Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Grandeur of the Seas
Sailing Date: January 22nd, 2005
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
First, let me say that we had a Wonderful Time! The Grandeur of the Seas is a beautiful vessel and the service was outstanding. I highly recommend a Royal Caribbean Vacation and we will take more.
This review is going to concentrate not on the things that you have read in other reviews, but on items that were not in other reviews. I will also cover issues relating to Divers, as my wife and I are certified divers.
Transportation – Recommendation that is fun and very cost effective. Limos. For example, you can just use Google search engine and type in New Orleans Airport Limo and you will get a plethora of responses. We selected Elegant Limos. We had five people in our party and were met at the airport with a placard. We got a porter and never touched our luggage and had a wonderful ride to the quarter. Cost $45 plus $15 tip for a total of $60 – that was less than the airport shuttles and we got a stretch! It really started the vacation nicely.
New Orleans – If you are going out of New Orleans then PLEASE take time to enjoy the city. You can book inexpensive hotels in the quarter from Price line or Hotwire for $60 a night. Acme Oyster House – awesome. K-pauls restaurant excellent and they now take reservations (Chef Paul’s place – with the spices… you know him, trust me.) Breakfast at Brennan’s – a must once in your life. And Commanders Palace up on Washington. Grab the Trolley off of Canal that takes you right up to Washington in the Garden District for $1.25 each. Commanders Palace for dinner is pricey. But lunch…. $13.95 lunches AND quarter martini’s (yes… twenty five cents) during the week. It was our best and cheapest meal. Take a horse drawn carriage ride off of Jackson square for $50. Enjoy yourself. It was a great way to launch our vacation – wind down and relax and get ready for our cruise.
Boarding the cruise line – Our cruise left at 5pm and we were there at 2:15pm for boarding – about an hour earlier than everyone else…. We walked right up to the counter, walked right up on board, went to our cabin, and proceeded to go get a frozen drink and watch everyone board and listen to music…. Was painless!
Sea Sickness – okay, I didn’t think I really got sea sick – but I did – and I tested the theory. Go with the Patch – its prescription so get it early. Put it behind your ear and you feel no nausea. I lost mine once, and went a day and a half without it – figured I didn’t need it. I got sick and sleepy – put on the patch and was fine ten minutes later! Why risk not enjoying your vacation for $20 worth of medication.
Dining Tables – if you requested a special table or request – go ahead and find the dining manager right away. We had requested a small table for the five of us at the early dining – we ended up sitting at a table of ten, and it was too late by the time we went and asked to be moved. This is one of the few disappointments of the trip – but a small one.
Alcohol – okay, I searched and searched for the answer to this question, so let me set everything straight for everyone! You do NOT need to smuggle in alcohol. Go to the duty free shops, buy your alcohol, and pay the $9.50 per bottle to take to your room – otherwise they hold it for your departure. The fee you pay for the bottle in your room is still cheaper than if you bought the bottles in new Orleans and smuggled them on. (I think I got a bottle of Kettle One vodka for $17! Tanquarey Gin…. $12.50 a bottle – you get the point). You can stop by any bar and pick up tonic and lime!
Kids Programs – The Adventure club was awesome. Our daughter is seven and rarely requests to be in the kids programs on our travels. Her favorite line on this trip was “what time is it?” She loved it. The staff was unbelievable. Every one of them was degreed in leisure or psychology. Their late night program is from 10pm to 1am – its babysitting for $5 an hour and the kids love it – it was great! We always spent time with our daughter each day during breaks and swam and played games, but in reality, she had her own vacation and great time.
Tipping – with cruises you have to tip. No worries. Use your sea pass card and fill out the early tipping sheet, and it just automatically puts it on your account and you get vouchers to put in the envelopes. You don’t have to worry about cash at all.
Cabin Selection – you will hear a lot of … your not in your room much…. That is a cop out for cheap people that have never had a balcony. We paid I think $200 per person more and got balcony deck seven. It was WONDERFUL to wake up, have coffee and sit on the patio and read. It was our own private sanctuary to read, play cards, and enjoy the ocean view. Next time, we will probably pay yet another couple hundred to have a larger room. It just made it much more enjoyable.
Extra Spending – okay… here’s the shocker…. Alcohol is NOT included, nor are soft drinks. You can purchase an unlimited soft drink card for $28 for kids and like $42 for adults. You get unlimited soft drinks then. Worth the price – otherwise, you pay for every drink. Everything you do has a cost… drinks, photos, special souvenir glasses, shopping, excursions, travel in the towns, etc….. so just plan on an additional $1,000 for these expenses. I think ours was $1102 and that was tips, spa, drinking a lot, and shopping. However, it is a LOT less than Disney World! This actually was one of our cheapest vacations I remember with everything, and we lived well on vacations and didn’t cut anywhere. Make sure you use Amex or a credit card with enough limit, otherwise you will get tense and dread that call to the guest relations desk.
Excursions - We went to Cozumel, Grand Caymans, and Costa Maya.
Cozumel – there is a dock. We landed at the International Pier. The required junk shops are there. Very tourist oriented. This pier is right next to Aqua World. We landed at 7am and got right out there. We wanted to go deep sea fishing. However, the fishing excursions off of the boat were expensive. As are the dives. We booked on the Internet a couple of weeks before departure and got a full half day for $400 – we prepaid it and could use Amex. We got picked up and were off within 10 minutes. Great time. If you are a diver, you are getting in early enough to catch the early morning dive boat at Aqua World or Aqua Safari. If you book directly, you will save about $35 a person. You have to be back on board by 3:30pm or so, so if you are diving or deep sea fishing, you don’t have much time to spare. If you are not doing that kind of excursion, then take the $7 taxi and go into town. Carlos and Charlie's is a must. The Shrimp Bucket is also there and has some of the best shrimp and mango margaritas I have had anywhere. There is a golf course in town as well at the country club. If its not too hot or raining, it’s a nice course.
Grand Caymans – okay, our least favorite port. British run. It doesn’t have that fun, care free feeling the Mexican ports have. Very stringent. It looks like a movie set on the front end. The diving excursions were $110 each, so not having been there, I’m used to grabbing a dive boat, for $50 a piece… not here. We did NOT take the excursion, so we had to get a tender ticket….. not a good idea. This is not a dock, this is a tender port. That means that little boats have to haul you to shore and back. We were cleared from port at 9:45am , 15 minutes early. People that booked excursions got the first ferry. To make a long story short… we got to shore at 12:30pm – almost three hours after getting cleared. There were no dive boats. My wife and I had lunch, shopped in about ten stores, all identical, and got back on board. Now, my daughter went to sting ray city, and it was great. She had a wonderful time with her aunt and uncle. So, the moral to the story… here you want to book excursions.
Costa Maya – this is a dock. There is a port oasis right there. Shopping, drinking, swimming, beach, snorkeling… but all created just for the ships. The bus is $3 a person and taxis are $2 a person to take you into town. There were no diving excursions supported by the ship. But there was the familiar dive booth getting off the ship. And great prices - $70 for a two tank dive. The bus took us into the town which was dirt roads and lots of small shopping stores under canopies. Nice people. Good prices. The goods in town were less than half the price of the cruise port shops. Now, for the diving. Have you seen Captain Ron? My wife and I kept waiting for our dive master. We were waiting for the 32 Hatterus just like the last twenty dives my wife and I have had. Guess what… our dive master pulled up in a thirty year old ford, got out the equipment from his trunk, and then we proceeded to walk over to the small Pirates of the Caribbean fishing row boat and trolling motor. We went out about 1000 yards, put on our stuff and got to roll off the back of the boat just like in the movies. First time doing the backwards roll bit…. We figured that if the air was good (the tanks were up to date), and the Regulator was ok, we would survive. It was a nice dive. The dive master was always with us. Some beautiful reef. The dive master had been diving there for twenty three years. It was a great time and a good dive. Even though it violated the first ten safety rules of diving, it was an experience that we would not have missed. We shopped and then went back to the cruise port. We swam, sat at the bar and drank margaritas until the ship whistle blew. Staggers up the dock and got on board. It was a great port. This is a great place to dive or just enjoy the beach. Still take a trip into town and shop.
Departing – Well, don’t get in hurry. We had breakfast, played cards, didn’t get tense. If you are flying Southwest, go up to the Internet Lounge and print out your boarding passes! We got group A. Got off the ship, called the limo back to the airport.
Internet and business – On deck eight was an internet lounge for $.50 a minute. If you don’t have to work, don’t do it. However, if you must, no worries, you have good high speed internet.
Summary – we will be back. Next time, we will get a small suite rather than just a balcony. My wife and daughter had a wonderful time. I got to read and relax. We talked to a lot of people that have cruised before on Carnival and others, and they all said that the Royal Caribbean was their favorite. Next time, I think we will try the Voyager of the Seas, one of their new mega ships with ice rink and golf simulator….. isn't technology great!
Steve, Lonnie, and Jordan Williams