Our extended family cruise included husband and I and our three teenaged daughters, my husband’s sister, and my husband’s brother and his wife. Overall we had a really great cruise. The ship is big enough for everyone to have space for their own activities, but small enough to run into people every so often. We always had dinner together in the main dining room, except for the first night in Bermuda.
Departure Port, Baltimore: Our family lives in northern Virginia so Baltimore was a perfect departure port for us. We arrived around noon and the process for check-in was very smooth. I highly recommend printing as much of the boarding stuff as you can at home, otherwise you’ll have to stop at a little tent and make your own luggage tags. From the time we passed the port gate to the time we boarded the ship was probably an hour. When we arrived home, the process was even quicker once we were off the ship. A quick walk through immigration/customs and then retrieving our bags, and we were back in our car on the way home.
Ship: The ship is in great condition and the public areas were well maintained. I recommend exploring the ship the first day and then again the second to find some good spots. The Viking Crown Lounge is really nice during the day time for reading and relaxing in a quiet space. We also really liked the various levels of the Centrum for hanging out in a busier space. Deck 5 outside is really nice too for shade (by the lifeboats) but can be a bit windy when at sea.
Staff: All the employees on this ship are pleasant. I did not encounter one employee in a hall or walkway who did not greet me and smile. Waiters are very attentive in all the deck and club areas.
Food: We had the early seating and ate all but one evening meal in the dining room. Our servers were extraordinarily attentive, courteous, and friendly. They figured out pretty quickly what we liked and what we didn’t like. They mastered stocking the roll basket with extra sourdough – the table favorite – and making sure my husband’s decaf mocha had special chocolate powder and sugar sprinkled on top. The Windjammer Café is usually crowded but the food is really good. If you can get past the crowds or find an off time, the salad bar and the hot food bar were our favorites. Plus a cook to order omelet bar at breakfast. The Park Café in the Solarium was good for fruit and bagels toasted to order. My only real complaint is the lack of sommeliers in the main dining room. Apparently they worked in the premium dining rooms because I saw a wine tasting late in the cruise sponsored by the wine tenders. I’m not sure why RC can’t put a few of them in the main dining room.
Room: We booked inside cabins on Deck 3 which were tiny but adequate. The only real complaint I have was the pillows were either lumpy or flat. Our cabin attendant kept the room clean and was very friendly when we spoke to him in the hallway. We were happy with the inside cabins – they are nice and dark for sleeping and we spent our time on the various decks.
Fitness Center/Spa: Tiny fitness center. There were only 4 ellipticals, 8 treadmills, and a selection of bikes. In every fitness facility I’ve been in, the ellipticals are always the first equipment to fill. This was no exception. I always had to wait for a machine. We had been spoiled on our last cruise on the Celebrity Summit which has a huge fitness center. I also expected to have some dance aerobics classes (also on the Summit) but the tiny floor in the Grandeur’s Center only accommodated a few short classes of stretching and abs. They had some additional classes for fees. The activities staff had Zumba classes on the poolside deck, but they were only held on the last 2 days.
Activities/Entertainment: Great and energetic activities staff. Karaoke, trivia, dancing classes, and the game shows were all fun. We did not see the featured comedian, but the theatre acts were a little lame. The Beatlemania boy band was not that good and the Broadway review show was just bad.
Bermuda: Fun port of call. The Dockyard area is nice with a lot of shopping and activities. We went to the Museum where my daughters had a 30 minute Dolphin Dip. RC encourages people to use the bus system in Bermuda, but I would not recommend that unless you are getting on the bus at the start of a route. We rode the bus from Dockyard to Horseshoe Bay which worked very well for us, although by the time we got to the beach area, the bus was packed with all us tourists, 10-15 camp children, and a bunch of elderly Bermudans. The bus passed a few locals on the way who threw up their hands in frustration as we drove by. That should have been a sign for us that the return would not be so simple. Horseshoe Bay is a beautiful beach and well worth the visit. There is a hot snack bar and umbrella rentals. The walk from the bus stop down the hill to the beach is at least 200 yards. There is a van that will drive you up and down the hill for $2 per person. We walked down the hill and got the van back up. When we got to the bus stop, we counted 60 people in front of us in line. The bus arrived and only 10 people were able to get on. The bus was already full of people who were coming from Hamilton. So we bailed out and got a taxi for the 8 of us with my husband in the rear baggage area. Each bus line runs roughly every 60 minutes so be careful if your are going to rely on a bus for transportation in Bermuda. The second day in Bermuda we split up and my group took the ferry to St. Georges for shopping and wandering. The other group went on a jet skiing tour which they booked directly at the dock.
Overall we had a fantastic cruise.