This review is very basic - we didn't go to any shows and only a few activities on board.
We live in Northern Virginia and were excited to find out we could cruise from Baltimore, removing the added cost of air fare. We booked in March 2012 and found that we could book a Junior Suite for 8 nights for the same price we paid for a regular balcony room for 4 nights on the Disney Dream last November (our first cruise). I booked over the phone with RCI directly and was pleased when the vacation planner suggested an aft JS for the same price as a JS along the side of the ship - the aft room having a larger balcony.
We drove to the port, arriving in about an hour. We arrived just before 10am and were allowed to park at 10:30. Parking was prepaid, $15 per day. We pulled up to the waiting luggage porters who took our tagged luggage, proceeded to pay for parking, and parked. We waited until 11am to walk in. The terminal process was fast and easy and we were soon waiting to board. At about 11:30, boarding began. I want to also add that disembarking was so easy, too. I couldn't believe how quickly we went from leaving the ship to getting into the car.
Entering the ship was a little crazy - there are tables set up for different services: spa, Chops, youth program, photography, wine and soda sales, etc. You can't escape them, you're corralled through. I think it's great to have these tables set up for those that are interested, but it would be nice to be able to avoid if you're not. It really wasn't too bad, just not the best kick-off to a vacation.
We made our way to the Windjammer and had lunch. The food in the Windjammer, where we had many breakfasts and a few lunches, wasn't bad. Nothing amazing. I understand they're trying to feed a lot of folks.
At 1:30 we headed to our room, an aft-facing JS, #7672. The room was a great size, but the wow factor was the balcony...huge! We had 2 loungers, 4 chairs and 2 tables. And a view to die for. Our room host, Charlie, was fantastic - great guy, very friendly.
Dinners in the main dining room were nice. We chose My Time Dining and didn't make any reservations - we just showed up each night, asked for a table for 2 and were seated within a few minutes. Luckily, we were able to get the same wait staff team each night. Anthony and Clarke were fabulous! We're also pleased with Josephine, the hostess and "B" the head waiter. Nothing we had was bad. We had dinner in Chops on the second night and it was fabulous, worth the extra charge.
We did purchase a wine package, 7 bottles. We enjoyed a bottle every night with dinner. We had a voucher (because we were celebrating our anniversary) for a free bottle of house sparkling wine in Chops, which was nice. We also purchased the soda package. The cups were waiting in our room. We never had trouble getting refills, except once at the Pool Bar (the one right outside Windjammer). The bartender wanted to see our Sea Pass cards. No big deal, but I thought the fact that we had cups indicated we paid for a package. Besides that, he was short and responded to my "thank you" with an "mm-hmm".
The only other bad experience we had was when visiting the Crown & Anchor desk. I thought this is where I could go to sign up for C&A Society=and to ask about my already-booked cruise for 2013. The woman that I spoke with couldn't have more dismissive and rude. It seemed once she realized I wasn't there to book a cruise, it didn't matter that I had questions about the program.
The ports were all new to me. In Bermuda, the highlight was Hartley's Helmet Dive - two thumbs up and we'd do it again if we ever return to Bermuda. We also visited Sea Glass Beach for some sea glass and checked out the mall & shops at the Dockyard. Another highlight was Horseshoe Bay beach. Very beautiful and even after a few hours, I wasn't ready to get out of the water. One warning, though - unless you've successfully completed Navy SEAL training, please don't attempt the trek from Warwick Long Bay to Horseshoe. I don't know what I was thinking. Perhaps I wasn't thinking. I thought I was about to die somewhere along one of those paths from beach to beach. =) Seriously, it was hot and even our cab driver said the humidity was crazy. And, yes, I'm out of shape.
In Boston, we rode the Hop On-Hop Off trolley the entire circuit, only getting off to see the USS Constitution. We also stopped for lunch at James Hook and highly recommend a stop there if you're in the mood for a delicious lobster or crab roll. One poster on CC mentioned getting room service for breakfast the morning of arrival in Boston if you have a balcony. I suggest doing this on arrival in Newport, instead.
In Newport, we rode the trolley tour. This is not a hop-on/hop-off trolley. It was a nice tour of Newport and the mansions and very informative. We also stopped at Thames Glass to create our own ornaments. What a great souvenir! We called the week before to make the appointment and we're glad we did, as they were completely booked by the time we arrived in Newport. Because it takes 2 days for the glass to cool, they shipped our ornaments to us for a small fee. They arrived safe and sound, packed very carefully.
The ship may be old, but we only saw a few indications here and there. I do wish RCI would invest in shower curtains that were a little longer. We also had an issue with water spilling out of the tub while taking showers - it would pool on the little space of tile at the back of the tub and then pour onto the floor. We fixed this by stuffing a hand towel into that space to soak up the water before it flooded the floor.
The Schooner Bar was a great space to get a drink and watch the ocean flow by and the bartenders were great. We spent a few hours one morning in the Viking Crown Lounge just enjoying the view. We didn't attend any shows in the Orpheum Theater, but I noticed you could catch them on the TV in your room. We did attend The Quest and I can see how fun it is for the participants. One suggestion to the Cruise Director is to ask that folks not stand in the aisles so that everyone can see to the front of the room.
I hope some points in this review are helpful. We enjoyed our cruise and look forward to sailing the updated Grandeur next year to Canada & New England.