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Kathleen & Troy Lancaster

Age: 29

Occupation:Executive Administrative Assistant

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Grandeur of the Seas

Sailing Date: April 26th, 2002

Itinerary: Circle the Caribbean

For the most part, everything was average. We got a good deal when we booked the cruise in November of 2001. We paid $849/pp for an outside cabin. With a 9-day itinerary, we couldn’t pass that up! But, in retrospect, we got what we paid for. With the exception of the Dining Room staff, all service was at the basic level of satisfactory. Everything was done at the bare minimum unless we requested something more. (Shouldn’t they be the ones asking, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Funny, now that I say that, I don’t ever remember hearing that once!)

At the beginning of the cruise (embarkation), we had no problems at the pier in Miami. We arrived at 1:00pm. The porters loaded our luggage (we received colored tags prior to departure with our cabin number on them) and got in the big line to get onboard. Of course, the lines were long and there were very impatient people ahead of us and behind us waiting to embark the ship, but that goes with the territory. We were just happy to be away from work! All of our suitcases were in our stateroom by 5:00pm

One major regret was our decision to order a “bon voyage” cheese tray to be delivered to our stateroom. With a bottle of zinfandel, the charge was $42. As we were nibbling crackers & cheese, I was thumbing through the room service menu where I found “cheese and cracker tray.” The same exact tray we paid for was FREE on the room service menu! Argh…

About our cabin: it was a “larger outside stateroom,” and having been on cruises before, I knew that this really meant “small couch instead of a chair” in our room. Space planning was poor! Who’s idea was it to put drawers in the closet? We had to give up a good amount of space for our clothes in the closet in order to put our suitcases in. The bed was too low for them to fit under.

Oh yes, the bed. If you are a couple, the cabin stewards do not separate your beds during the day. This means you have to maneuver around a queen-sized bed for the week. Also, the converted twin beds make for an interesting ride if you are doing any kind of “fooling around.” Stay away from the middle, or you’ll fall in! You also have to ask for a queen-sized bedspread, or you have to make due with two sheets and a blanket. One more thing: Our sheets were never changed during the 9 days we were on board.

Our cabin steward was average. He barely said 10 words to us all week. (Apparently, this was the exception to the rule—our table mates said theirs were wonderful.) We’re not used to that, especially if you’ve been on Holland America, where the sheets were changed every other day, and, if they find liquor in your room, they asked you what you like to mix it with and made sure it was there everyday.

The steward did do a good job cleaning up after us in the bathroom, though. The shower was too small—especially for my 6’4” 280 lb husband. So, we opted to keep the curtain open so we could move our arms enough to wash under them. I also took to resting my foot on the toilet if I wanted to shave my legs. We kept the small mat and another bath towel on the floor to soak up the water.

Oh, yes. I mentioned liquor in our room! Or, as I called it, “Contraband.” We were very disappointed to find that, if you purchased liquor at the ship’s recommended shops in port, they did not give it to you for immediate consumption, but sent it to the ship where they held it until the night before you disembarked. This was also the case at the duty-free shop onboard the ship—their duty free prices were great, but if you wanted to do something crazy, like actually DRINK some of it while you were on the cruise, they charged you a $9.75 “consumption fee.” All of this, in addition to the lounges on the ship automatically adding a 15% gratuity to any drink you ordered! (They actually charged us for coffee in one of the lounges! When I told the server we could get it for free in the Windjammer café, he said, “Ok.,” meaning, ‘Ok. Go and get it yourself.”) I got used to water and iced tea rather quickly!

“Shipcharge” : Your room key is also your onboard credit card. It is SOOOO easy to hand that little plastic thing over to pay for stuff. They encourage this “cashless” society, where the shipcharge is the only method of payment accepted, even for buying a bingo card or a bottle of sprite. In order to avoid a massive coronary at the end of the cruise, we had our grand total updated and sent to us every day from the purser’s office.

Also sent to everyone onboard every day was the “Compass,” a newsletter that listed all of the daily activities. The portable insert was a big help—it was a smaller version of the newsletter that just listed meal times, hours of the lounges, and the activities for the day. We always had it with us, folded up in our pocket.

The ship’s activities were plentiful. There was lots to do at sea and in port. The shows were OK, but the best entertainment came after dinner in the South Pacific Lounge. They had many theme parties and games that could have easily received an “R” rating. All ages were there, and no one was offended. Everyone always had a good time.

One of the activities I must warn you about is the BINGO. Hear this, very loud and clear: STAY AWAY FROM BINGO UNTIL THE VERY LAST DAY. They charge outrageous prices for cards, and the “payouts” are so little that you don’t even break even. What are they doing with the money? We paid $35 apiece for a “jumbo pack” (you play five games, and get six cards per game). So as a couple, we spent $70, and what were the payouts? Game 1: $38. Game 2: $27. Game 3: $46… I felt sorry for the “winners” who had to split a pot. We learned our lesson and only played again on the last day. Some people played twice a day for the entire trip. Only on the last day were the payouts good ($200 - $500), and the grand prize jackpot got up to $7200.

About the Grandeur’s pools: One of the best kept secrets on the ship was the Solarium. It was a fabulous escape from the main pool, where you could almost always count on parents not watching their kids run around and jump in and out of the jacuzzis. We had a great time stretching out in the sun and relaxing in the pool. The solarium was a big draw to the 50+ age group. The older crowd was a real kick—they liked having us “kids” around, and we loved talking to them.

The main pool was fun to be at in the late afternoon, where the Jamaican band would play and a lot of passengers would dance and watch the sun go down. We would usually go up there at 4:30 and have a couple of cocktails before we went back to our rooms to get ready for dinner (late seating.)

Dinner!!! The highlight of our day!!! Erminiu (“…you can call me ‘Jack’ if it’s easier”…) was our server, and he kicked butt! He and his assistant, Kashiuk, had our routines down by day two. Erminiu never hesitated to speak up if he thought something didn’t taste good (so we wouldn’t order it), and would bring us two or three of something he thought we’d like. We also saw a lot of the head waiter, Alessandro. He mostly came around and asked, “How is everybody doing this evening?”, but by the end of the week, the guys at our table were talking about going fishing with him. Like I said before—the Dining room staff was where we received the best service.

About the food: If you want fine cuisine, RCCL is not the way to go, unless you are on the Voyager/Explorer of the Seas. The best food was served in the main dining room, and even there it was borderline average/good. We had no complaints, since we pretty much always liked what was on the menu.

The Windjammer Café for breakfast was ok on the 1st and 2nd days, but by the 3rd day, you could see that some of the pastries and sausage were the same ones that were there on day one. (As in, three-day-old donuts and three-day-old sausage. Yuk!) The made-to-order omelets were awesome, but the lines were long for that. So, we ate cereal and fruit and had room service most of the time.

Lunch in the Windjammer was also ok. The food got old quick, so we decided by day 3 to eat lunch in the main dining room. Much better in there! (Plus, it gave us the opportunity to meet more people, since they would seat you at big tables of ten.)

We only took two ship-sponsored excursions, and found that we could do much better on our own at the other two ports. (We had 4 ports of call total.) If you plan to snorkel Grand Cayman, skip the Stingray City excursion ($67 per person!) and snorkel with Captain Marvin’s. It’s fairly close to the dock, and for $34 per person, we were gone for 3 hours and had an absolute AWESOME time.

The best ship-sponsored excursion we took was snorkeling in Aruba, with Pelican tours. They were great! They kept us entertained and full of rum punch, and even brought the punch out to us if we were wading in the ocean. On the way back to the ship, we all danced and sang and had a great time.

Last, but not least, if you are absolutely sure that you want to cruise on the Grandeur, STAY AWAY FROM THE 3RD DECK STARBOARD (RIGHT SIDE) AFT (REAR) CABINS. A couple from our dinner table had an absolutely horrible time there. There was a bad leak two floors up that ran all the way down to this deck, and made the rooms and hallway moldy and smelly. So bad, that even the cabin stewards were getting sick. Nothing was done about it until day 3, when they just shampooed the carpets and ran fans on the hall. By then, the mold had already set. Our friends spent the first 4 days of their cruise wearing shoes in their cabin and popping throat losenges because the floor was soaking wet and the air was so musty. All they were offered for compensation was $200 off of their ship charge.

Like I said, I really wanted to write a good review, but there were to many negatives compared to so few positives. My husband and I still, even though we were not happy with the ship & service, had a wonderful time. We made lots of friends and met some very extraordinary people. We snorkeled and explored and saw many sights and animals that we’ll never forget. We will definitely cruise again (and again and again) in the future, but it is unlikely that we will use RCCL.

I hope you find this review helpful! I can’t begin to tell you how many reviews I read before I booked this cruise!

Kathleen Lancaster
Sacramento, California USA
KBLancaster@Yahoo.com

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