This was our 6th cruise and first on Royal Caribbean on September 4th. Our previous experiences were with 4 previous trips with Holland America (HAL) (Hawaii 15nt, Alaska cruise tour and 2-Caribbean 10-11 nt) and one cruise with NCL 7nt. We were traveling with 40 others from the Outer Banks of NC and it is telling that the ship is large enough that we only occasionally saw others in the group except at dinner or in passing in the Casino.
Embarkation: A pleasure and wonderfully efficient in comparison to our first cruise in 2006 now that Norfolk has completed its cruise terminal. We went prepared with our completed Sea Pass, credit card and passport and got into the ship before noon (after arriving at 11:45) and the fastest experience we have ever had.
Travel: We arrived by bus with our group and avoided typical plane and parking issues. This started the trip on a wonderfully relaxed note from the beginning.
Cabin: We were in an outside cabin on Deck 2 forward of midship chosen for stability and cost reasons. This turned out to be a good choice with hurricane Hanna following us all the way up the coast and finally overtaking us in St. John, NB. The cabin is smaller (154 sq. ft.) vs. our experiences on HAL (184 sq. ft) for a similar cabin but huge compared to our one experience on the NCL Majesty. Similar cabins on HAL have a bathtub not present on the Grandeur but we rarely (if ever) used the bathtub anyway. As noted by other reviewers, there were plenty of drawers, adequate but not generous closet space and just barely enough room under the bed to force our suitcases. If you have a rather thick suitcase, expect that it will not fit under the relatively low bed. Only one plug in the cabin as on most ships so remember to take an expander plug or strip. Finally, I saw other reviewers comments regarding a sewer gas smell in the halls. I also experienced this through most of the cruise primarily in the hall near the crew access door on Deck 2 across for Room 2064. I recommend caution in selecting that room and rooms 2063 and 2067 that are next to the offending source of that real unpleasant odor.
Food: It is unbelievable to hear on the ship and read other review that say that the food in the Buffet is always the same. We found a wide assortment of food at lunch and dinner and cannot name one possible choice at breakfast that was possibly missing. I don't agree with the comments that the food was always the same except at breakfast...but what possibly could be added with all the options available from fresh cooked omelets, eggs, melon(s), cereals, sausages, pastries, etc.etc. The only criticism I can think of is the incredibly overcooked bacon and that is it. Dining Room: We ate all dinners and most lunches in the dining room. The quality of the food is only average in my opinion. Fish in the buffet was actually better than in the dining room (?) and one evening I sent back by fish dish which was tasteless and had a poor texture. Steaks are particularly poor and our dinner companion had to replace his sirloin which he considered inedible. I had one prime rib that was actually tough if that can be imagined.
Drinks: We had no alcoholic drinks and can't comment. One disappointment was the poor choice of fruit drinks at breakfast where the only choices in the buffet were apple juice and orange drink (real orange juice was listed as $3.95 + 15% gratuity next to the orange squeezing machine at the entrance).
Service: Friendly but spotty and not up to par with our previous experiences. Waiter and Asst. did not ever remember choice of beverages (except for alcoholic drinks). Refilling of glasses, butter and bread dishes was not good most nights. Our wait staff was obviously overworked and the Asst. had 3 tables of 8 diners which explains why there may have been a less than stellar performance. Royal Caribbean is more at fault here than the wait staff.
Public Rooms: Very clean and well kept for this older grand ship. The 7 deck high "Centrum" is the most impressive we have seen on any of the ships in our limited experience with smaller vessels. The number of various congregating spots is impressive as noted by others and represents a challenge to find them as the elevators are not keyed to rooms on various floors and you have to find that darned ship map statue to see where you are and where you need to be going....this was a bit vexing as we consider ourselves pretty good cruisers. Library is practically non-existent. No attendant, few books, no newspapers or magazines and a real disappointment compared to our experience with HAL. Internet services were adequate but expensive as is typical. There were package deals but no reduced rates later in the cruise as we have seen on other lines.
Ports of Call & Excursions: Bar Harbor, St. John, NB, Halifax, NS, and Boston were a new experience for us that we and others on board enjoyed thoroughly. With hurricane Hanna tailing us from the South, this caused a minor change in the itinerary for a first stop at Halifax rather than St. John which we visited the next day post Hanna. Locals recounted the severe wind and heavy rains we missed but saw part of during our tours in Halifax. In Boston, look for small Irish bars that serve 1 1/4 lb lobsters for lunch for $8.95 with purchase of any beverage (price in Bar Harbor varied from $18.95 to $22.95 with potato and coleslaw expensive side dishes is seems). Ship excursions are generally too expensive. In St. John, a city tour from the ship was $79 pp. We found a city bus tour on the way from the ship to the City Market that was only $17 pp and went to all of the same places (Plus the Imperial Theatre) as the ship excursion for much more. Peggy's cove in Halifax was scenic but so rainy that we would have to go back to properly review.
Our trip on the Grandeur of the Seas was pleasant and memorable enough to want us to go back on this ship again. I hope that RCL can secure a better source of higher quality beef and more choices of juice in the AM as my only disappointments from this otherwise great trip up the east coast. Yes, I am hooked on cruising after resisting my wife for all those years and this was our 6th cruise since September 2006!