Travel: One of the things I love about Grandeur, is that she ports out of Baltimore. We cruised last year from Dundalk, and it was okay. This year they're embarking from the newer facilities at Locust Point, and it is absolutely wonderful. Parking is close if you need it, the price is reasonable ($10 US/day in cash at this time). Since Baltimore is only about 3-1/2 hours from my home, we drive, and don't have to worry about luggage weight restrictions, lost luggage, airport security, and all the other things that make air travel a huge hassle now. If you're coming from South of Pittsburgh, you don't have to go through the Ft. McHenry Tunnels anymore, so that's another hassle gone. The folks at the terminal gates were friendly, efficient, smiling, and helpful. Embarkation would have taken about 15 minutes, except that I opted to wait on fellow CC member, signman, whose posts have so much great information about the Port of Baltimore. Even waiting for him, it took a grand total of about 25 minutes from stepping out of my taxi, to walking up the gang plank to the ship. Doesn't get much better than that.
Hotel Info: Stayed at the Quality Inn on Bloomfield Ave. in Baltimore. It's about a 5 minute ride from the port, and best of all, you can stay there overnight, park your car there for duration of the cruise, and they usually have a shuttle that will run to the port Monday through Friday. Unfortunately for us this time, the shuttle wasn't available, apparently it was broke. They called a taxi for us, who promised over the phone that it would only cost $12 to $15 US to get to the pier, unfortunately, they didn't tell the driver that. It wound up costing $25 US on the meter, and he wasn't wasting time. Still, I stayed overnight using my Choice Rewards points (in other words, free), and parked for $60 instead of $90. The hotel advertises Wi-Fi, but I could not use it in my room, worked fine from the lobby.
Ship Info: There are six Vision Class ships, divided into three sub-classes, the first four built in France. Grandeur and her true sister, Enchantment were built in Finland. They have a lot of passenger improvements over the first four, and in 2005, Royal Caribbean stretched Enchantment. There was much ado on Cruise Critic about a plan to stretch Grandeur in April 2008, but according to Captain Admarker, the stretch is on hold, no pun intended. The plans have not been scrapped, since the Enchantment stretch was called "very successful", but RCL has not funded or contracted the stretch of Grandeur. My impression of Grandeur is very positive; she's clean, well kept by her crew, bright, well appointed, and just beautiful. The Centrum was where I spent a great deal of my time, it's so roomy, with music all evening, and the stair cases are gorgeous. The pools were well kept, hot tubs clean and hot, there's a 5 lap/mile running track on deck 10, along with a well appointed gym.Activities: Depends on what you want, steel drum band on the pool deck, casino was always hopping, oldies style rock band (Rip Tide) usually played in the South Pacific lounge, a quartet (Metro Line) played almost every night in the Centrum and my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed ball room dancing on the landings. Lots of cha-cha and rumba, with a little triple step swing, and some wonderful waltzes thrown in for good measure. The center landing is just big enough for a traveling waltz and the smaller landings are great for non-moving dances. There are some very basic dance classes, art auctions, bingo, library, cyber center (including Wi-Fi hot spots) and tons of opportunities for photos. There's so much to do, but I don't want to use all my space listing activities.
Service/Dining: There are no specialty restaurants on Grandeur. There's an extensive breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet everyday in the Windjammer cafe. I never had a terrible problem finding a seat, it was clean, well staffed, and like the rest of Grandeur, well lit from the huge glass windows overlooking the bow of the ship. Food was usually hot, tastes great, and there is a huge variety of it. I did not like the fact that you still had to stand in line to get eggs to order. Mariner had a much better system; you put in a written order, got a number, and fixed a plate while waiting for your number to be called. On Grandeur, you get in line and wait on all the people ahead of you to get served before you even put in your order. The dining room is beautiful, too, and we had great tablemates again. We had a six top table in the starboard forward corner of the first deck, main seating. Our waiter, Damaciano, and assistant, Kwesi worked with our head waiter, Tony to make dinner a pleasure. The food was great, all the way around. I'm a picky eater, not adventurous at all, but had no trouble finding something on the menu to eat, and plenty of food, too. My one complaint would be that it seemed a couple of times, that the main course really took a long time to come out. Other than that, I was very happy with the dining room service. I should make a note here that they served all three meals in the dining room, except for lunch on port days. The dining room was closed on the days we were in port, that seems to be an issue from some recent posts. I should also note that dinner was open seating when we in Miami. Burgers, hot dogs, pizza and fries were available in the solarium at various times up to 3:00 a.m. The only complaint there was that sometimes the buns were pretty dry.
Stateroom: This was our first non-balcony room, and I have to say, I didn't miss the balcony a bit. We had a large ocean view room on the 4th deck, and it was so convenient to the Centrum and dining room that I didn't miss the balcony a bit. Our stateroom attendant and assistant did a fantastic job of keeping our room neat and clean. They made it up while we were at the morning walk-a-mile and turn down was while we were at dinner. I was a little surprised to not have a fridge, but it wasn't a problem. The attendant brought us an ice bucket that we put my wife's water bottle in, and that worked great. Still had the old bedding in my room, but I slept like a baby. The room, 4540, sat under the promenade walking deck on deck 5, so occasionally you could hear people dragging deck chairs across our overhead. That was the only noise we ever heard.
Shore Excursions: In a word, didn't participate in a single organized shore excursion, just didn't want to. We went ashore in every port, walked to Bayside in Miami and that was okay. We walked to Pepper's, the Key West Winery, Southernmost Pointe, Margaritaville, and Last Flight Out in Key West. I strongly recommend Pepper's for marinades and sauces, and Key West Winery had a great selection of local made wines. Tendered ashore in Cozumel, and that was a pain in the butt, would stay on the ship if I ever had to do that again. Went to the little resort area at the end of the pier in Costa Maya, laid out in the sun and enjoyed the pool/pool bar. Rented a car from Budget in Port Canaveral and did our own thing, mostly Cocoa Beach, Lori Wilson Park was quite nice.Entertainment: Rip Tide was just altogether too loud in the South Pacific lounge, my hearing isn't that great and it was painful to try and dance there. Metroline was great, playing a lot of good dance music in the Centrum. There was a great piano/guitar player that played in the Centrum as well. The production shows were good, not really my thing, but I enjoyed them anyway. Neither of us like the comedic stuff, whether it's on stage, Quest, belly flops, etc, so can't comment on that. Overall, I wasn't impressed with the Cruise Director, Eric, or his staff at all. Didn't see Eric anywhere except on stage introducing someone/shows. The girl he sent to our Meet & Mingle really wanted to be somewhere else, rushing through the give away, commenting on how "crappy" the prizes were and rushing off as soon as she could. Likewise, another young lady came to the veteran's meet up, but really couldn't have cared less, passed out some pens, and disappeared. Just my opinion, but the CD staff didn't really seem to care much.
Disembarkation: We had the last color to be called, and it was about 10:00 a.m. when we got called. The only problem there was on disembark was it was hard to get a porter, took a few minutes to figure out that there was a queue to line up, buddy up to a porter, then get your bags and go out. Again, the port personnel were smiling, friendly and helpful, another big plus for Baltimore. Overall, pretty easy.
Summary: I guess I liked it since I booked Grandeur again next year for October 05, 2007. Aft JS next time, for the new Caribbean itinerary. I was quite happy with my cruise on Grandeur. I had the opportunity to speak personally to the Captain and Chief Engineer, they were both very approachable, and pleasant. Vanja, one of the photographers, was great to work with, especially for freestyle photos, she would happily work with you to get the picture you wanted and we've got great professional photos to remember our cruise by. I was very happily surprised by how convenient the 4th deck rooms are to the heart of the ship, and how inexpensive one of these staterooms can make a cruise, even a nine nighter like this one. I would have to say, I had even more fun on this cruise than I did on Mariner in April 2006. Grandeur is a wonderful ship, and I would strongly recommend her. Hope this helps. If you look at any of my posts, you'll find my email in my sig, and you're welcome to contact me with questions.