Day 1, North to Baltimore
Packing was easy. We did not have to worry about weight limits or heavy security, because we are driving to the port. We left Newport News, VA at 6:00AM in the dark. I do not think the sun rose until we were in Baltimore five hours later. Seriously, I have cataracts and hate to drive unfamiliar roads in the dark, but everything went well until Miss Shadow, our new car took us on a detour over the Rapahannock River that cost us an hour. Across the Potomac, we encountered heavy traffic, but we got to the pier at about 11:00AM. Gas was cheap in VA and expensive in MY.
Parking was $105 for seven nights instead of $115 for eight days. We chose to drive the same day and park at the pier instead of stay one night in a hotel and park free in an unsecured lot. The difference was the new car. We thought a little bit of caution was prudent. There was no wait for the credit card line at the lot which is right at the pier entrance. We thought the whole procedure was well thought out.
Check in was a breeze. When we got inside the terminal, there was one loop in the line. Our RCCL gold status got us no check in privileges. The gate keeper said there would be a gold line when the rush started. We got our cruise card and walked right on the ship. No waiting. From the parking lot gate to sitting in the Centrum took about 40 minutes. We decided to wait until one o'clock for cabin to open before going to lunch. I see no point in dragging carry on luggage through a buffet line. Judy found us some cookies in the Cafe to ward off starvation. One difference in this cruise and the last one, also RCCL out of Baltimore, was the lack of noisy clamor from the efforts of crew members trying to sell everything from beverage packages to rental tuxedos. This year there was only the beverage package team tucked into an out of the way corner.
Once in the cabin, we dumped our bags and went to lunch at the Windjammer buffet. The food was OK but nothing to brag about. When we got back to the cabin, our luggage was there and we unpacked. Our cabin was the smallest we have had on 12 cruises, but it was well laid out and we found a place for everything. Our first surprise was finding our beds in a king bed configuration. We had it changed to a twin bed configuration which gave us more useable floor space. Our second surprise was finding the beds too low to store empty suitcases under the beds. Suitcases could be stored in a central storage area off the hallway. With the twin bed set up we found just enough room at the end of one bed between the bed and the sofa to hold our two suitcases. This actually worked out better than storing the suitcases under the bed. Any action that keeps this old man and his bad back off the floor is good.
Dinner was on the My Time plan at 5:30 After unpacking we set out for the dining room. We met some nice folks at dinner and had some pretty good food. We sampled the entertainment at the piano bar after eating. The piano man was high energy and good, but he steered requests to music unfamiliar to us.
Off to bed and our third surprise of the day. The beds were uncomfortable. Both of us woke up in the morning with sore backs.
Day 2, At Sea.
We woke up to rough seas. The Atlantic was showing us its sassy side. Many people were sea sick and stayed in bed. Fortunately Judy and I have had no problems with motion sickness in all of our travels to date. Pools were closed. Doors to exposed decks were sealed. The chandeliers in the Centrum were swaying in a wide pendulum fashion. They were later taken down.
We showered in our very tiny shower stall. Water leaked everywhere. We finally concluded by the end of the cruise that the drains were probably partially clogged.
With the exception of one lunch, we ate in the dinning room for all meals. Conversation with new friends at every meal was good to great. The food was mostly OK to sometimes pretty good. I found that everything served to me needed salt and pepper and was generally too dry. It needed sauce or gravy. The eggs, at breakfast were over done.
Activities of the day started with the Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle. Most of us attending found conversations they liked and jumped right in and stayed until lunch time.
After lunch, we played bridge until 4:oo and lost big time at trivia at 5:oo
After dinner, we played Majority Rules strictly for laughs and listened to violin/guitar duo playing light classics. Then we went to the cabin to read until lights out. Judy and I swapped beds. Judy got the straight mattress. I got the swaybacked one.
Day 3, Split Day
We woke up to calm seas and normal backs. It was a wonderful start to the day.
After a breakfast of eggs benedict (the best breakfast dish of the cruise), we played bridge until lunch. Lunch was at the Park Cafe, featuring sandwiches and build your own salads. The food was good. After lunch we did the rail-bird thing with cameras in hand as we approached Bermuda. The weather was perfect with beautiful white clouds in formation. Nearly everyone piled off the ship to enjoy the land and weather. Many stayed around the Dockyard and pier. As we left the ship, a local greeted us, wished us well for our time in Bermuda and reminded us that Jesus is coming soon. A passenger replied that Jesus is already here. The local responded, "No, the Holy Spirit is here. Jesus is coming.” Nothing like a good theology debate to start our tour.
We shopped or looked around the dock area. We went to the clock tower mall that we missed on our last cruise to Bermuda and wondered why we wanted to go there. I expanded my wildlife photos by one Anole. It was interesting to try to get a closeup photograph of a lizard with a wide angle lens. We also took some photos of the royal dockyard facilities. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the promenade deck and took lots of pictures.
At dinner, we went to a new table for 6 which already had two couples. This became our regular table so it was almost like traditional dining.
We went to the production show after dinner. It was a disappointment. The singers lacked the range for the music they were singing and the dancing was a little clumsy and hesitant.
Day 4, Full Day in Bermuda
Yesterday's blue skies and white fluffy clouds are only a memory. The sky was overcast. It was raining and the wind was blowing hard. Down by the water, windblown spray was hitting everything.
We missed the ferry to St George by just a few minutes. We should have checked the schedule the night before. Rather than wait an hour, we took the ferry to Hamilton and the bus to St George. Our commute took longer this way, but we saw some nice things from the bus. The bus dropped us a few blocks from the center of town. Our walk to the waterfront took us right by St Peter's Anglican Church which was on our list of things to see. We spent some time there taking photos. Our next stop was at the waterfront. We picked up a map and looked around. We paid one dollar each to tour the ship Deliverance, the ship that saved America (or at least the colony at Jamestown. It was an interesting diversion well worth the dollar. Having seen the tiny little ship, not much bigger than our cabin, I would pay two dollars each to take my grand kids through it. The captain was there to great us. He looked pretty good for 400 plus years.
By now we are officially getting hungry for a snack so we stopped at a small grocery store with a hot food buffet in the back. If we had needed a meal, I would have tried buffet. Instead we got apple crumbles and drinks. We went to the park to eat, and the wild chickens found us there. We shared our crumble with them. One of the little buggers flew at me in a snatch and grab move. He failed. We got pictures of the chickens and the park proceeded toward the ferry dock at a slow pace taking pictures. At the ferry we saw a man flying a tiny kite probably the size of my hand.
The ferry ride back to Dockyard was a little rough.
At the dockyard we got more pictures, including a cormorant perched on one of the Grandeur's mooring lines.
Day 5, Last day in Bermuda.
We had hoped to get to the beaches for photos, but the weather persuaded us to spend all of our time in Hamilton. The first priority was to get some good photos of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, the national church of Bermuda. We have been in at least a dozen cathedrals or large churches as tourists and photographers. This is probably our favorite. Unfortunately, it does not have a lot of open space around it so getting good exterior shots is a challenge. We did get the shots however. Some of them are quite good. Inside we got shots of all the the stained glass, two organs and other details. It is a beautiful church.
We spent the rest of our time there walking down front street taking pictures. We closed out the day with a stop at a little gift shop, Hodge Podge, that we discovered last year. It is close to the ferry dock and a little waterfront park. We knew we could get something very cold to drink there. Then we sat on a park bench and waited for the ferry.
Day 6, Sea Day
We took the galley tour. It was a waste of time, but did include a free glass of champagne. The weakness in the tour was that there was no one to explain anything to us.
Day 7, Sea Day
Packing, eating and trivia filled the day.
Day 8, Leaving
We had a leisurely breakfast in the dining room. We were in the last group scheduled to leave the ship so we were in no hurry.
Getting off was easy and quick. We had a few seconds of confusion finding the area in which our luggage was waiting but no problems finding our luggage once we were in the right area. In the car, we sat for a few minutes making sure that Miss Shadow had our preferred route locked into her system. Then we were off. We had no problems home bound. We made the 10 hour round trip on one tank of gas, about 22 mpg. The experts say that gas mileage will improve once the engine is fully broken in at about 3,000 miles.
Nit-Pics, Pet Peeves and some really important stuff.
Someone needs to stop the shower leaks. Find the cause and fix it.
The bathroom sink in the cabin consists of a raised bowl (no problem) and a faucet with a short neck (problem). I cannot fit my large hands under the faucet mouth to properly rinse after washing. This greatly increased the time required to finish personal hygiene chores.
All the food required extra salt, pepper and moisture.
The entertainment was uniformly second rate w/two exceptions. The juggler/comedian and the stand up comic on the last night were really good. The aerial shows in the Centrum were a waste of time.
The soft drink beverage package @6.oo per day is a bargain if you drink four or more sodas per day. Three sodas per day is about break even. I had one soda per day with a second soda once or twice and saved money. Barhops will bring you a glass of ice and a canned soda. Be careful though. Do not let them pour. The glass will often have significant amounts of water in them. Sometimes there will be very little ice in the glass.
When planning the trip, we were concerned that the St George ferry might not be running when the Grandeur was in port. The winter ferry schedule does not include the St George/Dockyard run. Some of us called the Bermuda ferry people direct, some called RCCL or someone else. The consensus was that the ferry would not be running. However, when we got off the ship, the first thing we did was ask about the St George ferry. It would run weather permitting. The St George merchants wanted their share of the cruisers loot.
Ferry tickets. Everyone knows about the 3 day unlimited bus/ferry pass for $35 per person and the two day pass for $25 per person, but the real bargain, for some of us was the 15 tickets for $30. This gave Judy and me enough tickets to do everything we wanted to do. Every ticket kiosk sells the passes but only the metal shack at the end of the dock sells the ticket pagage.
Smoke from the casino polluted the starboard side of the Centrum. I think this was a major contributor to my cold or whatever it is that I have. Casinos should be stuck away from major public areas or at least have some barrier to inhibit spread of smoke from the casino to major non-smoking areas.
This was a wonderful cruise. The ship, the food, the entertainment, etc were just good enough to not be a distraction. Bermuda weather was good enough to let us do what we wanted to do. But the real difference was that everyone I spoke to had a wonderful attitude about everything cruise related. I saw no major displays of rudeness, and many displays of positive actions and thinking. Even the bridge players were willing to live and let live. The people we met on our first cruise helped us to see that no cruise is perfect and they taught us that attitude in everything in cruising. They were right.
P.S. To the folks I left wondering about the beer brewed on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.” It is National Beer. See you next time.