a full-day or half-day basis. There are also private cabanas in the Sanctuary where guests can enjoy a relaxing massage. One of several outdoor watering holes aboard Grand Princess, the Oasis Bar is located at the aft end of the ship on Deck 16. On forward Deck 15, there is an observation deck overlooking the Grand Princess’ bow. From the wings of the Deck 15 Observation Deck, one can fully appreciate the size and power of the ship as it cuts through the sea. The first of four large pools on the Grand Princess, the swim-against-the-current Lotus Pool is located on Deck 15, adjacent to the Lotus Spa. The Conservatory is set within a glass dome above the Calypso Reef Pool area on Decks 14 and 15. The dome can be opened in optimal weather and shelters a wide terrace overlooking the pool that accommodates up to 118 guests. The Seabreeze Bar is another popular outdoor watering hole, located on a Deck 15 terrace, just above the Neptune’s Reef pool area. The open-air Neptune’s Reef Pool is located on Deck 14. Large terraces of sunning space surround the Neptune’s Reef pool on midships Deck 15. At night, the Neptune’s Reef Pool area is set up with cushioned deck chairs and steamer blankets for Princess’ popular Movies Under The Stars screenings on a 300-square-foot LED screen. Another large sweep of open sunning space terraces down the stern from Deck 16 to Deck 12, where the Terrace Pool is located. Sheltered by tiered decks, the Terrace Pool was in perpetual shadow before the removal of Skywalkers. From the crew recreational area on forward Deck 9, there is an impressive view of the Grand Princess’ layer cake superstructure and imposing bridge wings. The Grand Princess’ full wrap-around, teak-lined promenade encircles the ship by traversing two levels. The upper forward portion on Deck 8 forms what, from the outside, looks like a whale’s mouth, and is reached by stairs on either side that lead to Deck 7. On Deck 7, the promenades continue aft and wrap around the stern. Accessed via the Lotus Spa, there is a large gymnasium on forward Deck 15. It has up-to-date cardio machines (treadmills and ellipticals), several weight machines and a selection of free weights. There is a room for aerobics and stretching classes in the gym area on Deck 15. Guests awaiting treatments and massages at the Lotus Spa on Deck 15 have a waiting room with refreshments and a view of the Lotus Pool. The Lotus Spa has a wide range of treatment rooms on the port side of Deck 15 offering everything from teeth-whitening, massages and acupuncture to skin treatments. Grand Princess has men’s and women’s saunas adjacent to the Lotus Pool on Deck 15. There are separate men’s and women’s (shown) changing rooms in the Lotus Spa. At the entrance to the Lotus Spa, there is a large beauty salon offering hair care, facials, manicures and other beauty treatments. A small barber shop is next to the beauty salon in the Lotus Spa. On Deck 16, just aft of the Lotus Spa, there is a Youth Center with facilities for teens, ‘tweens and children. The teen area has a disco and a variety of games. The Children’s Playroom has Wii and Rockband in addition to board games and scheduled activities. Here is the small “theater” in the Youth Center on Deck 15. Named for Deck 15, where it is situated, One5 is a lounge and nightclub that was added in the most recent refit to replace Skywalkers. By day, it is a quiet lounge and in the late afternoon, it is an exclusive haven for suite guests to enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. At night, One5 becomes an adults-only nightclub with its large dance floor and contemporary, fiberoptic-light-enhanced styling. Hearts and Minds is a wedding chapel that can also double as a meeting room. Located on aft Deck 15 next to One5, it was also added during Grand Princess’ most recent refit. Horizon Court is a 24-hour, casual cafe-style eatery on Deck 14 that accommodates 312 guests for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Forward of Horizon Court on Deck 14, Sundaes is an ice cream parlor that provides complimentary soft-serve treats and a variety of extra-tariff shakes and sundaes. The Prego Pizzeria (fresh pizza by the slice) and Trident Grill (grilled burger and hot-dog fare) are adjacent to the Trident Pool on Deck 14. Princess has some of the best pizza afloat, such as their take on Pizza Margherita with its thin, crispy crust and top-quality sauce and cheeses. The majority of Grand Princess’ public rooms are situated on Deck 7, beginning with the triple-level, 800-seat Princess Theater, which boasts excellent sightlines and comfortable seating. It has a 36-foot proscenium stage and is the venue for big, Broadway-style shows and headline acts. Headline shows, such as the popular “Do You Wanna Dance,” are run twice nightly in the Princess Theater. Aft of the Princess Theater on Deck 7, there is the Adventures Ashore shore excursions desk. In place of the original Hearts and Minds wedding chapel, a new space called Leaves was added on starboard Deck 7. Leaves is a combination library, games room and tea-drinking venue. Up to 500 different tea blends can be selected and prepared by a tea sommelier in Leaves for a nominal charge. One, three and five minute hourglass timers are provided by Leaves’ tea sommeliers so teas can be steeped for precise times to ensure the best flavor. Directly across from Leaves on port Deck 7, Princess’ signature Crown Grill steakhouse was added in the ship’s most recent refit. The 160-seat Crown Grill is an extra-tariff ($25 per person) dining venue. In addition to offering the finest USDA-select cuts of meat, Crown Grill also has lobster and other seafood delicacies. Here is a table setting by the windows in the Crown Grill. This is a medium-rare filet mignon prior to the addition of side dishes that include creamed spinach, fresh corn and baked potato, among others. On sea days, the Crown Grill features a special, no-extra-charge Pub Brunch with genuine English-style pub food. The Pub Brunch menu rotates but can feature anything from Bangers and Mash to savory curries and the ever-popular Fish and Chips. Grand Princess’ atrium was completely restyled into what is now called The Piazza in the ship’s latest refit. This is a view overlooking the Piazza from Deck 7, where it is bordered by Crooner’s Bar and various shops. The Piazza spans Decks 5, 6 and 7, seats 32 guests and now has Wi-Fi access. Adjoining the Piazza from the starboard side of Deck 7, the 68-seat Crooner’s piano bar has a classic “1960s-martini-bar” styling and serves up more than 50 specialty martini varieties. A wide passage just outside of the Explorers Lounge continues aft from Crooner’s Bar, linking the rest of the public spaces on Deck 7. Explorers Lounge seats 262 guests and has a diagonal layout with a main stage area on the aft/port side of the room. The decor is inspired by Southeast Asia and Africa and the room is a favorite spot for cabaret acts, live bands, karaoke and art auctions. The Photo and Video Gallery stretches along the starboard side of Deck 7 from the Explorers Lounge to the aft lobby and stairtower. Film processing and photos taken by the ship’s staff as well as camera and video supplies are sold here. Accessed via the Photo and Video Gallery, the 107-seat Wheelhouse Bar has rich wood tones and a wonderful collection of nautical memorabilia from former Princess parent company and now-also-owned-by-Carnival-Corp, P&O Line. In the Wheelhouse Bar, there is a beautiful scale model of former P&O subsidiary British India Steam Navigation Company’s handsome liner KENYA of 1952. Directly aft of the Wheelhouse Bar, Sabatini’s is a 130-seat, extra-tariff ($20) Italian alternative restaurant featuring an eight-course extravaganza of seafood specialties and other trattoria favorites. Table settings in Sabatini’s feature starched linen napkins, atmospheric lighting and specially designed chargers. Sabatini’s serves up some of the best Italian cuisine at sea, including this burrata, an appetizer featuring the finest mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, basil, extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Suite guests also have the exclusive option of dining in Sabatini’s for breakfast, which they can order from a full-service menu. This is a tomato, onion and cheddar omelet. Located at the aft end of Deck 7, the Vista Showlounge is another cabaret-style venue for live music, game shows and quizzes. On the Deck 6 level just aft of the Princess Theater, Snookers Bar is a sports and cigar bar decorated with sports memorabilia. Located on Deck 6, the Grand Casino was modified in the latest refit and features Las Vegas-style casino games, popular table games and slot machines. At the forward end of the Casino, one can visit the newly remodeled Casino Bar. The Passenger Services Desk flanks the Deck 6 level on the forward end of the Piazza. Here is a port-facing view of the Piazza from Deck 6. Facets jewelry shop is one of the boutiques located along the Deck 6 and Deck 7 levels of the Piazza. The Grand Princess has three main dining venues, all of which are similarly decorated and feature the same cuisine. The “Anytime Seating” (no assigned time or table) DaVinci seats 514 guests and is located on midships Deck 6. All three dining rooms on Grand Princess feature elegant settings with flowers and Steelite-brand crockery. This is table 107, a four-seater near the port side of the DaVinci Dining Room. Princess cuisine is among the best in the Premium cruise market but its Italian offerings are among the very best at sea and include authentic, perfectly cooked specialties like this superb Eggplant Parmigiana. No better way to cap off a meal in the DaVinci or one of Grand Princess’ other main dining venues with a soothing Limoncello Sorbet. Located on aft Deck 6 and accessed via stairs that lead down from Deck 7, the Botticelli Dining Room accommodates 584 guests in “Traditional” (fixed time and table) seating with a choice between early and late dinner seatings. Nearly identical to the DaVinci, the 514-seat Michelangelo is directly beneath the DaVinci on Deck 5 and also offers “Anytime Dining.” On Deck 5, just forward of the Piazza, the Fine Arts Gallery offers original artwork as well as reproductions for sale. Added in the most recent refit and named for Princess’ executive chef, Alfredo Marzi, Alfredo’s Pizzeria is a sit-down pizzeria serving up individual-sized pizzas that can be accompanied with a glass of wine or other beverage. It is located on Deck 5 on the starboard side of the Piazza. On the starboard side of the Piazza on Deck 5, just aft of Alfredo’s, Vines is a newly added, 29-seat wine and seafood bar that offers an assortment of fine wines by-the-glass as well as chilled seafood combinations including salmon, caviar, sushi and gravlax. The 25-station Internet Cafe is also on the starboard side of the Piazza, just aft of Vines on Deck 5. On the port side of the Deck 5 level of the Piazza, there is the 44-seat International Cafe, which serves up an ever-changing array of complimentary snacks. Delicious specialty coffees can be purchased here. The Piazza Bar adjoins the International Cafe on Deck 5. Guests on longer cruises can take advantage of Grand Princess’ convenient laundry rooms, which are situated in strategic locales throughout the ship’s accommodation areas. Grand Princess has a total of 1,300 staterooms ranging from 28 lavish suites (measuring from 515 to 818 square feet) to comfortable insides. Located in the stern of the ship and near the very top of the tier are Owners Suites, which feature very large balconies, sitting areas and separate bedrooms. Twelve Penthouse Suites feature frescoed walls and backlit stained-glass panels in their sitting areas. Named for renowned explorers, these staterooms are situated mid-ships on Deck 10. Here is the bedroom of a Penthouse Suite. In addition to standard cabin amenities, all suites feature: a walk-in closet; combined DVD/CD players and access to a 100-title DVD library; Halo-light magnifying vanity mirrors; fresh flower arrangements; luxury bathrobes, complimentary slippers, and a one-time-set-up, complimentary mini-bar. Penthouse Suites feature wood-paneled balconies with their own private Jacuzzi and cushioned wooden deck and dining chairs as well as a wooden dining table. Penthouse Suite bathrooms have fine mosaic detailing, marble surfacing and separate tubs with Jacuzzi and glass-enclosed showers featuring massage-shower heads. Premium Suites are located at the aft end of the ship and feature larger balconies than regular suites. This is a Premium Suite sitting area. Here is the balcony of a Premium Suite, located atop the stern of the ship. Standard Suites have separate bedrooms that can be configured with twins (shown) or a queen-sized bed. Here is the living room of a standard Suite. This is the bathroom of a standard Suite. And here is the balcony of a standard Suite. Seven Window Suites were added on starboard Deck 6 in the recent refit. Featuring boutique-hotel-style decor and picture windows in lieu of balconies, these staterooms measure between 319 and 341 square feet. Here is the bedroom of one set up with a king-sized bed. Here is a Window Suite sitting area, as seen from its bedroom with a twin-bed set-up. This is the bathroom of a Window Suite. There are 180 Mini-suites measuring 325 square feet. They feature, in addition to all standard amenities: a separate sitting area with sofa bed, two televisions, luxury mattresses, luxury bedding with ivory satin pinstripe linens and fluffy duvets, luxury towels and a pillow menu. Mini-suite bathrooms feature tiled surfacing and full tubs with massage-head showers. Mini-suite balconies are wider than standard balconies and feature two lounge chairs, two ottomans and a small table. There are 502 Outside With Balcony cabins measuring between 215 and 255 square feet. Outside With Balcony cabins have a small walk-in closet at the entry to the bathroom. Outside With Balcony cabin balconies have two chairs and a small cocktail table. Two-hundred-eighteen Standard Outside cabins measure from 165 to 210 square feet. This is one with a queen-sized bed set-up. All standard cabins feature: twin beds that can become a queen-sized bed with European-style duvets and bed linens; television; refrigerator; closet; hair dryer; safe; telephone and turndown service with pillow chocolates. This is another Standard Outside with a queen-sized bed set-up. This is a Standard Outside with an obstructed view and an upper berth. 372 Inside Cabins measure 160 square feet on average. This is one with a twin set-up. This is an Inside Cabin with a queen-sized bed set-up. Bathrooms in Outside With Balcony, Standard Outside and Standard Inside cabins have a shower, toilet and sink area. Grand Princess has 28 Wheelchair Accessible cabins in several categories, ranging from 240 to 385 square feet. This Outside With Balcony cabin features extra floor space, wider doors and ramps on the balcony. Wheelchair Accessible Cabins have bathrooms with wider doors, more floor space, modified controls and a shower seat. Princess supplies Lotus Spa amenities that include shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, bath gel and soap.