There is so much to say about a cruise of this length, being on the same ship, the positives like the itinerary, the food, the entertainment or the negatives - the wait in line at the embarkation process, missing some ports, excursions, many delays and the integrity of some parts of the ship -- so a rather long review!
My Grand Adventure begins:
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale embarkation was a mess, unlike any other we have experienced. The Captain was apologetic and tended to blame everyone but the ship. The port authorities relegated this ship to one of the least desirable piers and the delay was so bad, everybody was complaining for days after sailing. No shade, no creature comforts like water or towels until guests had been standing for 2 hours in the sun.
Cabin: C103 forward, Starboard side one from the bow: This cruise was booked out some 2 years before sailing and this cabin was one of the last choices at the time for all three sectors. I couldn't find too much information about this cabin anywhere even on Cruise Critic. So I will give a thorough description for future reference.
Size: Normal interior size no bonus space.
Layout: Same as all other balcony cabins, lacks decent wardrobe space for extended cruising, cupboard space half that of other ships we have been on. Brought my own plastic hangers to double up. Good sized mini fridge with soda and water to buy. Cramped writing desk, as both chairs were located in that area.
Balcony: Larger than Baja or Aloha, room to move around with footrests, reclining seats and one of the best features on this deck. Overlooks the mini suites below but C103 had no neighbours above only crew quarters - more on that later. The usual rubber matting has been removed on all balconies leaving the water to slosh around when wet. The bridge is above, indirectly adjacent cutting out some sunlight and direct forward views but otherwise OK. The wind whistled and blew more this far forward on some days.
Bathroom: A bit more space in the shower than other ships to alleviate the risk of falling out through the shower curtain to pick something up! Bought my own cheap plastic baskets to use underneath the vanity. This space is difficult to use, as the bottom shelf is too far back to reach down in comfort - a bad design fault. Had a few loud gurgling noises in the shower drain but it wasn't everyday.
LCD TV: this is much better viewing than the old box type. It took quite a few days to get Scan on the screen to see where we were etc. A few random days of dodgy satellite reception both in calm or rough conditions which also affected BBC, FOX etc
Internet: Depending on your onboard status and if you can afford it, there is useable Internet in the cabin with your own device. Routers are along the corridor but even that was useless and appalling on some days throughout the 49 days. People were sitting in the corridor just to see if logging on was better. There were lots of Elite and Platinum passengers and with each having a truck load of free time, some days were congested for Satellite use. Too bad if you had value added or had a prepaid plan -- very agonising!
Noise: Gripe one - Most annoying neighbours ever-on one side -- thumping around, slamming drawers all throughout the voyage. Should have politely asked them to be more considerate but didn't have the courage!
Gripe two -- Didn't find out until three quarters through the voyage that even though no passengers above, there are crew quarters. Spoke to Pursers desk, they couldn't find the solution. Went up one deck to see for ourselves and yes, two crew cabins, and one directly over us. Early morning, midnight thumping and dropping things suddenly got a lot better once we told the Purser's Desk about our sleuthing work.
Gripe three: C103 is one cabin from the bow and we knew that we would get some noise or rolling motion in swells. What we hadn't expected was the shudders heard and felt starting at the feet up through the legs during a cross swell - a huge bang each time.
Positives: quiet corridor area except for the whistling noise from the adjacent crew door (plus some paint smells). In the fire drill we were sent down that way to the Theatre. The laundry is about 12 cabins away, stairs half dozen or so and easier then making the long trek from the middle of the ship. The Grand only has stairs at either end of the ship -- no middle stairs only elevators. Loved the extra space on the balcony.
Conclusion: If you are desperate for an Itinerary and this cabin is the only one left -- go for it. If you have a choice and want a bit of levity, more stability or a quieter cabin -- pick something else. True, you can't choose your neighbours but a cabin you can -- for us, never again on this ship.
Shows, Entertainment, Food:
Food: Apart from one meal in Da Vinci (nothing special) we dined entirely at Horizon Court and the incredible International Cafe. We did not tire of the self-serve effort and to be honest; the food was the best quality with so many choices of hot and cold items. One of the good features of this ship is the ability to have a Panini, soup, sweet dessert or decent espresso 24/7 or a good little continental breakfast in the morning at the Cafe! The only problem was, it's so popular there is not enough table and chairs!
Entertainment/Shows: Did not go to one show with the Showtime dancers etc. Saw a violinist, and a Brazilian troupe in the theatre and the rest we watched in the Atrium and the bars. Thought the Tango duo were great (on the ship until last) and a Tango Quartet (best entertainment for us) and one or two excellent piano players. Bingo was run well, the Casino should have more non- smoking days (seemed to have them on Formal nights only. Topside deck parties seemed to be about the crew dancing all over the pool area rather than getting the passengers involved. Nearing the colder areas, it was not possible to have many open deck activities anyway.
Itinerary, Ports, Tours, Ship, Crew, Delays:
Itinerary: One word -- fabulous - except for the last leg in the final week of the cruise. Not enough ports, too many sea days.
Tours: With the exception of one tour being below standard due to a late arrival in Port (reimbursed - small percentage) and another major tour dropped because of possible airport delays, we found the tours to be of a high standard - Coquimbo and Lima stood out the most for us. Be sure to book early online once available, you can cancel most with no charge and you can save some angst and wait time at the tour desk. There was a never-ending line and waitlist for 99% of tours on offer.
Ports: Two huge disappointments - not unusual - missed the Falklands (Malvinas) due to tender conditions as well as Nicaragua. Otherwise the selected ports were great. Even got into Buenos Aires and Ushuaia without too many hassles due politics (that we heard about). Exception - once our tour to Quito was cancelled for airport reasons, Manta was a 14 hr wasted day with little to do. We were there to wait for passengers on tours to Machu Picchu or the Galapagos.
Ship: It's an older ship, refurbished in the Atrium area, not in the cabins except LCD TV, the ship design is for some, a bit of pain with no stairs in the middle, the integrity of the pool area was awful at times. Many leaks from somewhere meant sloshing through soaked carpets inside Aloha deck on Starboard and many other leaks around the interior corridors. The smell was what you would expect wet carpet to be even though there were fans blowing it dry. Many times we had to walk gingerly across the pool deck to get to Horizon Court. No wonder the Grand was used for a cruise of this length!
Crew: For the most part all crew were polite, courteous and helpful in some tougher situations. Had a change of cabin steward during the cruise and the difference was significant. Purser's desk exceptional but it's the Showtime dancers & singers, casino and some concession staff that were the most inconsiderate.
On trips ashore that needed a shuttle off the pier, these folk ignored some passengers with infirmities and did not give up their seat. They were also first off the shuttle with little regard and treated their employment as their own personal vacation. Call me old fashioned but courtesy and kindness is valid anywhere. The most well mannered staff along with the hospitality guys were the 'below decks crew' that are never seen from day to day.
Delays: Late out of many ports for one reason or another with some like Fort Lauderdale and Buenos Aires quite significantly delayed. All care, no responsibility by the Bridge but some did affect the quality time in the next port.
Thanks for staying the course with this review. It was a long cruise with a lot to comment on. Hope it helps in some way next time you cruise the Grand.
There are some negatives but overall this was an exceptional cruise both in length and itinerary.