This was our 2nd RCCL cruise. We enjoyed our time on the Enchantment last year was so expecting something similar as the Grandeur and Enchantment are sister ships. I believe the Grandeur recently went through renovations but I didn't see how they spent the money. The ship still looks tired and old. Judging by pictures of recent fire, more renovations needed, I reckon.
Overall, we enjoyed our cruise. We were on a cruise, after all. We were blessed.
Embarkation: fairly smooth and quick. As we were "gold" members, we were able to bypass the long line up after security but we had the upper level members bypass us as well in our "gold" line. What goes around comes around....
Room: we were on the 2nd deck and it was a good place to be. No noisy public places below or above us and this forced us to climb the stairs for exercice. We usually don't ask for the steward to clean our room every day, just once during the middle of the week. However, upon entering our room for the first time, we did find debris and used cotton tips on the floor.
Bridget our attendant was very friendly and asking us if we needed anything.
Food: we ate in the buffet for breakfast and lunches and in the dining room for dinners. Food wasn't too bad, usual buffet fare, nothing spectacular. The dining room food we found to be way too salty. The soups especially were salty. We found the food wasn't as good as it was on the Enchantment so a little disappointed. I ate mainly the appetizers because they were smaller portions and I ordered several every night so that I could try many different dishes.
The servers were excellent. Very thoughtful and anticipated our needs. My children have food allergies and they were able to accomodate our restrictions. One of my girls had to order the night before so that food was especially made for her.
Eating in the buffet was tricky and I was always looking to talk to the chef to ask about ingredients. I wish they would list the common allergens on the description of the dish. She didn't have a lot to choose from the buffet but enough to keep her going for the day. You need to talk to the chef, the other servers in the Windjammer don't really know about the ingredients. They were always helpful though, trying to find the chef to answer our questions.
The Park Fare Cafe (on 9th deck, in solarium-I think that's the name) has some really nice sandwiches, wraps and paninis. You get food here that's individually wrapped or prepared so many hands haven't touched it like at the buffet!
Children/family activities: my kids were in there most of the time. They really enjoyed the programs and we also took part in family scavenger hunts and bingo. Kudos to the kids club to try to make it more family friendly. Wons some prizes too.
Shows: the cruise director, Jimmy did a great job. Funny enough guy. The dancing and singing were good. The only complaint I would have of the shows is the timing of it. Their first showing was at 7pm which makes it really awkward if you are eating in the dining room. Although we had early dinner reservations around 5:15/5:30, we were always pressed for time, rushing to get out, to make it to the theatre for 7pm. I wish they pushed back their first show for 7:30 or 8.
Disembarkation: on the Enchantment we did self check-out and we signed up to do the same this time. Beware: apparently this is only for American citizens. As Canadian we weren't supposed to do it but one of the guest services reps said just to go ahead even when we informed them of our misunderstanding. There was a long line up to get off the ship.
Other points: because you are sailing out of Baltimore, further up the Atlantic once you leave Chesapeake (sp?) Bay, the water seems choppier. My daughter was sea sick for the first couple of days but once we were in the Caribbean she was much better. Same thing on the way back, she was sick for the last couple of days as we were sailing northward in the Atlantic.
We found on the Enchantment there were a couple of receptions we went to, like first time RCCL cruisers and also a reception for Canadians but nothing like that for the Grandeur. However, there was a reception for gold members and higher levels.
One other thing that we were impressed with was the Q&A with the executive team (captain, manager of hotel services, engineer, environmental officer). It was interesting to get their perspectives on some of the inside aspects of the Grandeur and cruising in general. The captain scored big in my book when he was asked about Carnival's misfortunes over the last little while. He never dissed his competition but was very positive. Pretty classy, I thought.
When we went to settle our account, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had a $75 credit. Unfortunately I found out just the day before we were returning to Baltimore and it had to be spent. I couldn't get it back on my credit card. Nothing appealed to me in the gift shops so we decided to to go the Japanese restaurant. There was a cover charge and then you had to purchase a la carte. Food was ok. Wouldn't eat there again though, not worth paying that much money.
The crew cannot be faulted-all of them working hard, usually with a smile and hello wherever you see them. Can't say the same for fellow passengers. On the first night I was in line waiting for a seat in the dining room and I had on jean shorts because our luggage hadn't arrived yet. There was a couple behind me commenting on my family's attire, loud enough to be heard and offended. Please, a little understanding on the first day.
All in all, we enjoyed the cruise. After a long winter up here in Toronto, warmer weather, food that's prepared for you and a room you don't have to clean, pretty sweet in my book.