Halloween Sailing - Grandeur of the Seas October 31, 2009 - 5 nights Baltimore to Bermuda
PLUSES: Great food, great service - from arrival to departure. Extremely clean and well-maintained. Incredible value.
MINUSES: Not many dining options, too smokey in places.
This trip was an outstanding value - prices about a month before departure dropped, and since I live nearby, no airfare was needed. What a deal!
I'd been advised to get to the port early, and that the lines could be very long. So, we got there before noon, and had the easiest check-in of my life. Once we turned into the port, attendants were available at every turn (literally) to get you in, to luggage drop-off, and to parking. Everyone was friendly, gave clear directions, and wished us a good trip. AND- on the return, the car battery had died. Within 20 minutes, someone came and jumped the car at no charge. Amazing service.
The only bad news was the boarding didn't start quite on time. So, we had a wait in the lounge. And we got late into port on our return, and didn't get off the ship until nearly 10am. Not awful, and not fabulous, but more waiting than we should have had.
Cabins were available at 1pm, so we had a bite to eat in Windjammer, and then went to the rooms.
Windjammer is on deck 9 at the very front of the ship, and this is one of the troublesome spots of the ship. That location gets a lot of movement, so it's "bouncy". And it's too small for the normal mealtime crowds. It's hard to make your way around the stations, I thought. The food is good, the service is all helpful, but I preferred the main DR for meals. There are no specialty restaurants - just not enough room on board.
I cruise a lot, and mostly on newer ships, so I didn't know what to expect in terms of maintenance. The ship is stunning - really in good shape. The cabin furniture shows a little wear, and the mirrors in the cabins have started to "desilver" around the edges. But, otherwise, it's nearly-new. I didn't see a single piece of upholstery anywhere that was worn, no furniture that was broken, not a single spot of carpet that was torn. The tableware, and especially the glasses on the dining table SPARKLED.
I did have two minor problems in my cabin, and the maintenance guy was there within 20 minutes each time, and fixed the problem the first time. Terrific.
My cabin steward wasn't as friendly or available as most. He didn't drop by ever to introduce himself or check in on the trip. But, he did his job, kept the place spotless, and made towel animals each night. (I love those.)
I'm "diamond" in the loyalty program, and that has REAL value - some free internet, and a few free drinks in the Diamond lounge in the evening. The problem is that the Viking Crown Lounge has a smoking section, and there's not a real separation, so those of us that are smoking-averse have a problem. Here's hoping that RCL makes it a less-smoking ship.
The production shows were good - and "Rhythm and Rhyme" was excellent.
I had the chance to chat with a sales rep for RCL who was onboard. He confirmed that they're really competing for people with the land-based resorts, and they're looking to be a step up from Carnival. He used the phrase "casual elegance."
To be honest, I found lots of casual (belly flop contest, shorts in the dining room, and folks who didn't learn not to talk while the production show is underway), but not a lot of elegance, really. Many of the activities were repeats of what they've been doing for years, and that "menu" could use a little freshening. My tux was not needed, so I'll pack lighter next time.
None of this is meant as a slam, really - I have two more RCL trips booked already, so I like the line. I was delighted with the service and the overall experience.
As for Bermuda - a few tips. If you're interested in St George, do it first. You have more ferry options in the morning to get there and back. You could easily start in St George, go to Hamilton, and have plenty of options for returning to the ship.
Don't let anyone tell you "there's nothing to do at the Dockyard." The Maritime museum and commander's house are terrific. We spent nearly 3 hours on the grounds, touring the house and exhibits and enjoying the view.
Take money. Meals and souvenirs are ridiculously expensive. A sandwich and a glass of wine can easily be $25 for lunch. A jar of souvenir jam is $11. CRAZY. So, we had lunch on land, and came back to the ship for dinner.