Number of Cruises: First Cruise
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Grandeur of the Seas
Sailing Date: April 26th, 2003
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Setting the Stage: This was our first cruise. If there is one thing I have never wanted to do, never dreamed about or longed for it is taking a cruise. I enjoy flying, staying in hotels and exploring on my own. However, it was given to me as a gift and I have to admit I did find myself getting excited about taking this cruise once it was arranged. We were traveling with a large group of retirees and at 44 we were the youngest in the group, My Mom, sister and brother in law were the only other people we knew in this group. We flew in from Cincinnati to New Orleans the morning of the cruise and had lunch at nice restaurant a couple of blocks from the ship.
Embarkation: When we arrived it was very crowded and I heard others comment on how surprised they were at the crowd. It turned out there had been a problem on the previous cruise the night before. The other guests were not allowed to disembark until around noon. I did get a little worried at one point as we were waiting in line to board the boat when I heard the loud speaker from the ship calling everyone on deck for the life jacket/boat safety instructions. However we made the boat but were probably among the last 100 people to board.
Accommodations: We had a cabin with a view of the ocean but we were upgraded to a room with a balcony. I had heard horror stories about the cabins and was not expecting much out of the cabin. I was amazed at how large it was, there was a king size bed, a couch, coffee table, even a small fridge in our room. I must admit the bathroom was very small but over all I was impressed with the cabin size. The room was very nice and the only negative thing I could say about it was the glass on the inside of our balcony needed a good cleaning with some windex, with that being the only draw back I'd have to give our room on a scale of 1-10, an 8. Our steward was outstanding, when he saw us coming back from dinner in the evenings he would open the door. He always greeted us with "good morning/evening/afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Dalton". Never having taken a cruise I was tickled when I returned to our cabin and found he had made a stuffed dog out of towels and put my husbands glasses on the dog. Every evening after I looked forward to seeing what new trick he come up with for the towels and I was never disappointed.
Dinner and Meals: Our wait staff was wonderful they were very professional with just a touch of humor. The meals at the main dinning room were superb. Eloquently prepared and served. The windjammer (a buffet type restaurant on the boat) had OK meals, but by the end of the cruise I caught on that they must have had a few ton of the frozen potatoes on board and just fixed them differently depending on the meal. There was a solarium where you could order hamburger or hot dogs, pizza, fries and ice cream. We occasionally did this for lunches. I had heard stories about midnight buffets and how wonderful the food was on a cruise. I probably was expecting to much in the way of food and with the exception of the main dinning room I would have to give the meals on a scale of 1-10, a 6. They did have two midnight buffets one was a chocolate gala, which was beautiful to look at. They had ice carvings and everything was set up elegantly. One night they had a Mexican Fiesta in the evening but because of the weather we did not attend and I later heard the weather pretty much ruined the attendance. They had two formal nights, but because other people in our party had decided before the cruise not to attend, my husband and I followed suit and did not bring any formal ware. I was sorry I chose not to attend and on my next cruise I will definitely join in those festivities.
Ports of Call
Progresso, Mexico: When we arrived at our first port, after two days at sea, I was very excited to finally get off the ship. We decided ahead of time to not book any shore excursions and to explore on our own. I can tell you on my next cruise I will be much smarter. We took a bus into town and for me it was culture shock. It felt like something out of a bad movie. I must say I have never been to Mexico and was expecting to see something out of television advertisements for resort vacations. Progresso is a new port and the town is very poor. We rode into town on a bus that was probably 30 years old with no air conditioning and the front windshield was cracked. When we first entered the town, we passed two military type people standing on the corner with their automatic riffles at their side. We got off the bus at an area that was fenced in with many vendors. I did enjoy the shopping and trying to bargain for deals even though I probably did not get a big bargain, I walked away feeling as though I did. We ventured out into the town on our own and I was amazed at how the people live. I am not trying to come off snobbish here, but I am surprised this port was on a cruise vacation. Other people in our party went on the shore excursions and had a wonderful time at the Aztec Ruins. The ships departure was held up for a couple of hours because they had to replace a broken part on the ship this did not have any affect on our cruise.
Cozumel, Mexico: Again we took no shore excursions and ventured out on our own. We walked around a bit and we really should have at least taken a bus into town. My fondest memories of Cozumel were from a little bar right next to the ship called "Senior Frogs." I can say I had a very nice time, the water was gorgeous, I had only seen the Atlantic Ocean so I was very impressed with the beauty of the Caribbean. I have regrets for not going snorkeling or participating in some water activity. My thinking when not chosing a water excursion was that I was going to spend so much time on a ship, why would I want an excursion which once again put me on the water. I learned much about cruises from the mistakes I made at this port but I have to say I enjoyed Cozumel.
Key West, Florida: Because we were reentering the United States we had to go through customs before being allowed to leave the ship. I was not happy about this and thought it would be a very long process, however I felt the process went smoothly. Once again we had not booked any off shore excursions and once off the ship we saw others headed for the Conch Train. I made up my mind I was going to make the most of this port, I have been to Florida many times but never had made it to the Keys and I was going to enjoy this! hahaha......The weather however had no intention of allowing me this one satisfaction from a cruise where I had repeatedly made poor choices about how I was going to spend my time on shore. Half way through the Conch Train tour the skies broke loose and rained like I have never seen them rain before. We stood at the depot we were dropped at after the tour was finished and I watched in dismay as the streets filled with water running over the curbs to the sidewalks, I sadly returned to the ship. Later that evening it stopped raining and I coaxed my party to venture back onto shore so we could party the night away. We were not on shore one hour when again the rain began. We made it to Sloppy Joe's bar, where we found a table and sat and drank while we watched them stack sandbags up at the door to keep the rain outside. When we decided we had enough and wanted to go back to the ship we stepped outside, the water was up to my knees. I am just a hair under 5 . We finally flagged down a taxi not caring what price we paid for the fare and with our tails tucked between our legs went back to the ship.
Trip Back to New Orleans: We were once again at sea for two days on our way back to New Orleans, if my husband was ever in danger of "sleeping with the fish" it was during this time period. He had grown restless with the ship and was eager to get back home, he was successful at showing his discontent to all who could bare to be in his presence. This of course should have no bearing on Royal Caribbean, but be a note to those of you who grow restless with staying in once place to long. On the trip back the Captain, who was wonderful and had an awesome sense of humor, made an announcement that once a year he has to check the ships navigational settings and we would be doing a 360 degree turn on our trip back, he said we probably would not even be aware the ship was turning. He was right, if I had not watched the wake left by the ship I would have had no idea we were going in one big circle.
Summery: For someone who never had any interest in a cruise I did enjoy myself and was very impressed with Royal Caribbean. We are going on another cruise this April, once again I'll be sailing with RCCL and I am very happy with them. We are headed to Hawaii this year and I will be researching the ports of call ahead of time and spending my shore time wiser. My husband will get to spend four days at sea before we reach Hawaii, I've warned him if he intends to enjoy the Islands he better behave on the trip there. :)