Grand Princess as seen from a grand height in Rotterdam, Euromast, during her first visit to the Dutch port at the 14th of may 2004.
Princess Cruises was a very well-known name throughout the cruise-indusrty and also by the genral public due to their involvement in the TV-show The Love Boat, starring their ships Island Princess and Pacific Princess during the 1970's. The show made cruising an appealing alternative holiday for more people and where during the 1970's the ideal size for a cruiseship was said to be around 20.000 tons, in the aftermath of the show larger ships were on the drawingboards. Norway came in 1980, followed by the Holiday-class of Carnival in the beginning of the 1980's. Also Princess Cruises pushed up the scales by adding the Royal Princess of over 40.000-tons to their fleet in 1984. Then at the end of the decade, Royal Caribbean came with the Sovereign-class of ships, measuring over 70.000-tons and becoming the largest passengerships in the world. At that time, Princess Cruises ordered the even larger Sun-class of four ships, starting with the 77.000-ton Sun Princess in 1995. When introduced, the ship was the fourth largest passengership ever built. During their introduction, Carnival introduced the worlds first 100.000-ton ship Carnival Destiny in 1996, but Princess had already gone a step further then that, ordering a new part of the Sun-class, but then with a measurement of 110.000 tons. With ease, this ship was going to be the largest passengership in history.
A class of ships
When ordered at the 8th of february in 1994, in spite of the huge tonnage difference, the new monstership was named as a new unit in the Sun-class as she was based on the same design and interiour decorations. As the largest ship in the world, she also was going to become the flagship of the fleet, a title she held untill the arrival of the new (thirth) 140.000-ton Royal Princess in 2013.
It seemed a little strange that Princess Cruises named her a Sun-class ship, as she was so different in size. So when the company launched a similar ship under the name of Golden Princess in 2000, these ships were referred to as Grand-class. This change started a whole bunch of ships based on the Grand Princess design, making this new Grand-class of ships one of the largest families in the cruisefleet. After Golden Princess, Star Princess was built to the same design and launched in 2002, but afterwards, the design was slightly altered for newer ships but the term Grand-class was used as an umbrella for all of those. Under this umbrella, two ships were built under the name Gem-class and those were named Diamond Princess (2004) and Sapphire Princess (2004). They differed from the original trio as they were built in Nagasaki, Japan instead of in Monfalcone at the Fincantieri Yards. Also, the signature Skywalkers Lounge on these ships was placed directly behind the funnel instead of further aft above the stern as Princess discovered problems with the original design in the first three ships.
Before those ships, in 2003 the company launched the Caribbean Princess, that recieved one extra deck in comparissement to the original Grand Princess and her sisters that gave her an extra capacity of 300 passengers. No other ships were built exactly like her, so she became a one-off.
Then came the Crown-class as another diversion of the Grand-class. In this class, another extra deck was added so they had two extra decks in comparissement to the original design. Like the Gem-class, their Skywalkers Lounge was also placed directly behind the funnel. Also, some new café's and grills are added for the passengers, as well as The Sanctuary, a for-free adults-only area above the Spa, where the Sports Court was located aboard the other earlier ships. The Crown-class is Crown Princess (2006), Emerald Princess (2007) and Ruby Princess (2008).
For sistercompany P&O, also two ships were built of the same basic design, becoming the largest ships of this old English line. They became the Ventura-class, named after the first ship Ventura (2009). Her sister became the Azura of 2010.
Construction and genral statistics
Like the Carnival Destiny, the newest Princess ship was one of dazzling figures in a time that ships measuring more then 100.000 tons were a true novelty. Nowadays, the Grand Princess can be called midsize, because there are ships that easily double her figures like Oasis Of The Seas and Allure Of The Seas. For a long time, it was thought that there would never be ships built of a size larger then the largest oceanliners ever, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Normandie, but after the first 100.000-plus passengerships were introduced, there seemed to be no limits anymore. In a huge advertizing campaign by Princess for their new giant, the ship was placed right behind the American Capitol Building just to show her size. This used to be a good way of showing how big ships were in the time of the large oceanliners, where every new seacastle was shown in comparissement with buildings or streets.
Grand Princess had an exact tonnage-measurement of 108.806 and a lenght of just 289,51 meters so she almost towered from bow top stern. Her width is 36 meters (that was the widest ever for a passengerliner) and her draft reaches a quite normal 8 meters. Her passenger-capacity is a maximum of 3100, in just lower berths (measured at two passengers per cabin) the number given is 2592. Her crew capacity is 1100 persons and all of those people use 17 decks, of which 12 can be used by the passengers. When she was launched, after she had been built under yardnumber 5956, the ship was registered at Monrovia so she flew the flag of Liberia. Her normal speed was to be 24 knots and she was driven by two fixed propellers as it just wasn't the time for modernities like pods yet. She was not only to be the worlds largest passengership ever, she was also the most expensive one ever built with as pricetag of 450 million USD. The ship was launched at the 20th of may 1997 and sailed her trials in december of that year, in time for the planned delivery to Princess Cruises at the 3rd of may of 1998.
With a tonnage of 108.806, and a lenght of just 289,51 meters, the Grand Princess mostly grew in height, exactly like the earlier Carnival Destiny, the ship's superstructure towered from the bow to the stern, leaving no room for forward or aft decks. Above the aft open deck, high above the water, the Skywalkers Lounge was placed, accessible by an escalator. This lounge, turned into a discoteque at night, was placed here so other passengers would not be bothered by the loud music. It also gave the ship the look of a shopping-cart, the lounge being the handle. Officially, it had been designed as a resemblence to the looks of a Spanish galleon by Fincantieri's house-architect Giacomo Mortola, of course with some 'architectural freedom', as we say... This lounge proved to have some difficulties over time, as we will see later. In contradiction to her soon-to-be sisterships within the class, Grand Princess had a different interiour, a little more classic and darker like the ships of the Sun-class. Her newer fleetmates would soon be more light and modern in style.
The ship has 750 outside cabins with balconies, at the time the most balconies on any cruiseliner. Five swimmingpools, three show lounges, three dining rooms (besides an 24-hour alternative restaurant), a virtual reality theater and a greenscreen studio were also part of . More dining options are at a pizzeria and a Southwestern-style restaurant. In total, there are four options for breakfast, seven options for lunch and eight for diner. All of this, in a ship that was supposed to be a 'big ship with a small ship feel'. Opinions about this are not the same with every passenger...
Just like her sisters in the Sun-class, Grand Princess had a traditional, darker interiour then the ships in the 'Grand'-class that followed her, leading up to the creation of a new class in total, with her beinbg the lead ship.
Although it was planned for the new ship to be delivered to Princess Cruises at the 3rd of may 1998, it seemed that a ship this large could not be finished on time. Because of this, delivery was postponed, as it was clear that the ship was not going to make her first cruise from Southampton to Istanbul. Still a lot had to be done, for example the carpeting was not ready and it was impossible to take on passengers. There was a voyage towards Istanbul, though, but during this voyage all work that had to be done was finished. At the 19th of may, the ship was finally delivered to the company and sailed her first Mediterranean cruise from Istanbul to Barcelona, departing the Turkish port at the 26th of may. She wasn't officially named, though. This was planned in a special ceremony at New York at the 29th of september. The ship was then named by Olivia de Havilland, a British-American actress born in 1916 who appeared in films like 'A Midsummer Nights Dream' in 1935, 'Gone With The Wind' in 1939 and 'The Heiress' in 1949.
In the year 2000, the ships registry was changed to the Bahamas, her homeport now was Hamilton. And in october of that same year, an important step was taken when the cruise division of P&O Princess separated itself from the P&O Group and was going public on its own. A few years later, the rest of the P&O Group was absorbed into Dubai Ports and the name P&O dissappeared as such. The cruisedivision was planning to merge with Royal Caribbean a few years later, but this deal collapsed and P&O Princess was instead taken over by Carnival Corporation making it part of the largest passengership company since the International Merchantile Marine Corporation from J.P. Morgan in the beginning of the 1900's.
In 2011, a large rebuilding took place to get the ship up-to-date with its newest fleetmates. In may of that year, the ship was drydocked and she recieved a completely renewed Atrium, new dining options, a Princess Cruises first tearoom called 'Leaves', a remodelled casino, boutiques and an art-gallery and the Crooners Martini Lounge. Also, new suites were added and a lot of public rooms updated and refurbished. But the most distinctive change was the removal of the Skywalkers Lounge, wherefor a new nightclub was built called 'The One5'. The Skywalkers Lounge was removed because of fuel-efficiency reasons. As the lounge was quite heavy at her back, the ship's bow turned upwards during sailingtimes, triggering a higher fuel-consumption. In later ships of the Grand Class, aluminium was used for the lounge, reducing the weight and so these problems did not occur within the later ships. Side-effect was also that the lounge above the aft decks of the ship suffered some structural problems and small cracks in the steel were discovered due to the weight also. Next to these structural problems, there were complaints from the passengers that the lounge took away the sun from the aft deck pool because of its place above it. It was of course already in several of the newer ships of the class that the lounge had been removed more midships, so the aftdecks were cleared.
The two pictures below, dated the 8th of july 2012, show Grand Princess when she first visited the port of Rotterdam after her refit. She looks quite smart without the shopping-cart handle, and the ships of the Rotterdam harbour company awarded her renewed entrance with a watery curtain.
On the 23rd of september 2011, the promenade deck of Grand Princess was used by one of her passengers, the 57-year old Englishman Steve Eaton, who ran the equivalent of a marathon aboard to raise money for Help for Heroes, a charity that provides support for those wounded, sick or injured in the line of duty since 9/11. Eaton completed this first marathon at sea in a time of 5 hours, 16 minutes and 45 seconds. A less feelgood incident occured during a cruise around Hawaii in november 2013. A woman was reported jumping overboard, presumably commiting suicide. The ship turned around to search for her and also an US Coast Guard searchplane assisted, but she wasn't found.
Another incident occured at the 30th of november of 2015, when a malfunction of the ships swichboard started a fire in the engineroom. The ship was sailing the Pacific Ocean on her way from San Fransisco to Hawaii when the fire broke out. Luckily, nobody was injured, but the ship had to skip two ports at Hawaii because the speed was affected. All passengers recieved a full refund of their cruise and an airfare back to San Fransisco, after repairs were carried out at Honolulu.