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Age: 39

Occupation:Travel Agent

Number of Cruises: 38

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Grandeur of the Seas

Sailing Date: November 22nd, 2004

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

After 37 cruises, number 38 was my first sailing from New Orleans. I have been to New Orleans before, but never for a cruise departure. I think it is a great port city and if you are sailing from there you should consider either a pre or post package.

Since we had been there before we opted to take a later flight on our return and purchased the ships’ post shore excursion tour in New Orleans that ended at the airport. This was a great choice! We learned on the way in that a taxi from the airport to the pier is $28 plus tip for 2 people. The post tour cost $38 p/person and included a 2-hour tour that went around the city and to the cemetery and garden district. It also included 2 ½ hours of free time in the French Quarter before we had to be back on the bus to go to the airport. This gave us just enough time to go to Café Du Monde, Central Grocery, and do some shopping while not having to worry about our luggage. If you are interested in this tour it is for people with flights after 4:00pm.

Check in at the pier in New Orleans was pretty busy when we arrived. Be sure if you are a Platinum or Diamond past passenger with Royal Caribbean to seek out the separate line for this level of past guests. In New Orleans it is all the way to the far right side. Also, if you are interested in seeking out a paid upgrade at the pier, the person to see is the Pier Coordinator (All the way to the left side in New Orleans). Most of the sailings from now until the end of year are not sold out so if you are interested in upgrading your cabin, you must check in first and then get in the line for the pier coordinator to see about upgrades.

The cabins are very nice on this ship. There was plenty of storage. The bathrooms are small…..but that is not anything new. The balcony cabins have small refrigerators. The regular outside and inside cabins do not. The cabin has a small 13-inch television that showed ESPN, CNN, TBS, movies on 2 channels, the report from the bridge, the shore excursions talks, and my favorite: the view from the bridge channel with music. The cabin also has a safe. I was not crazy about the safe on this ship because instead of a combination they wanted you to slide your credit card strip to open and close it. The reason this is not great is because if your roommate does not have the same CC as you then you always have to be there to open and close the safe. There is no charge to use the safe.

Food and dining on the ship: The more that I cruise, the more I see this area change. The cruise lines have wised up to the fact that people are looking for alternative choices and freedom in dining. Although I signed up for the second seating, I only went to the dining room for dinner twice. (both on formal nights). As it turned out, 8:30 for dinner is very late and 6:00pm is too early for me. So, we found ourselves wondering by the Windjammer buffet around 7 to 7:30pm. We quickly found out the menu in the Windjammer is almost the same as the dining room…soups and all; and you can try and take as much as you want. Also, the food was hotter getting it this way then in the dining room. There are waiters and waitresses in the buffet that bring water, coffee, desserts, and take away plates. There is even a carving station there every night.

The only reason we went to the dining room on the second formal night is because they did not have the lobster in the Windjammer. They list both menus (the one for the dinner buffet and the one for the dinning room dinner) outside the Windjammer every afternoon so you can see the comparison and decide. We only had room service once for breakfast and it was quick and they got everything right. This ship does not have any paid alternative dinner restaurants. The only other food was the hamburgers and pizza available in the solarium area; however, starting in the next few weeks they are unveiling a new Ben and Jerry’s and Coffee house area that will have a charge, they were not ready yet on our sailing.

Ports of call: We had great weather on our sailing and made all of the ports of call. The first port was Cozumel, then Grand Cayman and then Costa Maya.

Cozumel is one of my favorite ports and I have there many times. It is the best of the shopping ports on this itinerary. The downtown has some construction going on right now, but all of the stores are open and happy to see you. Lunch at Poncho’s Backyard was great as usual.

Grand Cayman: It has been many years since I was last in this port. The shopping is very over priced and other than the rum cakes there is not much to buy. The 7-mile beach is nice. This is a tendering port. They call tender numbers for about the first 2 hours of the morning. If you are not in a hurry to get off, after a while they make an announcement that tender tickets are not required and you will not have to mess with tickets.

I recommend finding a ship excursion that you are interested in so you will have something to do.

Costa Maya: We kept referring to this as the Disneyland for cruise passengers…LOL.

The ship docks here and after you walk down the pier you are in a purpose built area for cruise ship passengers. The area has 2 pools, beach chairs and umbrellas, stores and markets, an Internet café, and some restaurants. We did leave this area to go by taxi into the town of Majuhaul for $3 per person one way…..all I can suggest is to forget it….it is a one street town with very aggressive people trying to get you into their shops and a small beach area with bars. Next time I would just stay near the ship and enjoy that area. There seemed to be some biting flies or fleas around, so some bug spray might be a good idea too.

The days at sea at the end are relaxing. We had great weather on the first day at sea and could lay in the sun and walk around the deck etc. The last day was windy and overcast as we approached the US. Take advantage of sun when you can because you never know what the weather will be. The ship offers some craft sessions, bingo, and cooking demos. The wine tasting was very well done and informative. It costs $9.95 but if you are a past passenger you will find a coupon for it in your booklet. The onboard Internet café is 50 cents a minute! It is not compatible with AOL so if you are on AOL, make sure that you have an alternative email that you can use if you want to send email. The Internet café in Cozumel was $3.00 for 15 minutes and in Costa Maya is was a better price too. Also, in Costa Maya at the Internet café they had phone service to call the US for $1.50 per minute. Since this is the last port before 2 days at sea, it is a good time to call home. But if you do, be sure you want a dose of reality in the middle of your cruise! LOL

A word about tipping: Royal Caribbean does not add this to your bill automatically like Carnival and Princess. They offer you the chance charge your tips to your bill and receive vouchers to hand out. The problem with this is when you start eating in two different areas…. You are not told that the tips are pooled like on the other lines. So, if you tip in the dining room then the waiters in the buffet don’t get tipped. When I went to the desk to ask if I could buy a voucher for just the cabin steward since I wanted to tip all of the different waiters that served us directly in the dining room and in the Windjammer, I was told that you could not separate out the cabin steward for a single voucher so I just ended up tipping everyone in cash. The tipping system seems like such a mess to me and I am sure some service people are loosing money

Here is my list of things to be sure to bring on your cruise that can make it more enjoyable:

Binoculars, 2 way walkie talkies, C D player with speakers and C Ds, extra batteries, extension cord and chargers for anything that needs to be charged. Pillow from home, I also brought one of those small fleece blankets that you see advertised everywhere and fits a twin bed 50X60 or 70 I believe. I had read in a review that the blankets were scratchy and I loved having the fleece blanket on top of my bed to lay out on. It turned out that the blanket that they used in between the sheets is scratchy and we asked him to replace it with a velux one and he did, but I was still glad to have my own pillow and blanket. (P.S. We left the blankets on board and gave them to the cabin steward at the end of the week) Also, a travel clock, an air freshener or matches for the bathroom, a water bottle from home to fill up with ice tea or water from the buffet, and a night light or flashlight is good for seeing in the room at night to find the bathroom.

As far as clothes, be sure that you are prepared for any kind of weather. Have a jacket or rain poncho or umbrella for rain, a sweater for cool air conditioning and windy weather, sun glasses and a hat for sun, gym shoes or closed toed shoes for walking or shore excursions, and be sure bring water shoes for the beaches or snorkeling tours. (You can get them at Wal-Mart for a lot less than buying them on the ship or in port.) Also, be sure to have a bag to take into port with you to carry everything you will need to bring. I am sure there a lot of other things I am not thinking of but this list should be a good start!

If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email. 

Wishing you smooth seas.
Bon Voyage!

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