I had fun, in spite of RCI: Grandeur of the Seas Cruise Review by BluesCruise
Overall Member Rating
I had fun, in spite of RCI
Destination: Western Caribbean
Let me start by saying that dinner in the Main Dining Room is one of my favorite things about cruising. Sadly, that's where RCI let me down the most. The MDR service/food was bad. We had a table of 10, table #305. Our waiter was Densta a.k.a. Maxwell. Food that was supposed to be hot was often served lukewarm, at best. If we sent it back, the replacement dish was sometimes lukewarm, as well. I suspect some of the food wasn't hot when it left the kitchen, as was the case with mashed potatoes in a ceramic dish. It was assumed by the waiter, head waiter, and even the chef, that if the dish was hot, the food in it was hot. It wasn't until the guest had them actually taste or touch the mashed potatoes that they realized the food was not hot. They should be using food thermometers in the kitchen to make sure they put out hot food! More
Another problem was that Densta did not seem up to the task of serving a large table. He seemed scattered and disorganized, and after he brought the food out from the kitchen, he kept lifting the lids from the same dishes multiple times before serving them to the correct guest. This probably contributed to the food losing heat before being served. After we'd complained up the chain about the cold food problems, Densta started putting a dish in front of a guest, then saying, "Try it. Is it hot?" with each dish, with each course, over and over again. If we said it wasn't, he'd say he'd get a replacement, but it would take so long for the replacement to come (and by then we had no faith that it would be any hotter), that often, we didn't want a replacement. If we declined, he'd insist, several times. We had to resort to sternly saying, "I don't want it!" before he would let it go. This exchange became maddening, and we couldn't enjoy our dinnertime conversations without the constant, frustrating interruptions. I know he wanted to make it right, but he took it too far. ONE "are you sure?" would have been enough. We started ordering multiple dishes for each course, hoping at least one of them would be edible, so we wouldn't have to wait for a replacement.
We informed the Maitre D', Santana, of the cold food problem early in the 10-day cruise, but the problem was never solved, and we were not satisfied by the end of the cruise. The waiter blamed the kitchen. The chef blamed the waiter. Food was still being served cold on the last night of the cruise! We were told by Santana that we were sitting too far from the kitchen, and we could move to a closer table. If that was the case, then everyone at the outer edge of the dining room should have been complaining of cold food, too. Maybe they were, and we just didn't know about it. We declined to move, because that suggestion was ridiculous. There was no reason we shouldn't be able to get hot food anywhere in the dining room.
The head chef offered us tickets to a "special" galley tour at 2pm the next day. He suggested we arrive by 1:45 so we could go in first. Well, we found out we weren't special guests, at all. By 1:15, there was a long line of people wrapped around the Centrum area waiting to go on the tour. No thanks. Santana comped us wine with dinner one night, but that didn't make up for the disappointing food and service throughout the cruise.
This was only my second cruise with RCI. Last year, I sailed on the Enchantment, and my food in the MDR was always hot and delicious, and my waitstaff was always courteous and helpful. So this experience on the Grandeur was a huge disappointment.
The food in the Windjammer was always hit-or-miss. I'd just try a little of everything until I found something that was hot, tasted okay, and wasn't dried out/overcooked. I only went there if there were no other options.
On the first day, I inquired at Cafe Lattitudes whether the pastries were complimentary. I was told, erroneously, they they were free with the purchase of a beverage or ice cream. On another day, I had missed breakfast, so I stopped there for a pastry. I asked for an almond croissant. It was cold and hard, right out of the refrigerator. I asked if they could heat it up. They had no way to do so. Who wants cold, hard pastries?? Put a microwave or toaster oven in there!
The best food on the ship, on this cruise, was found in the Park Cafe in the solarium. The roast beef sandwiches at lunch were always wonderful! The bagel bar, salad bar, fruit and chips, as well as desserts, were a welcome alternative, and it was less crowded than the Windjammer. I just wish it was open all day without closures.
I guess the upside of my food experiences on this cruise is that I didn't gain much weight.
Entertainment: This was the best thing RCI did for me on this cruise. I really enjoyed most of the shows. The staff singers and dancers were the best I've seen on a cruise ship. "Tango Argentina" was excellent, and I was impressed that the staff dancers were able to learn their routines during one week and perform so well. The show went on about 20 minutes longer than I felt necessary, but it was good. The acrobatic acts in the Centrum were lovely. The "Two Funny Guys" weren't terribly funny, more like two somewhat humorous guys. A name change would avoid over-hyping their abilities. There was one truly disappointing act, "The Divas of Motown". They really needed to stick to singing the songs the way we remember them, instead of engaging in vocal histrionics as if they're auditioning for a recording contract.
Public spaces: I enjoy playing cards and boardgames, particularly during sea days. On this cruise, I saw that many others also enjoy doing so. But finding space to play, with high enough/large enough tables and good lighting, was very difficult. The solarium was okay, but it got really hot and humid in there. In the Centrum and the Schooner Bar, the tables and lighting were not the greatest. I felt like it was rude to the entertainer and bar staff for us to play in there, but sometimes it was the only alternative. I asked Guest Services about using a conference room, but I was told they were fully booked. I know RCI wants to monetize every inch of the ship, but a gameroom would be nice.
Cheaters at trivia: I love to compete at trivia. IMO, they should be about who "just happens to know" the answers, through their education or life experience. It is such a disappointment that each session is won by someone who is, IMO, cheating. These players are clearly familiar with these questions and answers from prior cruises. They are even sitting there shamelessly writing down the questions and answers for use on future cruises. Do they really think we believe they just happen to know ALL the answers? They don't look smart, they look extremely LAME. That they would cheat others out of the opportunity to honestly win cheap plastic prizes shows how lame they are.
In spite of the problems, I enjoyed myself. I met lots of nice people, and had interesting conversations. I had wonderful tablemates in the MDR (that I met here on Cruise Critic in the roll call!). Several of us played board games and card games daily, and that was a lot of fun. I was able to relax and laugh with them, and without that, this cruise might have been a downer.
Get it together, RCI!! Less
It was fine for one person. If I had had a roommate, I don't know where they would have hung their clothes, LOL. I like that the bathroom had ample storage for toiletries. It was dark and quiet. The cabin steward, Karen kept ice in the bucket for my wine, which is all I asked of her.
Port and Shore Excursions
I purchased a "Tour of Tulum with Beach Break" for Cozumel. The ferry to/from Playa del Carmen was not a problem. Once we arrived, however, we had to walk quite a few blocks to board our bus. Some of the older and less able-bodied people had a hard time with that, and it was unexpected. Our tour guides were friendly enough, but once we got to Tulum, things went bad. We were told that the guided tour would be about 30-45 minutes, and then we would have about 30 minutes of free time to walk around the site and take pictures. The tour guide named Patricio was terrible. We followed him to the site, and he had us stand in the shade just inside the gate, and he talked on and on about the Mayans in general. He pointed to nearby stones and talked about what used to be on that spot. He was sweating profusely, and while other tours were walking around the site, from building to building, we seemed rooted in our shady spot. We finally started walking, and he stopped again, and talked a long time, but didn't really say much about the buildings there at the site. Finally, someone mentioned that we needed to get back to the bus soon. He had talked the whole time, so we never got time to walk around and take pictures. Poor time management! He briskly led us past the major buildings, still didn't tell us ANYTHING about them, and continued walking, out of the park and back to the parking lot. Most of us were on the bus on time, but the tour guides and a few passengers remained in the gift shop another 20 minutes or so. We were late leaving, so we were late to our beach break. We had a decent buffet lunch, and some people spent about 30 minutes on the beach. Then, we got back on the bus. The bus driver couldn't maneuver the bus out of the parking lot into the narrow street. He went back and forth, trying different angles. About 25 minutes later, we finally got moving. We had to park the bus where we had boarded, so some people paid for pedi-cabs back to the ferry and the rest of us had to follow the tour guide, briskly walking the several blocks pack to the pier. We arrived back at the Grandeur an hour after it was supposed to leave, and had to endure the walk of shame, with other passengers jeering at us about being late and holding up the ship. Thank goodness it waited for us. What a lousy tour! I had to go home and google Tulum to find out what the major buildings there were. I complained and was given a 30% refund, but what a waste of my day in Cozumel that was.
I've been to Jamaica many times, and the ship's excursions in Jamaica seemed very expensive to me. I just got off the ship and walked around the "pop-up port". It was clean and pretty, and didn't really look like it belonged on the island. I started walking toward the gate out of the port area, but it didn't look like a place I wanted to go alone, so I went back to the ship.
It was a 2 hour tour in a van. We went to Hell and back, spent some time at the Turtle Farm or Dolphin Discovery, sampled rum and rum cake, and learned a little about the island. $20.
I went to the beach with a couple of other ladies. We went to the far end of things and had a wonderful shady spot for our chairs, with the water just steps away. Unfortunately, the buffet nearest our spot was not opened, so we had to leave paradise to get some lunch, which wasn't all that good.
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