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Don Hickey

Age: 62

Occupation:Management - Retired

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Grandeur of the Seas

Sailing Date: December 12th, 2005

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

WHY THIS CRUISE?

We have been on four cruises before this one—two on Royal Caribbean (Sovereign of the Seas and Grandeur of the Seas) and two on Celebrity Summit. Our last two cruises were 10 and 11 day cruises. This particular cruise was a 5 day cruise on Grandeur of the Seas. The ports of call were Cozumel and Costa Maya. We had never been on a short cruise; the price was very inexpensive so we decided to give it a try.

We purchased our own airline tickets through AirTran. We always fly a day ahead of the cruise to allow for delays due to bad weather. (On one of our cruises, the weather was so bad that if we had flown the same day as the cruise, we would have missed the ship).

This cruise left from Tampa. We found the terminal to be very nice. Embarkation was speedy and efficient.

SHIP

We cruised on the Grandeur in 1997 on her third voyage. We were anxious to see how she had fared since then. She is still a beautiful ship, although she is showing her age. One of the things we did not like was that the carpet in the public areas, such as stairwells, was spotted and dirty. We have never noticed this problem on the other ships. Aside from this, the Grandeur is still grand. We like the “brass and glass” of the Royal Caribbean Centrum areas. The Celebrity Summit had a more European look with more refined features. Both looks are elegant in their own way and would not cause us to choose one line over the other. We enjoyed the Viking Lounge on the Grandeur. There was an excellent view, great Pina Coladas, and a super bartender!

DINING

There are many dining venues available. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer and dinner in the dining room. For dinner we sat at a table for six as we enjoy meeting new people on our cruises and always choose a big table. We were, as usual, pleased with the excellent quality of the food and the taste on the RCCL cruise. One of our disappointments on the Summit had been the bland taste of the food. The food on the Grandeur was far superior! Our waiters were fun and accommodating. Dining was always a pleasure. We have found that renting a tux is the easiest way to handle formal nights. The tux is delivered to our room. We don’t have to pack black shoes, a suit, dress shirts, etc. In addition, the tux makes the formal evenings seem extra special.

CABIN

We enjoy having a cabin with a balcony. On our first two cruises, we had Oceanview cabins, which were nice. But now that we have tried a balcony, we probably will always want a balcony. Sitting on our very own balcony and watching the world go by is our idea of relaxation! We have seen dolphins, beautiful sunrises, ships passing in the night, etc. from our balcony. We also have met some very nice “neighbors” while each of us was on our balconies. The only problem we have ever encountered is that on one cruise our “neighbor” smoked a cigar on his balcony and made it unpleasant to be out there if he was outside.

EXCURSIONS:

Our two ports of call were Cozumel and Costa Maya. We enjoyed both ports and all the friendly people we encountered there. On Costa Maya we took the “Chacchoben Mayan Ruins” excursion which we booked online. We wanted to see ruins, but didn’t want to take the excursion to Tulum, which was 6 hours long. This tour was about 3 ½ hours. The Chacchoben Ruins were actually as big as Tulum. The bus trip and visit to the ruins was very nice; the tour guide had much knowledge about the Ruins and enjoyed discussing them. We were impressed with the knowledge and abilities of the ancient Mayan civilization. There is a gift shop at the ruins and you can also buy refreshments there.

When we were at Cozumel on our previous cruise, we went on the Catch-the-Wave Bond Adventure. It was a fantastic experience. This time, we decided that we wanted to tour the island and see not only the coastline but also damage done by Hurricane Wilma. The excursion was a tour of the island and shopping. (We booked this directly from the TV in our room.) The devastation on the island was so sad. Everywhere we went, islanders thanked us for coming. Since 90% of the income for Cozumel comes from tourism, our business was very much appreciated. The island government is doing a fantastic job of rebuilding.

On this tour we also saw some Mayan Ruins. Our tour guide was excellent and she had a great sense of humor. At the end of the island tour, we were taken to the main shopping area. Many stores have reopened. We ate at “Poncho’s Backyard”. It was recommended by the tour guide and was a great choice. We would highly recommend it!

TECHNOLOGY:

This is one area where RCCL seems to be lacking. Celebrity excels in this department. Celebrity had a computer program where we could download the pictures from our digital camera and store them on their server. At the end of the cruise, we were able to burn a CD using these stored pictures. They also had web cams and our friends and family at home were able to see the ports we were at each day. There was also a web cam in the Internet Café. Through this, our family could actually see us in the Café. RCCL needs to bring their ships up to this level. We also felt their website needed to be more user friendly.

DEBARKATION:

On previous cruises, the process of debarkation had caused a stressful conclusion to an otherwise restful vacation. On this cruise, the debarkation procedure went smoothly. We had no problems finding our luggage. We had purchased a transfer from the terminal to the airport and that process went smoothly also.

SUMMARY:

We would highly recommend both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity for cruising. In fact, we have a cruise scheduled this fall on Radiance of the Seas. The ships are beautiful and the staffs are pleasant and accommodating. On this cruise, we paid the tips when we booked the cruise. We won’t do that again. We feel that it is more personal to be able to give the staff cash. Plus we can reward for good service and deduct if we are disappointed. Back to the cruise, we enjoyed our five day cruise and the price was definitely right. We are willing to try other cruise lines, but are hesitant because of our good experiences with RCCL and Celebrity.

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