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Shawn & Michelle

Age: Late 30’s, Parents c

Occupation:Marketing Manager, Attorney

Number of Cruises: 2,

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Grandeur of the Seas

Sailing Date: July

Itinerary: 5-day cruise from Baltimore to Bermuda and back

3rd, 2005

Quick Summary: Quality of the food was good, service was good, entertainment/activities was excellent. Bermuda was a great island. Engine problem caused delay in leaving port and abbreviated time in Bermuda – poor communication on the issue and confusion on the itinerary caused much frustration, but they did give us 50% credit on this cruise and a 50% discount toward a future cruise. Overall, we enjoyed the cruise and would do it again, hoping there would not be any major snafus like this time.

Embarkation The information sent to us before the cruise said not to arrive before 3pm, which seemed late for a cruise scheduled to leave at 5pm. Everyone told us to get there much earlier because the wait to check-in is shorter, you can spend time to investigate the ship, and you can eat lunch. We followed their advice and arrived at the port about 12:30pm and there seemed to be no issue with being early. We dropped our luggage off in front of the ship and parked the car. Parking was right next to the ship, which was convenient - $50 for the length of the 5-day cruise. When we arrived at the port, we learned that the ship had engine troubles and had just arrived to port. (More on this later.) They gave us a letter explaining the problem and offering us 50% credit on this cruise and a 50% discount toward a future cruise, or a full refund on this cruise if we chose not to take it. We, and apparently everyone else, continued with the cruise. It took us about 20 minutes to check-in and get our Seapass card. People that arrived earlier than us did not get their Seapass card for some reason when they arrived and had to wait 2 hours in the late afternoon (after returning from the Inner Harbor) to get them – that would have been very frustrating if we had been in that situation. Because of the delayed departure time, Royal Caribbean had buses take guests from the terminal over to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for the afternoon. They had a conference room at the Wyndam Hotel with food. We chose, however, to eat at the Inner Harbor (on our own dime) because it was a nice day and we did not want to be cooped up in a hotel. Getting back to the cruise terminal was tense and time-consuming because there were not enough buses to take everyone at once and we had to wait for awhile on the bus to unload. Once we exited the bus, we were able to board the boat immediately (around 5:00pm) after proceeding through security (again) at the terminal. We were able to go to our room and our luggage had arrived already. We spent some time walking around the ship to see where everything was.

Room Our room was located on Deck 2, the lowest deck for passenger rooms. We were toward the very front of the ship (room 2510) on the outside, so we had two small porthole windows. Of course, the room was small but laid out well – we were able to fit all our clothes in the closet and drawers. The shower was small. In general the room was very quiet except the last night when they were moving luggage and when we were docking – the jets were very loud and must have been located close to our room.

Engine Problems As mentioned earlier, the ship had engine troubles at the end of the cruise before ours. They worked to repair the engine while at port in Baltimore. They were unsure if they could get it back to full-working order and would not know for sure until we hit the open ocean. This delayed departure time to about 8:30pm, 3.5 hours late. (Note that there was never an announcement that we departed from Baltimore – the boat just started moving.) They also initially said that our time in Bermuda would be shortened a lot – we would arrive at 5pm Tuesday and leave at 12pm Wednesday (versus the original arrival of 9am Tuesday and departure of 5pm Wednesday). Needless to say, nobody was happy about this. During an announcement after the muster drill, however, the captain implied that the engine had been fixed and that they would try to make up the lost time en route to Bermuda. The next morning we checked the Cruise Status on the TV channel and it appeared that we were close to full speed and that the Bermuda arrival and departure were at the original, longer times. But then we heard conflicting times from crew members and other passengers. Later on Monday afternoon, the Captain made an announcement indicating that we would arrive in Bermuda between 2 and 3 p.m. on Tuesday. When we asked at the Excursions desk, they said that the estimated depature time from Bermuda would be 3 p.m. on Wednesday. At the “Meet the Captain” happy hour, the Captain would not speak at all about the engine status nor the arrival/departure times. On Tuesday, the day we were to arrive in Bermuda, it was announced that we would be departing at noon on Wednesday. No reason was given. We actually arrived at Bermuda at 2pm on Tuesday, a little ahead of schedule. On the way back to Baltimore, we must have been at full speed. The captain announced shortly after departure that we would be back early to the Chesapeake Bay and to port in Baltimore. As he predicted, we arrived at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay at about 8pm Thursday which is about 5-6 ho urs earlier than you would expect. They must have slowed the ship to a crawl in the Chesapeake Bay because we did not dock at the port in Baltimore until about 4am Friday, a long time to travel that distance but still a few hours earlier than planned. Given the speed with which we were able to return to Baltimore, we could not understand why we could not have stayed in Bermuda for a few more hours (instead of leaving 5 hours earlier than originally scheduled) which would have made our stay much more enjoyable. Nor did we understand why we arrived in Bermuda five hours later than scheduled, when our departure was only 3.5 hours behind schedule. The most frustrating thing was the total lack of communication on this issue. They did not tell us whether or not the engine was fully repaired, nor why the schedule had been modified several times. We would have been more satisfied if they had explained the reason for the early departure, such as they wanted to be back in Baltimore early to check the engine in preparation for the next cruise which was leaving the same day we would be returning. Instead, no explanation was offered or given.

The 50% rebate and future discount was definitely a good compensation, but the RC attitude was “you got your 50% off, so be happy.” (This was actually stated on several occasions by the cruise director staff and the Captain himself.) We believe that since we had received such a discount, Royal Caribbean felt no obligation to make our stay in Bermuda any more lengthy. We found that the 50% credit had been promptly applied on our credit card account, after we returned home.

Bermuda The ship docked at King’s Wharf at the Royal Navy Dockyard at the Northwest tip of the island. Bermuda is a very clean island with very little poverty and crime – we had no problem walking the streets at night. With the abbreviated stay in Bermuda, we had to make the most efficient use of time. Our snorkel excursion was cancelled because the ship arrived too late – we were refunded the charge promptly. We dashed off the ship as soon as the doors opened. We hurried to buy tokens and to jump on the ferry to Hamilton, the biggest town on Bermuda. Only a handful of cruisers made the ferry – the Bermuda transportation system doesn’t seem to be very flexible to accommodate a cruise ship, especially if the itinerary changes. We did a little shopping before the stores closed (5pm for most of them) and a self-walking tour around the city. We saw city hall, some churches and Fort Hamilton (which also closes at 5pm). We had a nice dinner at the Harbourfront Inn (sushi and drink specials before 6:30pm) and stopped at Hogspenny pub for a beer where we met a nice couple from Boston. On Wednesday morning, we woke up very early in order to get to a beach before the ship departed. Again transportation was difficult at this odd time (~7:30am). Taxis were very difficult to get and a direct bus to a beach was not available. We decided to jump on another bus and the bus driver helped us transfer to a bus that went to the beach. We wanted to go to Church’s Bay, which supposedly is great for snorkeling but there wasn’t anyplace to rent snorkeling equipment at that time. Instead we went to Horseshoe Bay. This was absolutely beautiful with pinkish sand, very clear water, and awesome coves. We could see colorful fish swimming in the water. We got back to the boat at 11:30am and the ship promptly departed around noon. While there is a small beach close to where the ship docked (called Snorkel Park), it was definitely worth the effort to see Horseshoe Bay.

Dining The formal dining room, “The Great Gatsby” was very elegant. The quality of the food in general was very good, though a few items (i.e. filet mignon, French onion soup) were average. Monday night was the formal dinner – most men wore suits and the dress for women varied from formal dresses to sundresses. The other nights were more casual – a few sports jackets for men and a majority with slacks and polo shirts. We sat at a table with 3 other pairs that were pleasant company, but did not have a lot in common with us (two pairs were mother/daughter combos). It would have been nice if RC sat us with other married couples under 40 traveling without kids. We only had one lunch in the “The Great Gatsby.” It was very good. For breakfast and the other lunches, we ate in the Windjammer, which was on the pool deck and had a great view from the front of the ship. The buffet food was decent. You could feel the movement of the ship very much from this vantage point, however. The midnight buffet had awesome ice sculptures and great presentation of the food. We actually did not stay up to 12:30am when you could actually eat the food. We heard mixed reviews from the other passengers as to the quality of the food.

Service Our dinner service was very good. The food was served to our table quickly and we were out in time to enjoy the nighttime entertainment. Our waiter was friendly, though not that charismatic. Our head waiter was very good. Our state room attendant was excellent – very friendly and mild-mannered. The worst part of the service on the ship was bar service. It was very difficult to get a drink in “The Great Gatsby” and we had to wait a while at some of the bars to get served. This perplexed us because RC makes more money if we buy more drinks.

Entertainment/Activities Every evening the Cruise Compass pamphlet was left in the room which listed all of the events of the next day. This was very useful. The shows were put on in “The Palladium” which was an elegant theater. An excellent comedian, Al Romas, performed on the first night. He was hilarious. The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers put on two long shows and did abbreviated numbers throughout the cruise. We only saw one long show, “Jump Jivin’ Swing”, which was centered around the 30’s and 40’s, and was very good. They also did a tribute to Broadway shows which got a decent review from another couple. Rick Novell performed on the last night who did a comedy/juggling routine – he was good. There was also a magician, which we did not see. They put on some fun game shows such as the “Love & Marriage” (Newlywed type game), “Battle of the Sexes” (Family Feud type game), and “Grandeur Quest” (an adult scavenger hunt - bring extra undergarments and a camera). One night was Karaoke and because the talent on the ship was tremendous and enjoyable, they added a second night of Karaoke later in the cruise. Of course, they had the casino but we are not gamblers and never had time to try it. They also had bingo. We only participated in the last round on the last day because there was huge jackpot. A girl won the $8100 jackpot (tax-free).

The Viking Club was the nightclub. The first night they had 70’s music which was fun. The RC Singers & Dancers did a short ABBA routine and the cruise staff did a short Village People routine. The rest of the time they played new dance music interspersed occasionally with some dance songs from the 80’s and 90’s (i.e. Michael Jackson, C&C Music Factory). It would have been nice to mix up the music a little more (maybe 80’s hour) but it is difficult to satisfy everyone’s tastes. Out of the three nights that we stopped at the Viking Club, only on Monday night was it real crowded. There was also a piano man in the Schooner Bar but we never had time to enjoy this – we never did see a lot of people in there when he was playing. On Tuesday night (when we were docked at Bermuda) they had a Caribbean pool party which was very well-attended. They had music and food. A lot of people were line dancing. We were very entertained by the Activities Director, Tommy Cash (“Cha-Ching”). He ran bingo and many of the other activities. He could be a comedian in his own right. Kelly, who also ran a lot of the activities, was also very good.

Recreation They had 2 pools – one was outside that was open to everyone and the other pool was inside for adults. Both pools were surprisingly small so they got very crowded when the sun was hot. We expected larger pools for the number of people on the ship. The kids dominated the outside pool. Every afternoon they had a contest around the pool, which was entertaining. In the middle of the afternoon, the Caribbean band would play. Around the outside pool were 4 hot tubs, which were always crowded. The adult pool had 2 hot tubs which we tried late one afternoon. It was difficult to find a lounge chair around the pools. Though you are not supposed to reserve chairs, people would throw a towel on the chair and not come back for an hour or more. The fitness center was decent. There were several treadmills, elliptical machines, and bikes. There was a full set of dumbbells and several weight machines. They had a room for yoga and aerobic classes. On the back of the ship was a rock climbing wall. There was a long line the first couple days to do this. It is best to do this in the morning before it gets crowded.

Disembarkation Disembarking started at 7am and we had to be out of the room by 8am. They were offering breakfast until 8:30am. We chose to do the Self-Assist option when disembarking. Information on how to do this was lacking, though in the end, it was pretty simple. Basically, you keep all of your luggage and you carry it off yourself. You still get colored luggage tags which are called out when it is time to leave. This option is great if you want to be off the ship quickly - we were off the ship, through customs, and out of the terminal in 10 minutes (by 7:30am). The customs agents were at the door and collected the Declaration forms – we did not have to do anything else with Customs. If you want to have breakfast, the self-assist option may be a hassle because you need to keep your luggage with you unless you can get breakfast and back to your room before 8am. There were some folks on our deck who chose the self-assist option, but did not leave when their color tag was called. They went to get breakfast and just left their luggage in the hall. We do not know if they encountered any problems later by choosing this route. In your room the night before you leave, RC provides a questionnaire seeking feedback about all aspects of the cruise. The service attendants depend on getting “Excellent” feedback to get extra days off. We were anxious to provide our feedback. We thought there was supposed to be a drop-off box on the gang-way but we did not see one. Later, we recalled that Kelly was collecting things as people were leaving, but during the rush at the exit and customs, we did not notice - it was most likely the questionnaires. We will try to mail ours to RC.

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