Did you ever wonder if you could enjoy a cruise that included 20 foot seas, ever-present windy conditions, and a heavy dose of rain and overcast skies to boot? If so, by all means book a trip that involves the North Atlantic in November.
My DW and I got to answer this question for ourselves on our recent 7-night Bermuda cruise aboard Grandeur of the Seas.
The background: We enjoyed our August Bermuda cruise aboard Grandeur so much (review here-- http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=226468 ), that when we saw the cheap pricing available for the November 1 cruise we decided that Mom and Dad were going for an adults only return trip. On the personal demographic front, I'm 40, DW is 33, and we're low-maintenance, glass-is-half-full kind of people. This was cruise #9 for us and our 3rd trip to Bermuda. We've sailed Oasis, Freedom, Voyager, and Vision class.
Having grown up on the waters of coastal New Jersey, my DW and I were both well aware of the rough and unpredictable nature of the North Atlantic during fall months. We were also aware that the weather in Bermuda could be a crap shoot as well. Since we are the kind of people who can have fun anywhere, and who further believe that a bad day at sea beats a good day in NJ, we booked without hesitation.
The game plan going in was to plan for bad weather in Bermuda and have the beach/snorkel routine as a backup plan. We initially planned to rent scooters and explore with the priorities for this trip being 1) checking out the Crystal/Fantasy Caves, 2) Rum Swizzling it up at one of the Swizzle Inn locations, 3) checking out the shops, cafes, pubs, etc. that we never seem to have time to get to when we spend our days at the beach and in the water. Other than that, our goal was to simply stay flexible and relax.
In the week leading up to embarkation, the weather reports pointed fairly consistently to a cloudy, windy, rainy port call in Bermuda. Based on this, we prepared to call an audible and forego the scooters for multi-day public transportation passes. The thinking here was 1) I didn't feel like motoring around in the rain, and, 2) I kind of preferred being able to enjoy some drinks while out and about which I couldn't do as readily if I were going to operate a scooter on the wrong side of the road.
So, when embarkation day arrived and with the weather forecast looking pretty solid we put our backup beach plan further on the back burner when DW and I decided while walking out of the garage towards the car to place our snorkel gear down and leave it home for next year.
We made the 2.5 hour drive to Cruise Maryland arriving around 10:45am and enjoyed the quick and efficient embarkation process there for the third time, making it aboard at 11:20am. We adjusted our normal routine of Windjammer, don bathing attire, get drink, enter pool, and instead opted for the milder-weather variation of Windjammer, don bathing attire, get drink, enter hot tub.
The winds and seas started picking up not long after entering the Atlantic that evening, and by the time I hit the Deck 10 jogging track at 7:45am on Day 2, the wind was howling, the rain was moving sideways, and the seas were ANGRY. The ship wasn't rolling too badly, but man was she pitching. This was my 9th cruise and I've never experienced that much movement. Being that my stubbornness is only outdone by my masochism, I endured 5 glorious miles of jogging through the wind, rain, puddles, and pitching. And yes, I was the only idiot out there.
The rest of that day and evening saw 15-20 foot seas and lots of seasick people. The public areas of the ship as well as the MDR and Palladium Theater were noticeably barren. The pools had been partially drained and shutdown as the water began to slosh so violently that it was no longer safe to be in them. DW and I don't get seasick so the movement of the ship wasn't an issue for us but we felt terrible for the passengers who were down for the count and especially for those who were on their first cruise. This truly was by far the most movement we've experienced on a cruise and it's a shame to think that someone would have to endure those conditions as part of their first cruise experience.
While the wind didn't let up as we approached Bermuda, the seas fortunately did and were much more bearable as we made it into port. Conditions weren't bad on arrival day and we decided to just take a relaxing walk to Sea Glass beach and wander the Dockyard before getting back onboard for dinner.
On Day 4, we awoke to rain showers and more 25+ mph winds. We went with our plan of public transportation and jumped on the 9:30am ferry to St. George's. Even that trip was rough with 4-6 foot swells. We saw a few seasick ferry passengers. Talk about not being able to catch a break.
Once in St. George's we hopped a bus to the caves and enjoyed a tour of Crystal Caves. It was beautiful and interesting and we were glad we did it. We then hoofed it on over to the Swizzle in where we had a nice lunch and enjoyed some Rum Swizzles. The food was good, the Rum Swizzles were better, and we committed to making this a regular stop on our return trips.
From there we made our way back to St. George's where we did some exploring up by Tobacco Bay and Fort St Catherine. DW then explored the shops in St. George's and got some shopping done. We caught a bus back to Hamilton and then a ferry back to the Dockyard in time to have some pre-dinner drinks and apps at the Frog and Onion.
Day 5 we opted to spend in Hamilton. We explored and checked out the church and shops, grabbed lunch and a few beers at Flanagans, and headed back to the Dockyard to get some last minute souvenirs before the 3:30 all aboard.
Day 6 was a beautiful, sunny day. The seas still nagged a bit. While smaller, they were quartering seas from the stern which, according to Captain Been, are tough for the stabilizers to handle. This resulted in a decent amount of rolling which I'm sure felt like Groundhog day to the seasickness-prone passengers.
Day 7 started out sunny and nice, but quickly devolved into rain, high-winds, and building seas as we once again traversed a cold front.
Here are our important take aways and highlights from this cruise (especially in comparison to our August sailing): First and foremost, the food was MUCH better on this sailing. We were disappointed with the food in August. I'm not sure whether it was the new head chef or having some time to get the new menu down, but whatever it was was a welcome experience.
Guest entertainers were great. RC singers were not as good as the group that was onboard in August. Piano Bar entertainer was much better than August.
We did not experience any sewer or diesel smells this sailing except when we specifically went to Deck 4, port side, near the Centrum to see if we could still detect it there (where we smelled it the whole August cruise). I honestly would avoid booking a cabin in this area.
We did not experience any plumbing problems.
Our service was once again excellent. Louis Clovis was an outstanding stateroom attendant, and Jorge and Alroy who were our waiter and asst waiter for the whole week during MTD were excellent.
We also had a great experience at Giovanni's Table on the first night and definitely recommend it.
Ricky Matthews was a solid cruise director. We enjoyed him much more than our cruise director in August (whose name escapes me). And while the activities manager was good, we missed having Darryl there. Looking forward to being entertained by him again in the future.
So that's the show-- despite rough seas and some cruddy weather, we had an outstanding cruise. Despite being a smaller ship, Grandeur is really winning us over with her service and crew. Looking forward to getting back on her in 111 days.