Big Cruise Ships

The Grand Princess

Grand Princess is more than the biggest, most expensive cruise ship ever. Built at a cost of over $450 million, Grand Princess has more ways to relax, dine, shop, play, swim, sun, dance and indulge than you can imagine. The flagship of Grand Class Cruising, is the largest, most expensive ship afloat and the most innovative. No other ship offers so much choice in dining, entertainment and accommodations including more balconies than any other ship and much more. The Grand Princess is the perfect ship for two of the most popular destinations in cruising. A veritable floating city, her variety is the perfect complement to the Mediterranean and the Caribbean alike. Princess staterooms offer the deluxe amenities you'd expect from a first-class hotel: everything from 24-hour room service to chocolates on the pillow at night. Princess' Grand Class ships have introduced new freedom to the world of cruising. She offers 710 staterooms with private balconies, full deck of mini-suites, virtual reality center and motion-based simulator ride, blue screen digital photography studio, sports bar, wrap-around promenade deck, four pools and nine whirlpool spas, paddle tennis court, three dining rooms, Trattoria, pizzeria, and southwestern restaurant, outdoor hamburger grill and ice cream bar, 17 bars including a wine and caviar bar, three show locations, largest casino afloat, complete child and teen centers, she takes 2600 passengers. The options, and excitement, are endless when you chose Grand Class Cruising. With nine dining options and three shows from which to choose nightly, you can do what you want, when you want. The Grand Princess boasts a number of firsts at sea: a wedding chapel, a virtual reality center, and a digital photo studio among them, and a 9 hole putting green and golf simulator.

Voyager Of The Seas

Rock Climbing Wall

The Voyager of the Seas, at 142,000 tons spans the length of three football fields. Voyager's innovations include enhanced cabins, increased dining options, and exceptional recreational facilities for the entire family. Perhaps the most breathtaking of these innovations is the Royal Promenade. More than the length of a football field and four decks high, the Royal Promenade hosts a wide selection of shops, restaurants and entertainment fronting on a picturesque winding street. Expanded dining choices aboard Voyager of the Seas range from the spectacular three dining rooms all inter-connected by a staircase. Among Voyager's extensive entertainment options are the 1,350 seat La Scala Theater and the interactive theater and concert venue, Studio B. The spacious recreational facilities boast an outdoor sports deck (complete with golf course) and a National-size sports court for basketball, paddleball and volleyball, plus great facilities for the kids, a Wedding Chapel and the Peak A Boo Bridge, the perfect vantage point for watching your expert crew guide Voyager of the Seas to your destination. Voyager of the Seas departs year-round from Miami and sails to Labadee, Ocho Rios and Cozumel. 

Big Cruise lines' private beaches can be the highlight of the voyage

Disney is one of seven lines that has bought or leased private islands (or parts of islands) in the Caribbean or Bahamas, making out-islands the in thing in cruising.

Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line and Costa Cruise Lines each has a chunk of tropical turf that passengers can call their own on a day planned exclusively for them. Royal Caribbean International has two islands - one in Haiti and another in the Bahamas. Radisson Seven Seas Cruises has a private island in Polynesia.

With the ambiance of a private beach club, the islands (often called cays) provide a refreshing alternative to the often frenetic pace aboard ship and the huge crowds at popular ports of call - where a slew of vessels may be disgorging passengers at the same time and shore-excursion participants may have to conform to rigid tour schedules. On the cruise lines' islands, passengers can come and go between ship and shore as they please. Disney is the only line that ties up to a dock at its island - a big advantage for physically challenged guests, those maneuvering baby strollers, and passengers who want to meander easily on and off the ship with no waiting time. The other ships anchor offshore and operate tenders back and forth all day - usually no more than a 10-minute ride.

Ships usually arrive in the morning and depart in late afternoon, with a big barbecue lunch buffet served at one or more island pavilions (although passengers may opt to eat on board instead). An island band usually is on tap most of the day. The islands have permanent bathroom facilities and plenty of lounge chairs. Beach umbrellas and chaise cushions that double as floats are provided free by some ships; others charge a small fee, typically $6 for the day. Passengers may choose to laze amid their shipmates or stroll to more isolated spots - usually the farther from the drop-off point, the quieter.

Princess Cays, a 40-acre peninsula on the southern tip of Eleuthera in the outer Bahamas, has 1 1/2 miles of coastline where passengers of Princess Cruises' Grand Princess and Sea Princess spend their first or last day during one-week Caribbean sailings out of Fort Lauderdale.

"A private island provides a great opportunity to wind down and mellow out at the beginning or end of a cruise after all the hustling to get to the ship or all the running around at ports and on board during the cruise," said the cruise line's Denise Stanley. Not that there's nothing to do on these islands. Energetic types can participate in a slew of organized activities, from water sports to volleyball games and guided trail walks or diving excursions (usually at a surcharge). Or they can rent snorkeling gear, mini-sailboats, kayaks and other water toys and play on their own. Ships usually provide supervised shore activities and/or play areas for children (child-geared Disney has some of the best programs). Some lines charge for child care on shore or aboard ship on island days, typically about $4 per hour per child, which may be money well spent for parents who want a little beach time to themselves.

Some islands offer special treats:

  • Disney's Castaway Cay and Holland America's Half Moon Cay (a 2,400-acre island southeast of Nassau) offer massages in private beach cabanas (Holland America charges $79 for 50 minutes, Disney $60 for 25 minutes).
  • Costa Cruises organizes a surf-and-turf Olympics at its Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line runs guided snorkeling tours ($25 for adults, $15 for children, including all gear) around the teeming reefs of Great Stirrup Cay, four square miles of sand and coral cliff in the Bahamas' Berry island chain.
  • To amuse snorkelers and attract marine life, Royal Caribbean has built a replica of a Spanish galleon and sunk a small airplane in the waters off its Bahamian island, 140-acre Coco Cay. The line's other island, Labadee, a 260-acre peninsula on the north coast of Haiti, has a huge arts-and-crafts market with colorful - and high-quality - sculptures and folk paintings.
  • Radisson Seven Seas Cruises doesn't have a private island in the Caribbean, but passengers on Panama Canal cruises aboard the line's Navigator get exclusive use of the canal's Gatun Yacht Club for a day. Guests can join free tours to watch ships passing through nearby Gatun Lock, go on a guided nature walk into the surrounding jungle, bargain at an Indian marketplace set up on the club grounds, or splash around in a protected swimming area with views of passing freighters and cruise liners. (How many people can say they swam in the Panama Canal?)

Although some services and activities on the private islands may be subcontracted to local residents (handicraft markets, selected water sports and island bands typically are staffed by residents of the host country), everything is monitored by ship personnel, providing quality control and accountability on the part of the cruise line. Much of the ship's serving staff is assigned to island duty as well, creating a comfortable continuum between passengers and crew.

That's a big improvement over the days not so long ago when many cruise lines, having no private turf of their own, sought to give passengers a bit of beach time by renting a few hours of access to the sands of resorts along their route, usually as a shore excursion option. Passengers were dumped off to swim and sweat and burn - with few amenities available. In many cases they were unwelcome inside the host hotel, except perhaps to use the restrooms. Still, though, not all the islands are designed with accessibility in mind. While the physically challenged (and families with small children) will love the paved walkways and helpful island-wide tram service on Disney's Castaway Cay, Princess Cays, Royal Caribbean's Labadee and Holland America's Half Moon Cay, they will find Norwegian Cruise Line's Great Stirrup Cay virtually unnavigable - with deep soft sand and rocky terrain a barrier almost from the start. Physically fit folks, on the other hand, may find Great Stirrup Cay their favorite island because of its abundant reef life and massive rocky coral promontory - great for walking, with painted footprints marking a trail to the point.

What if you're really not a beach person, but still want your fair share of tranquility? Not to worry. Sometimes the quietest place of all on island days is back on the ship. While most of the other passengers are making like Robinson Crusoe, you'll have most of the deck space and other popular spots practically to yourself.


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