I would be remiss if I did not begin this review with a warning to avoid transferring flights between Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris and Marco Polo in Venice. I've traveled world-wide and have not found the degree of ineptitude that pervades CDG.
Next, I would warn anyone with mobility issues to avoid the port of Venice unless you are prepared to spend upwards of two hours waiting to be transferred to the ship. If you cannot walk down several flights of stairs, this port may not be for you. If there was another way, we were not shown it.
Now for the voyage:
Grandeur of the Seas is a nice looking vessel. She recently underwent drydock and the carpets are clean and in good condition as are the public rooms. The settee in our cabin could have used a re-upholster, but it was clean and just a bit more worn than I'd have expected. The beds were good. The bedding was excellent and the towels were wonderful. I had forgotten how nice Royal Caribbean's towels were after my last two sailings on Celebrity where they have scratchy towels. Our cabin attendant, Marlon, was fabulous.
I was surprised to find small bottles of lotion, shampoo and conditioner as well as two bars of soap in the bathroom. The sinks have been replaced with vessel bowls and they are very nice, but be aware that there is very little counter space. We were happy to have the over-the-door shoe bag for our toiletries. A glass soap dish for the bar of soap was a nice touch. The shower did not have the usual plastic door that I was used to on other RCI ships, but I can't remember what we had on Rhapsody, which was the last ship of the Vision class I sailed back in 2007.
There are new revenue generating venues on board. We ate at Chops one evening and the food and service were excellent. We did not eat at Giovanni's Table as "homestyle Italian food and service" is something we equate with Olive Garden. We weren't interested in the offerings at Iszumi, either. If I'm going to pay for sushi, it will be where I know the fish is very fresh.
I could not fail to get the impression that more money was spent on revenue generating and surface items, like the giant screen TV at the pool and the people hanging from the Centrum, than on upgrading some elderly systems and the plant on a ship commissioned in 1996. The new flat screen TVs don't have the ability to show your sea pass account. The phone system is rather archaic in comparison to other ships in the fleet. The vacuum system for the toilets certainly had major issues.
This was the first time we tried My Time Dining and we are in love with it. It works well with port-intensive cruises. We had a reservation the first evening and after that, just showed up when we were hungry. The amazing captain, Roshmann, knew everyone by first and last name and cabin number after the first night. What a talent! Most nights an effort was made to put us with the same waitstaff so nothing was lost by not having the staff know your preferences. They knew ours perfectly even as to saving a couple of 'savory bites' in the basket for my DH who loves them. Dining room service was exemplary. This practice is very kind to the waitstaff as it is conducive to their getting additional gratuities. We were more than happy to give an extra appreciation to John and Vinaye as well as the amazing Roshmann.
The Grandeur has not gotten the new fleet-wide menu yet, but the offerings were good. The lamb chops on "Greek night" were awesome. The prime rib, one of my favorites, was perfect. The breads were too good. I ate a few more sourdough rolls than I should have. Desserts were not always interesting, which was not a bad thing for someone watching their waistline. The person in charge of the grocery list did not do such a great job. By a week into the cruise they were out of figs, horseradish, coffee ice cream and one other item that I can't recall. We managed not to starve.
I was ecstatic to have two sea days with my favorite RCI meal, the Tutti salad bar.
One thing that impressed me was that dress code was adhered to. What a pleasure it was to see people dressed nicely for dinner each evening and so many gentlemen in their tuxedos and ladies in their gowns on formal nights.
We were not impressed with the cruise director. He was next to invisible most of the time. Many events were poorly planned. Having only one production show one evening was a disaster. There were not enough seats.
Holding a progressive trivia on a port intensive cruise with only 2 sea days out of 11 days is pretty stupid and holding it at 8 PM not very clever either. We missed the two Crown and Anchor events, because of the progressive trivia commitment though I did see that the offerings were the same type that were served in the Diamond Lounge. Even the Meet and Mingle had a large variety of goodies and the door prizes were very generous. Compared to the same events on other RCI ships, Grandeur did a fabulous job at making it's loyal guests feel welcome and cherished. No cheap wine and trail mix on this ship!
The young people working for the cruise director were delightful except for one. Sophie seemed to have a genuine dislike for Americans and had no problem showing it. More on the infamous Sophie later.
We arrived in Venice in a cold rain after missing our connecting flight in the chamber of horrors that calls itself an airport, Charles De Gaulle in Paris. Then we faced the worst check-in of our long history of cruising. Venice is not a cruise port for people with mobility problems. We were told that there were no wheelchairs. There were two steep flights of downward stairs to negotiate with carry on luggage. We were lucky that it was raining and they provided a bus from the bottom of the stairs to relatively near the gangway. Otherwise, it would have been a significant walk.
We boarded at 4:30 PM and decided to just stay on for the night. The next day was sunny and lovely. We were not prepared for the long walk to the People Mover, but my DH, with the mobility problems, managed it with a few rest stops. We later learned that there was a shuttle bus, with a fee of $18 per person. It should have been offered to us as our documentation states "problems walking." We had a great morning in Venice and the sail-away from that port is just fabulous.
The best part of this cruise were the ports. Because my DH has some mobility issues, we arrange private tours. Our first stop was in Kotor, Montenegro where we and another couple from our roll call were to meet our driver as soon as we arrived. We had priority tender tickets that are issued to Diamond and above C&A members and suite guests. We had arranged to meet on deck four at the "book nook" ( a great meeting place that we used throughout the cruise) and tender together. The captain announced that the tenders were available so we went down the stairs to deck one only to get as far as deck two and found our way blocked by the infamous Sophie, who demanded we go to a "public area" and wait until all the people who had purchased ship's tours debarked first. I explained that priority "VIP" tender tickets meant that we could mingle with the tour people and get on the tender before they called the other numbers. Sophie insisted we had to wait until they called "number one". Knowing this to not be true, we approached her again to let us through when there was a lull in the stream of ship's tour folks. She again blocked our way rudely telling us that "people had paid a lot of money to take those tours" inferring that I hadn't paid the ship so I did not count. I did inform her that I had paid â‚¬100 for my tour, but that didn't mean anything to her.
My DH had the brilliant idea to just hop on the elevator and go to deck one, which we did, finding Rich, the CD there and affirming with him that we were indeed permitted to embark on the tender as early as we wanted with our VIP tickets. After that, we just took the elevator to deck one on tender port days and avoided confrontation by "Sophie-bar-the-door" .
I did one tour with the ship in Mykonos as it was a Monday and the museums are closed so there was no independent way to get to Delos. The ship offered a tour and I took it. I was not disappointed. Delos is remarkable. We were taken by boat from an area not too far from the ship, but returned to the town where we had free access to the shuttle bus. A rather unique twist on "exit through the gift shop".
The worst part of the sailing was the stench aboard the ship. We were on deck three below the Centrum. There was an odor that some called cabbage or broccoli cooking but we recognized as sewer gas. It was not coming from the toilet. Our bathroom was fine, though the toilet decided to flush on its own schedule half the time. The smell seemed to be in the air ducts. I called guest services and they returned my call to tell me that they knew there was a problem but were not permitted to tell me what it was. They were working on it. They never did get it fixed. It was mostly in the Centrum and mid-ship area and it hit you like a two-by-four over the head when you got on the ship via the gangplank or tender entry on deck one. I finally got to someone who sent our cabin attendant to spray something and vacuum each time we left the cabin, but there were several mornings that I awoke with tears streaming from my eyes, coughing furiously from the fumes.
We had a little visit with the head of guest relations to complain about the boarding process, so debarkation was much easier. Someone came to our cabin with a wheelchair and delivered us directly to a small lift-equipped van that took us directly to the airport. We tried to budget plenty of time as we were still under the influence of the bad experience at CDG, but Air France did not allow check in until 2 hours before the flight and we were an hour early for that. We got a wheel chair for DH and waited.
The weather was wonderful. The ports of call were positively awesome. The crew, with the exception of Sophie, was stellar. Despite the bad odor, we managed to have a wonderful cruise.