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Kurt Toll

Age: 39

Occupation:Real Estate Investor

Number of Cruises: First Cruise

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Grandeur of the Seas

Sailing Date: March 13th, 2004

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean



Many thanks to the previous reviews. They were valuable in our trip, I’ll try and share our experiences and add a few things not mentioned before.

This was our first cruise for my wife and I, and two daughters age 11 and 5.

Arrival:

We parked at the Fulton Place Garage, as recommended. It worked out well, one note though, most people who do this drive over to the pier first and drop their luggage and family off first, or at the very least, drop their luggage at the base of the garage before driving up 8 floors to park. We drug our stuff down one half flight of stairs before catching the elevator.

Embarkation:

I was worried about having all the proper documents for boarding, including our marriage license because it obviously doesn’t match my wife birth certificate. They hardly looked at any of the documents, and we boarded the ship in about 15 minutes. We boarded about 1:30, and quickly found our cabin on the 8th floor bridge deck.

Cabin:

We had room 8588 on the bridge level at the very back of the ship. We were dead center at the back, so we had a great view from our cabin. Never have been on a cruise before, we were surprised how small the room was. The four of us fit with no problems, but I can’t say it was roomy. In fact our deck out the back was half the size of the room, seems like they could have made it half as large, and added that to the room. Anyway, it was very comfortable and very quiet. Even though it was spring break and lots of kids of all ages were on board, the only sound heard at night was the low rumble of engines, which were a lot like a sleep machine, soon as our heads hit the pillows, we were out! The TV serves up only a few channels, CNN International, Bloomberg, Discovery, Cartoon Network and a whole host of “ship based” information, which we were pretty interesting. They also had 3 or 4 movie channels showing current DVD releases.

Kids Programs:

This is what would put us back with RCL or even the Grandeur again. The kids program was outstanding. We were nervous that our reluctant 5 year old would enjoy being separated from her 11 year old sister. We could not have been more wrong. Each of them woke up every day and asked when they could go to “kids club” as they called it. They have various programs for various ages, and our kids just loved it. They didn’t want to leave at night. One side note, they are pretty strict (which is good) about discipline. They have a '3 strikes you’re out rule', and we saw one little 7 year old boy who got all 3 strikes the first day. He was not admitted the rest of the week.

Food:

We are not gourmets, but we do eat pretty well. I’d have to give the food on the trip a solid “B”. At moments it was outstanding, but for the most part, it was just o.k. The absolute worst night for dinner was the “surf and turf” night. Everyone at our table of 10 agreed it was downright lousy. The steak was very tough, and the lobster was bland and stringy. My wife kept reminding me they serve the main course, 1100 meals, in 22 minutes, how much can you expect? On average, the appetizers and deserts were the best part of each meal. We started ordering 2 appetizers plus a salad half way through the trip. We took the recommendation in an earlier review and brought some wine on board. I thought this would be a hassle, but my wife insisted. It turned out to be completely uneventful. Just carried 3 bottles on board in a sack, no one ever asked or said a thing, even through the x-ray machine. We were only charged a corkage fee of $12 on one of the three bottles at dinner time, but we did order wine with every meal the other nights. I think this is one way the wait staff helps justifies the tip at the end of the cruise. There are two midnight buffets on board, the first near the pool, the second in the main dining room. We did both, but could have skipped the pool buffet. The one in the main dining room is not to be missed. It may have been the highlight of the cruise! They give you an hour or so to take pictures and videos, before letting everyone go to work. Just the visual presentation is pretty outstanding. Go hungry and enjoy! Oh, we were going to at first buy the “coke card” that gives the kids unlimited sodas. We ended up passing on that, and were glad we did. They had lemonade, water and tea at all times for no charge, and at dinner the girls ordered soda every night (they actually bring it without asking after the first night), and we were never charged for it.

Ports of Call:

Once again, we have never cruised before, I’m not sure if I would pick the same itinerary or not. First of all, I didn’t realize that traveling out of New Orleans means a 8 hour trip down the Mississippi each way. Also, it did not make a lot of sense to go to Cozumel first, then over to Grand Cayman, and then back to Costa Maya (which is south of Cozumel, more later). I also question the whole value of stopping in Grand Cayman. We arrived at our scheduled time of 10:00am, however, I was new to the whole “tendering” process. This means you have four boats, which each carry 100 people, who ferry the entire 2100 people over and back to the island. We did not step foot onto Grand Caymen until 1:30pm, and they wanted you back on the ship by 4:45pm. We did have just enough time to go to Stingray City, which as others have said before me, you must do at least once. It’s really great. We would have liked to spend more time in GC.

Costa Maya is a new deep-sea port just north of the Belize border and south of Cozumel by a couple hundred miles. I think one morning somebody woke up and said “Gee, let’s build a deep sea port in the middle of nowhere”. Because that is basically what it is. There is a totally commercial shopping center at the end of the pier, where you can buy some trinkets or go swimming in a pool, or have a cocktail. You can also take a cab to the “fishing village” near the port. After you’ve been there five minutes you know this is no fishing village, but simply an extension of the commercial shopping center, albeit a little dirtier and prices a little cheaper. They cancelled several of the snorkeling tours on this stop due to jellyfish problems. One person at our dinner table actually went out on her pre arranged snorkeling trip and came back and demanded a refund due to the jellyfish. Of course, the locals kept saying “Jellyfish no problemo”. One highlight, there is a small building near the “fishing village” of Mahahual. It marks the entrance to “Tequila Beach” which is a nice clean beach with restrooms and a bar. Cold Corona’s were $1.00. They have a big yellow bouncing platform/slide out in the ocean you can hang out on or let the kids roam around on. This place is only 5 minutes by taxi ($2.00/person) from the pier.

Cozumel has been pretty well reviewed in other places. It’s awesome. We rented a Jeep for $60.00 and drove around the island, stopping at Channakab beach to snorkel.

The only RCL excursion we booked was Stingray City. As others have said, it’s much cheaper to pre book your excursion via the internet pre trip, or as we did, figure it out when you get there. The only big advantage to booking with RCL is if you are on an extremely tight schedule, as we were in Grand Cayman. If your excursion is late and you book it with RCL they know you are going to be late and the ship will not leave. If you book it on your own and you are late, well, let’s just say we were told you were truly “on your own”. For us the peace of mind in Grand Cayman was worth the extra $15.00

I read the other reviews about entertainment, and this seems to be what varies the most on this particular cruise. The Beatles Tribute band was outstanding; everything else was entertaining, but not Vegas. The pools were in good shape and constantly being cleaned. You see the Cruise Director Tom everywhere doing crazy and zany stuff, especially with all the college age kids aboard. (Think lots of Belly Flop contests!)

At the end of the week comes (at least for us) “tip shock”. The recommendation was for $72.00 per person for the stateroom attendant, waiter, asst. waiter, and head waiter. What I tried to figure out was if my 5 year old should be tipping $72 bones, in the end we ended up charging the full $288 in tips to our cruise card, still not sure that was the right thing, but I sleep at night with no regrets. Other reviews have mentioned the constant selling on board. We really did not see this. Yes, waiters walk around with drink trays constantly asking if you’d like a cocktail, but no worse that most restaurants. You can have your picture taken nearly twice a day if you want, but don’t have to. Oh, don’t bother trying to smuggle liquor on board. It’s really cheap to buy at the ship store, one liter of Stoli Vodka was $9.95.

We departed our last port of call (Costa Maya) at 8pm, instead of the listed 1am departure. No explanation was offered or given. It was no big sweat, since it was dark and there is not much to do anyway, but it would have been nice if they had at least said why.

It took two days to get back to New Orleans, we arrived about 5:00am, and were off the ship by 9:30 and on the road by 10:00am. The customs procedure was even more lax than getting on the boat. No one asked the usual customs questions, we just herded off the ship, grabbed our bags and were off. (I’m NOT complaining!)

So, in general, we really enjoyed the relaxation and enjoyed the cruise. This is not a cruise for those looking for a lot of activities in the ports of call, as you really only have about 20 total hours on land the whole week.

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