With a few exceptions our time on the Grandeur of the Seas was truly grand. We were part of a group of about eighty passengers from the Baltimore-Washington, DC area that went on the two week repositioning cruise from Baltimore to Tampa aboard the Grandeur of the Seas.
Embarkation was unfortunately slow and exasperating because there was a large proportion of foreign passengers and another large proportion of older, slower passengers. Our group had been told not to arrive before noon but by then the wait was almost two hours to get on board. Once on board our cabins were ready and our luggage arrived before dinner. The Windjammer was open and lunch, although later than expected, was good with plenty of menu choices. The mandatory muster drill went better than our previous drills because this time we did not have to wear our life vests.
Dinner on the first night gave us our first ever experience with poor service on RCCL. We had the early (6:00) seating in the main (only) dining room. Our waiter appeared to be somewhat unsettled, speaking quickly and moving rapidly from table to table. All of us at our table indicated that we were not interested in wine and after that he seemed to spend more time at the tables that ordered wine with their dinners. Our appetizers were not served until seven and our entrees did not come out till after seven thirty. Orders for dessert were taken at eight and they did not come till eight thirty. The waiter said it was not his fault. He said that there was a new kitchen staff aboard that was not familiar with this ship's kitchen layout. He promised that the next night would be better. It was, but by only ten minutes. Saturday night was worse. He served the wrong appetizers to our table, disappeared for an extended period and returned without any explanation. Our 'drink of the day' order was taken before the appetizers but by dinners end I had not gotten my ship pass returned. We told him we would not be returning until Thursday (Thanksgiving). The head waiter tried to make up for his lack of attention but she was unable to fill in and do her regular duties.
Tuesday we came back to our cabin after lunch to find a plate of chocolate dipped strawberries and an invitation to return to the dining room. I returned for the veal shanks but my wife still waited till Thursday. In the mean time we found the food at the Windjammer to be excellent. There was plenty to choose from and the desserts were excellent. We were able to get larger salads with our choice of ingredients and more vegetables than were available in the dining room so it was actually better for us to eat at the Windjammer. It should also be noted that the cheeseburgers at the solarium grill were great for lunch. When there was food on the pool deck it was too good to pass up. The food in the dining room (when we did go) was excellent. Lamb, veal, lobster, and prime rib were standouts. Desserts were to die for. We would take two different ones an share because we could not decide which was more enticing.
Our cabin was an Ocean view, mid-ship on deck three. It was clean when we arrived and well kept by our cabin stewardess, Valerie. At our request she got us extra hangers, extra pillows and found my wife a hair dryer as it seems that the previous occupant took the one meant for our cabin. We kept irregular hours and Valerie was very accommodating, changing her schedule to match ours. The bed was extremely comfortable, we slept like rocks every night.
Captain Rob's daily navigational announcements were entertaining. His participation in several activities endeared him to us passengers. We enjoyed his appearances and conversations at several venues. The cruise director, John Blair, was outstanding, a memorable presence throughout the fourteen days. Not only tireless in his activities but also extremely talented as an entertainer in his own right. His wife, Katrina (activities director) and her staff were all over the ship from sunup till well after everyone was retired for the night. They ran the usual trivia games, bingo, karaoke, and dance lessons. There were jewelery making, scrapbook, and I even saw a knitting class. There were port lectures, health and fitness talks, and cooking demonstrations. There was always something going on for everyone. On Sundays a lounge was set up for football watching, including hot dogs. On the other hand, if you wanted to do nothing, there was plenty of space to do that and the solarium was quiet and a great place to read or just relax.
Nightly entertainment was excellent, especially considering that John had to get 12 acts for this cruise. The ship's singers and dancers were excellent. The guest performers were engaging and none disappointed. John himself did a great job dong the Neil Diamond tribute. The usual RCCL Battle of the Sexes, Love and Marriage, and Quest were well done as were a Liar's Game and a Country Western Hoe Down. Excursions for this cruise were an exasperating experience for me, not because of the choices or the content but because of the repeated cancellations I encountered. Compared to our previous cruises, this assembly of passengers was in general, older, heavier, and less ambulatory than what we had encountered before. As a result, the more strenuous or active excursions were more often cancelled due to a lack of interest. Four of my six planned kayak trips were cancelled and I had to replace them with more sedate trips to the beach with my wife (so not all was lost). Ports were busy but not overly crowded even though there were up to three additional ships in with us at some places.
Disembarking at Tampa was annoyingly slow. The announcement said that the port authority had not cleared us but you would think that would have been prearranged and that it should not have taken two hours to straighten out.
The Grandeur is a fine ship although if you look closely she is showing some signs of aging. Her size appeals to a more traditional, older cruiser and as a result the activity slows down noticeably earlier than on other ships. We thoroughly enjoyed our selves despite the disappointment with our dinner service. Overall it was a memorable cruise that all at our table would repeat without hesitation. If ever we meet up with John or Katrina on another cruise we will be anticipating another great time at sea.