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We recently took a Princess cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Grand Princess. This was our third sailing on the Grand since she was commissioned in 1998. You might wonder, after 20 years of service and tens of thousands of passengers, how does Princess keep her looking fresh and appealing to prospective guests.
We interviewed the captain and hotel general manager, and along with inquiring about their work we asked some questions about the age of the Grand Princess.
Meet the Captain
The present master of the Grand Princess is Captain John Harry Smith, who started his career at sea as a deck hand on an oil tanker. He worked his way up the ranks and has been with Princess Cruise Line since 2007. In our years as travel photojournalists we have interviewed many ship’s Masters. Captain Smith manifests the same professionalism and confidence that we have learned to expect from all the members of his highly trained and respected vocation.
On the subject of maintaining older ships in the Princess fleet, Captain Smith commented, “Having an inspired crew, and paying attention to details when it comes to cleanliness and appearance gives any ship vitality. Constant and vigilant maintenance allows older ships to remain seaworthy and popular among new and repeat guests.” To that end, each Princess ship is removed from service every three years, and the Grand Princess is next in line.
This coming month it will enter dry dock in Portland, Oregon for repairs, maintenance, improvements, and inspections. She will be worked over from stem to stern, top to bottom, inside and out, by 1,000 contractors from around the world. The work will be performed 24 hours a day, and the workers will live aboard the ship. Service will be provided by the ship’s regular hospitality crew during the entire process. All the work and numerous inspections will take just 13 days. Now that’s precision planning!
We Asked the Hotel General Manager
While the captain is responsible for literally everything, his primary areas of concentration are guest and ship safety, navigation, operations, and the environment. And so he puts great trust in the person who is directly charged with keeping the passengers happy: the hotel general manager. The HGM is responsible for all guest services, including dining, entertainment, and housekeeping, and aboard the Grand Princess, that's Helmut Leikauf.
There’s a ratio of about two guests to one crew member on board a Princess ship. Approximately 900 of the 1,100 hundred crew aboard the Grand Princess are guest-centric and report to the hotel organization. The HGM is an important officer indeed.
Mr. Leikauf fits the profile of his job perfectly. He hails from Austria, a country noted for its prestigious hotel schools. Helmut is the epitome of what one expects at the top echelon of a first class hotel - on land or sea. He is gracious, gregarious, and exacting, and his leadership by example is evident throughout the ship. He offered, “A happy crew makes for happy guests.”
We asked Mr. Leikauf about how long a ship might expect to be part of the Princess fleet. His answer was that such decisions are way above his pay grade, but he did offer that the Princess’ head office is highly focused on an excellent guest cruise experience. In his opinion, “There will be a place for any ship that continues to uphold and perform to Princess high standards, and remains popular with the guests.”
We recommend this cruise
Our ten day cruise to Mexico exceeded our expectations. The Grand Princess performed like the great ship she is, and the attentive officers and crew made it an exceptional vacation.
We will write about other aspects of our Princess cruise to the Mexican Riviera in future articles.
Our next cruise will be to Hawaii or Alaska, and since it will depart from San Francisco, it will be on the renovated Grand Princess. We look forward to being aboard one of our favorite ships once again, and seeing her new “sparkle.”
For more information
Contact your favorite travel agent or Princess Cruises directly.
The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.
Copyright © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff
Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff