Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Grandeur of the Seas
Sailing Date: April 2nd, 2005
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This ship needs an overhaul! We had cruised on the Grandeur out of Baltimore in September, 2004, during the midst of hurricanes Frances and Ivan and had a wonderful time due only to the friends we met onboard. This cruise was very mediocre. I’m sure my expectations were too high, but many items still ring true six months later.
New Orleans is a WONDERFUL location from which to embark. Check-in lines were very short, if even existent and we were whisked onboard without any delay whatsoever. The Julia Street Port is right in downtown and the taxi drivers actually know where it is (compared to Baltimore, where we had to stop twice for directions). The port is literally ‘attached’ to the River walk market, so last-minute shopping is most convenient.
The ocean view staterooms are comfortable (be sure to try and get on deck 3 or above for better windows) and there’s plenty of storage space for clothes. Avoid mid-ship near the elevators – it gets noisy when trying to take a pre-dinner catnap with all the folks coming and going to the dining room. Bring an iron! Because of fire hazard, RCCL does not provide irons and setting up a makeshift ironing board on the vanity chair with a hand towel over it is well worth saving the money to have all of your clothes pressed by the ship.
Breakfast and Lunch – unless you want to be waited on, just go to the Windjammer buffet for both breakfast and lunch. Be patient for the made-to-order omelets – they’re definitely worth the wait rather than the standard pseudo-scramble in the chafing dish. Lunches are good, but be mindful of ‘leftovers.’ Often, something that didn’t ‘sell out’ at dinner the night before is ‘re-created’ into something different for lunch the next day – often faintly disguised in some mysterious sauce. At lunch time, food is not re-stocked immediately, so you might have to go back a second (or third) time if your favorite wasn’t available (oh, darn! another opportunity to eat!). The burgers, hot dogs, pizza and fries in the Solarium are fine to kill a craving or to tide you over (if you have late seating dinner), but they’re certainly not remotely gourmet. Unless you’re a kid, avoid the ice cream in the Windjammer at lunch. I don’t know what it is, but it certainly is not anything close to any soft-serve ice cream I’ve ever eaten in my life.
A new addition since September is the Latte-tudes coffee station and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream bar (additional cost). I’m not a coffee drinker myself; however, our friends with us said the free coffee available outside the Windjammer was just fine.
Dinner – sigh – what a perfectly good waste of an hour and a half. Pretentiousness seems to be the focus here rather than food quality. Presentation is great, however, that’s about the only thing I would say is ‘great.’ Vegetables are not consistently cooked – some are literally cooked to death while others may be practically raw – on the same plate! Be sure to speak clearly and enunciate when ordering a steak or prime rib, as well. Countless times at our table, ‘medium rare’ was heard as ‘rare’ and ‘medium well’ was heard as ‘well done.’ Pasta dishes are quite tasty, though it’s kind of difficult to screw that up. First-time cruisers: remember to order anything and as much as you want! There’s rarely a time in your life that you can order 3 appetizers, 2 entrees and 3 desserts for dinner and walk out without paying! Food is rather bland, however, so keep that in mind when ordering something you expect to have some zing, such as the Jerk Chicken on Caribbean night.
With that said, however, avoid having dinner in the Windjammer if there are any staff members eating there at the same time. The Windjammer staff pays attention to them, not to the paying customers. It took practical begging to get water and we had to clear our own plates so we could have dessert.
Dessert – an ounce of pretension is worth about an ounce. Stick with the cookies and ice cream. Most everything else is tasteless and is more ‘pretty’ than good.
The Ship – although generally in very nice condition, some of the ‘little things’ grated on me – especially since they were in the same state of disrepair as in September ’04. Many deck chair frames are chipped and/or peeling of finish; mold or stained mystery something exists in the Solarium pool; windows on the pool deck are very difficult to open. Generally speaking a feeling of ‘dinginess’ is how it can best be described. Also, it could use a good dusting more than once a week.
The Staff – generally really really great. On the whole, they are very kind, polite and attentive. Be aware that some of the junior staff are sometimes more focused on trying to do their job and have a tendency to, for example, keep on barreling by with a cart with passengers walking by rather than waiting and allowing them to pass first.
Drinks – if you are a big soda drinker, invest in the unlimited soda pass. But ditch the cup – it’s a pain to pack around and you can still enjoy unlimited soda without only the sticker on your SeaPass card. Also, avoid the ‘welcome aboard’ drink. At $7.95 per, it’s a killer (and not that great) first dent in your SeaPass account. However, if you are a regular bar patron, find a bar in which you feel comfortable (my favorite is the Schooner Bar) and make friends with the bartender. Also, try the ‘drink of the day.’ What have you got to lose other than $3.95?
Shops of the Centrum – go for it! Have an extra hand to bring home liquor – buy it! $10 for a bottle of Absolut is just one example! Watch for the sales, however. Some items go on sale later in the week, so you can sometimes save some money by waiting.
Ports of Call –
Cozumel – 2nd cruise in a row there and still plenty of options. Xcaret is a favorite! Horseback riding is overpriced to see some fake ruins, but the ride is nice and the horses are not the ‘follow-the-leader’ types one can encounter.
Grand Cayman – This was a VERY busy and hectic port. We counted EIGHT other ships in port at the same time, so all the area around the tender location is insane! Hell – a bunch of cragged limestone rocks and a gift shop – been there done that – not going back. Turtle farm – you actually get to hold one! Nautilus – neat to see the shipwrecks from the comfort of a semi-submersible.
Costa Maya – An interesting port built entirely for cruise ships. Ours was the only one to make it in due to rough currents, so we had the entire village. Beachfront (no beach swimming, though) with a huge saltwater pool, beach chairs and restrooms – all free. They have free folkloric shows, as well. There is plenty of shopping, too – everything from the requisite jewelry to handicrafts – bargaining only in the handicrafts section. Caution: drinks and food is VERY expensive here. Kohunlich Ruin Excursion – supposedly neat, however, NO WHERE on RCCL’s site or in the mailed-to-your-home information packet does it say that you spend 5 of the 7 hours of the excursion on a bus!! We canceled and just hung out for free at the port.
Lastly, at all costs, avoid spring break or any month near spring break!! With spring break in our area long over, little did we know that we would be onboard with 600 (yes, six HUNDRED) loud, obnoxious, ill-mannered, disrespectful teenagers. Many of them took more than advantage of the 18+ drinking age at sea and were, therefore, even worse than normal. Many staff didn’t even attempt to enforce the shoes-and-shirt policy in the Windjammer to these beasts. They ‘invaded’ the bars getting their soda-with-the-sticker so much so, that it was often impossible to get something to drink.
Families – I’m not a parent myself, though I have heard nothing but absolute RAVES about RCCL’s Adventure Ocean program for pre-teens. I have seen kids onboard begging to go back for more and not wanting to go hang with their parents.
All in all, I WILL cruise with RCCL again – definitely. But, next time will not be on the Grandeur – been there, done that, over it.