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Ed Nagler

Age: 40

Occupation:USAF Pilot

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Grandeur of the Seas

Sailing Date: April 26th, 2003

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Setting the stage:
Second cruise for us. The last was on the Explorer of the Seas with our children and other family members. The Grandeur is about half the size of the Explorer and this allowed us to get to know some other people. We liked that. Also, this was the ship’s last cruise before repositioning to Europe for the summer and due to the late April itinerary, there were not a lot of children on board (ours stayed with Grandma). There were lots of retirees. This was OK to me. There were small, but fun crowds at the late shows, dancing and midnight buffets (Chocolate lover’s and Gala). There was a contingent of young parents with small children and based on the view at the pool, they all loved it. Personally, I think RCCI had trouble filling the ship, because everyone talked about what a great deal they got on the price. This also meant that the ship was filled with lot’s of people who have flexibility in traveling and/or could drive to the port. In my opinion, 80% of the people came from the Mississippi River valley or one of its tributaries. A real middle-America cruise.

Embarkation:
This ship cruises out of New Orleans and was very easy to get to. My wife and I drove in from North Florida the morning of the cruise. I recommend parking at one of the off site locations and taking the respective shuttle bus. For us, the Fulton Place garage worked best. It is covered parking and the people we met waiting for the shuttle bus became our friends for the entire cruise.

Unfortunately, there were excessive delays in boarding. It turned out, an altercation took place on board the last night of the previous cruise and the FBI had to board the ship when it arrived in port. This prevented anyone from disembarking until 12:00…a far cry from the usual 10:30 AM disembarkation complete. The ripple effect was substantial. This also had a significant impact on those who wanted to park in the parking area adjacent to the ships. There was lots of congestion that didn’t help the situation. Park off-site!! To the credit of RCCI, once we made it into the terminal, the procedure was well orchestrated and timely.

Accommodations:
We booked an inside cabin. Our last cruise was in a balcony cabin. We were thrilled with the inside. Most important, there was no sun creeping in the window to wake you up after a late night. It was pitch black, which allowed for good sleeping. We read on a previous review to bring a night-light, but for me it became a distraction and I pulled the plug on the second night. The cabin itself was in good condition and our steward did an excellent job of maintaining it. For us, it worked out very well, since we only used the cabin to sleep, change clothes and shower. We plan on booking inside from now on. Save the money and cruise more often.

Dinner and meals:
We chose the early seating and sat at a table for six in the center of the dining room. I have to say, many reviews that I have read talked about the quality of food on RCCI not being very good. This couldn’t be more WRONG. My wife and I were very impressed with the food. Presentation, size of portions, and taste were outstanding. We did not stray far from our waiter’s recommendations and all were excellent. As always, if you wanted a little more (two appetizers or desserts) they eagerly brought them. The toughest part was “what to eat” because all the food was so good. For other meals, my wife and I ate a late breakfast, and if we were hungry lunch, in the Windjammer. Once again, selection and taste was very good, especially for a buffet. I loved the Greek Salad with a sandwich or wrap.

Our wait staff was excellent. I am always impressed at the level of service on a cruise ship. We had coffee the first night, after our meal, and after every other meal, a cup of coffee was served at the conclusion without asking. Cautionary note: I wanted tea a couple of nights instead and let the ass’t waiter know ahead of time.

Ports of Call:
Progreso, Mexico
…we loved it…for very personal reasons. My wife and I just strolled the streets and took in the local flavor. We used to live in Latin America and this was like a trip down memory lane for us. We had an inexpensive, but good, lunch on the water and shopped in some of the local markets…off the beaten path. We felt safe and secure the entire time. Progreso is a small town at the end of an incredibly long pier. Apparently the cruise ships dock here for access to Chichen Itza, the Mayan ruins. Although some people took that trip, others took a trip to some ruins closer by. Quite a few others parked it on the beach for the day and drank $1 Corona’s and other inexpensive drinks. There were some folks who described a nightmarish trip on the Caves and Cavern’s snorkeling tour that resulted in their money being refunded. Apparently, it was not the “excursion they were expecting.” Progreso has a lot of charm and is significantly cheaper than other Caribbean ports. If you are a little adventurous and remember it is not the U.S., you can have a lot of fun.

Cozumel, Mexico…OUTSTANDING. My wife and I were some of the first ones off the ship and we went snorkeling. We are avid snorkeler’s. We booked a snorkeling trip via the internet before we left and it was awesome. We snorkeled Colombia, Palancar, and La Francesa reef and still had time to eat lunch on the beach and catch a cab into town for some last minute shopping. We got back on the ship ten minutes before boarding time ended. If you visit this port and love to snorkel, I recommend you surf the net for some much better deals than the cruise-line excursions. We snorkeled the three reefs for $55. The ship wanted $46 for one reef. Try cozumelinsider.com or eagleraydivers.com for some info.

Key West, Florida….A wash out. We arrived at 2:00 PM and were looking forward to a wonderful afternoon and evening in this town, but only had time to take in the Mel Fisher museum, before we were deluged by a storm during the conch train tour. Unfortunately, the rain only let up enough around 8:00 PM to lull us into a false sense of security. We made it to the Hog’s Breath and then round 2 began. To get the full picture on the rain, the water came up to my wife’s knees both times (She’s 5’2”). Mopeds were being knocked over, bikes couldn’t move. In the future, I recommend taking the Conch Train immediately, so you get the feel for the island. It is very beautiful and the tour covers everything, allowing you the time to see things and then decide what to do next.

Days at sea: We loved the 3.5 days at sea. Usually, you only get a couple of days at sea and visit four ports. My wife and I love the ship, relaxing around the pool, the bars and the shows. Consider the number of days at sea when you book your cruise and remember, you don’t have to ever leave the ship

Entertainment:
OUTSTANDING. We attended every show after dinner and were rewarded with some fabulous singing, dancing, and comedy. The two shows by the Royal Caribbean Singer’s and Dancer’s were awesome. The impressionist was outstanding. The magic show was the only weak link. It was a little long on choreography and a little short on magic, for me. Also, the comedian on the last night at sea was hilarious to me, but the rest of the ship was not impressed. The majority of people on this ship were from middle America and did not like the comedian’s New York humor.

My wife and I spent a lot of time at the South Pacific Lounge in the evening listening (and performing) to Kareoke and the late night comedy acts. Additionally, dancing in the Viking Crown Lounge was great. I would have liked to spend more time in the piano bar (Schooner Bar), but it was a little too smoky, for me. The amount of orchestrated activities from the cruise staff was just right. Not too much, not too little. Just enough to break up the day and get a good laugh. I understand other cruise-lines offer tons of poolside activities.

Disembarkation:
Quick, uneventful and without surprises. We were off the ship by 8:30 AM and in the car driving home by 9:00 AM. RCCI arranges the disembarkation by the way you arrived. Priority goes to the folks meeting flights that were booked by them, and then the next priority goes to others meeting flight arrangements. Everyone can’t exit at the same time, so they have to have a plan. For those who drive, you could end up waiting a couple of hours after you vacated your room. This is perhaps the worst part of the cruise. It must be done this way, because the cruise ship terminal, customs and immigration cannot handle everyone at once. For those who drive, a little hint. You can pick up “white” bag tags from your cabin steward or purser’s desk the night before you leave. White tags are the first to disembark and this will ensure you are well on your way home as soon as possible.

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