Age: 21 to 30
Number of Cruises: 2nd
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Grandeur of the Seas
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
The first day was an at-sea day, with plenty of activities planned. We had breakfast and lunch at the Windjammer, which serves buffet-style food and made-to-order eggs. The food was very good and the service excellent. My only complaint about the Windjammer comes on port days -- the service for lunch stops at 2PM, and if your excursion is late in returning you have to wolf down your food or settle for hot dogs and pizza from the Solarium. This was the first formal night and our first meeting of our dinner table for the week. We had a fun group and an excellent waitress from Turkey with a name too long to remember. The food all week was top-notch, but I was disturbed to learn, on our LAST night, that pop at dinner was free (Carnival charged for pop at dinner), leaving me with lemonade all week. The entertainment was a comedian whose name slips at the moment, but he was the guy who got mugged on the last episode of Seinfeld -- very, very funny guy.
The first port call is made at Aruba, lasting until 1AM, giving a huge block of time to move around the island. We took the four-wheel drive adventure, which was a blast, but I would not recommend it for those with weak stomachs, fear of steep hills or a bad back -- it got kind of hairy at times but afforded a great guided tour of Aruba's desert, which tends to resemle the surface of Mars! The rest of the day was spent wandering around. I was sort of disappointed in the shopping -- prices were pretty expensive, but there are plenty of places to blow your cash that are within walking distance of the ship. The people are very friendly and we were not approached at all by vendors, beggars, etc. We got in a little swimming, but it did rain a few times. It was kind of surreal to be down there at XMAS-time...at one point I was standing in an outdoor shopping mall during a torrential downpour looking at the palm trees while what sounded like Zamphir, master of the pan flute, played XMAS tunes over the PA system.
Curacao was our next stop. We took the canoe adventure, which requires paddling over open ocean to a couple of beaches. The water was calm and you could see 30 feet to the bottom. Only one tip-over in our group, so all went well. This was also a great way to see the countryside, and a tour guide was on the bus to point out attractions/sites along the way. The port area is nice, with plenty of vendors set up in little stands selling their wares. It was very hot and my wife was tired, so we didn't do much shopping.
This was another at-sea day and anther formal night. Once again, plenty of activities on the ship to fill the time. We did have our first disappointment of the cruise here, however. The seas were very rough (20 foot swells), but the ship was heading directly into them, so there was not much noticable movement. The weather, however, did cancel our port call at Saint Martin, due to the fact that the ship must tender passengers. The cruise director told us that the week before it took until 2PM to get the MORNING people to the shore, so the Captain played it safe and directed us to St. Croix instead. I did not hear much grumbling, but people I have talked to back home that have been there said that St. Martin was their favorite stop. St. Croix was OK, but nothing much to write home about. We spent the day on a beach in Christiansted, which is about a 1/2 hour away from Fredricksted, where the ship docked.
DAY FIVE (combined 3-4 above)
St. Thomas was our final port call...excellent shopping opportunities here (we bought a camcorder) and a very nice place to visit for history buffs. Having been sunburned the day before, we took it easy and took the basic bus tour of the island. We could not make it to St. John (one hour ferry ride each way), but heard that it was beautiful. This is the only stop where we noticed high-pressure salesmen trying to get us to visit time-shares or eat at their restaurants, etc. If you need a break, the Crown & Anchor Club is beautiful, and pointed us to a restaurant named Cuzzins where we had a great lunch.
Hopefully this provided a nice overview of the cruise. We plan to take it again to catch all that we missed the first time around. It did rain each day, but did not interfere with out plans in the least. There were a few negatives, but not many -- the announcements were nowhere near as annoying as on Carnival, but each announcement was repeated in Spanish due to the large Puerto Rican contingent on board (the ship had offered a cut-rate deal with kids free due to underbooking), which tended to make them sound long-winded. Also, there were many unsupervised children in the Solarium pool, including in the adults-only hot tubs. Parents, please do not use the pools as babysitters -- I had to get someone to calm the kids down so that we could enjoy the pool area without being struck by the objects that the kids were throwing around. Also, there were groups of people who sat in the hot tub areas for HOURS, thus denying others the opportunity to do so. As usual, plenty of people saving deck chairs with towels, but this cruise had a much more mature crowd than what we had experienced on the prior cruise. It was VERY windy throughout the cruise, but there is no way to avoid this...just hold onto your hat on deck 10!
The casino was a little tight, but I managed to win some money here and there. My wife used the salon and was satisfied with her massage, although she did blow a bundle on products afterwards. The enterainment staff was first-rate in the lounge, and the "Novel QUest" game show cannot be missed. Get there early so you can be on a team -- we missed out!
We will surely sail RCCL again, and will probably take the same cruise again. Enjoy your vacation!