We were a little wary of this ship having read mixed reviews, but gambled on the recent re-fit having addressed some problems. We needn't have worried- everything, from staterooms to dining and public areas was in pristine condition. The embarkation at Venice was a nightmare- a terminal official actually told a group of us to follow her, walked a few steps then turned and asked why we were following her. You couldn't make it up! Comments from other trevellers suggested that this was normal at Venice, and the 2 and 1/2 hour process was about par for the course.
Once on board though, all was well. Must get the negatives out of the way first though. The Windjammer Restaurant is nicely appointed, but very badly laid out, creating a smash and grab atmosphere. Food quality was average, and nothing was really hot. The honourable exception to this was the Egg Harbour- simply superb. The staff were also great, as in every other area of the ship. The other moan is about the cabin safe. It's free, but you have to swipe your nominated credit card through through the slot to open and lock it. I had planned to leave the card in the safe most of the time, but this was obviously not possible. Safes in other cabin grades apparently used conventional keypads.
We had a large ocean view stateroom, beautifully finished and with lots of storage. The power shower was excellent, with a reasonable amount of elbow room.
There was a certain amount of noise when they fired up the power for anchors and thrusters, but it wasn't too bad. Slept very well. Not a huge choice of TV channels, but who needs it anyway. No fridge, but security very tight so no chance of bringing drink on board anyway. Cabin attendant a friendly and attentive lad from Ukraine called Viktor.
The Grandeur isn't too big- around 1900 guests, but big enough for old fogeys like us to get lost in, so the touch screen cruise compasses scattered around the lift entrances were very welcome. The ship is beautifully appointed, with lots of pictures and decorative touches, and the 6 deck Centrum is spectacular with some very good entertainment. The Schooner Lounge featured the best singer/pianist we've ever heard aboard a ship or in any hotel. His name is Patrice Doucet, and he is the only performer we've ever heard attempt (successfully), Elton John's "Funeral for a friend/Love lies bleeding". He hands out a play list and all you have to do is tick your selections and he'll play them. There is also the Palladium Theatre, very impressive with very good 9 piece band and some good acts. There is also the South Pacific lounge which specialises in what we call "victim entertainment" from Karaoke to Mr & Mrs. Not for us, but hugely popular.
The main restaurant is the Great Gatsby, laid out on 2 levels, for breakfast and dinner, and also lunch on sea days. Both food and service are superb. The solarium on deck 9 is lovely, with a tepid pool and 2 jacuzzis. There is a sliding roof, so it's weatherproof. The Park Cafe adjoins the solarium, with snacks and salads, and hot and cold drinks. There are 3 speciality restaurants which looked very nice, but we didn't try them so can't comment. Deck 9 also has the Windjammer reataurant, with indoor and outdoor seating, and two swimming pools. It is overshadowed by a truly horrible, enormous TV screen, and entertainment is by a duo who are quite good but only play reggae. My favourite spot was the promenade deck (5) where there are chairs and loungers, and where you can just watch the sea slide past and pretend you're a millionaire on a 30's liner.
We did the Corinth trip, having been to the Acropolis already, and it was excellent. We also did the Pyrgos trip on Santorini, which was very expensive for a 3 hour trip, but difficult to attempt on your own. Theyra is spectacular, but a word of warning. Many people (including us) opted for the footpath down to the port for the tender transfer back to the ship as a way of avoiding long queues for the cable car. It starts off well enough, but becomes increasingly slippery due to the polished stone, and donkey droppings. There were several nasty falls, and some near collisions with the donkeys.
There were 2 formal and 1 semi formal evenings, but a suit or blazer and slacks would have been as acceptable as a tuxedo. We had different dinner companions every evening, and it worked well. We found the American guests to be friendly, and as curious about us as we were about them. It was our first time on American soil, so to speak. The recent re-fit didn't seem to have included the running gear, and the ship, which was very smooth at speed, was clunky and noisy at low revs. This became less noticeable in the forward areas. We've never been on a newer ship with propulsion pods, so can't compare. This felt very like the Thomson Destiny and Ocean Village in this respect.
To sum up, this was a very enjoyable cruise, with wonderful staff and engaging guests. We had an extended breakfast one day with a German couple, putting Europe and the rest of the world to rights- us with no German other than being able to order a beer, and them with not too much English! Disembarkation was as smooth as embarkation was shambolic. Venice airport is bursting at the seams, and they've been trying to get permission from the Italian government to extend for about 11 years- there's even an electronic scoreboard showing the exact number of days. The Grandeur moves to Panama in November 2012, then between Baltimore and Florida for summer 2013.