Just returned from a nice sunny and warm cruise to the Western Caribbean. What fun to leave the February snow behind and within a couple of days to be basking in the hot sun as you lounge by the pool and sip a cold margarita!
This was my lovely wife and my 15th cruise and 12th with RCI. We have sailed on the Grandeur three times before. So you might ask why sail on the same ship over and over, the answer is simply that it is a great bargain, with a convenient port location, and a ship and crew have always exceeded our expectations.
We drove from Middle TN to New Orleans on Friday and spent the night at the Hilton Riverside which is adjacent to the pier. We booked the Hilton through Priceline.com and received a great rate for a 4 star hotel. Be aware that the parking garage for the night is quite pricey at $25 per night (I remember when you could get a good hotel room for $25). We boarded the ship at 10:30 a.m. the next morning. The embarkation process was quick and efficient. Since we are Diamond Level members of the Crown and Anchor there was a special line for us, but we opted to stay in the regular line with my sister and BIL with whom we were traveling but it didn't matter since we were through in less than 5 minutes!
The condition Grandeur was just as we had left when we sailed a couple of years ago. The brass was shiny and carpets clean. Sure there is a little wear but she is aging with grace. Our cabin was about the size of a postage stamp but we knew it would be that way when we booked it at an embarrassingly low rate. It was an inside cabin that was located on deck 2 forward. However, the cabin size was worth overlooking when we met our cabin attendant. Her name was Arlene and she was the best we have ever had. She was punctual and efficient. She always had a wonderful smile and nice greeting. When we left the ship at the end of the cruised we all hugged and I think we got a little misty eyed.
Dining was a pleasurable experience. We did have one snafu when we noticed on our seapass cards that my sister and BIL were not seated at our table. We went down to the dining room on the day of embarkation at 1:30pm and got the situation rectified. We did end up sitting at a table that was very near the kitchen door but it wasn't a problem. The dining service was good however our wait staff although friendly was not very personable (no jokes, magic tricks or ability to address us by our names). The head waiter Mary was very good and came by our table every night to see if were satisfied.
To be honest we did not participate in many activities except bingo a couple of times and the casino more than we should have. There was plenty to do on the ship however this was a vacation to relax and that is exactly what we did with lots of reading by the pool.
The entertainment was good on the ship. We did the shows every night after dinner and enjoyed all except one. The RCI singers and dancers were very professional and fortunately RCI has come up with some new shows and we were glad since some of the older ones were have seen many times. There was a comedian one night, a juggler/comedian another night, and a group called Tribute that did all the Temptations songs. All were enjoyable.
We had been to all the ports several times before. We did get of off the ship in each port but only took a tour in the Grand Caymans. We tender to shore and then just hooked up with one of the locals for a tour of the island. The tour guide/driver was a native of the island and was very informative about the customs of the island, the government and even told about some of the local favorite recipes. I think we paid $20 per person and it was well worth it just to meet her. We went to "Hell", the Turtle Farm, the Rum Cake Factory (It was extremely crowded but our tour guide-an she was no small lady- wormed her way through the crowd and was back on the porch with samples of all the cakes for us in a matter of seconds!). Costa Maya and Cozumel was pleasant but mainly just the same Tee-Shirt, Onyz, and liquor shops. So we just strolled around for an hour and then got back on the Grandeur and found our way to the Windjammer for lunch and then to the pool for more reading and the "drink of the day".
Disembarkation was a breeze although we were a little delayed since some of the non US citizens were slow about reporting to US Customs for clearance. We were off the ship and on the road headed home by 9:30 a.m.
In summary, it was a great cruise and to be honest a great bargain. I'm a little sad that the Grandeur (or any RCI vessel) will not be sailing out of New Orleans after this spring. New Orleans needs the tourist dollars to help with their recovery efforts. You can't beat RCI for consistent value for your cruising dollar. I'm sure we will cruise again before the end of the year.