This was our sixth cruise on RCCL, plus we have two on NCL. I also have a couple each on Carnival and Celebrity. Our traveling party was just two people, my boyfriend and I; forty-ish; no kids. Overall, we really enjoyed our time on Grandeur. It is a very nice, well maintained ship and we particularly liked the five night itinerary - just enough time to relax but not gone so long that there was a ton of stuff to do at the office and the house when we got back.
If I remember my facts from the Captain's reception correctly, Grandeur was built in 1997. Our sailing in mid-June had 2,265 passengers and seven hundred plus crew. There were only two areas where we thought the ship felt a bit crowded: Lunch in the Windjammer and the main pool on both sea days. We advise being patient at lunch and doing your sunbathing at the beaches on the ports instead of at the pool.
Despite the couple of minor inconveniences I'll cite in this review, don't let me dissuade you from going out on Grandeur before it relocates to Spain later in 2010. We really did have a great time and I'd highly recommend the ship and itinerary. If she was going to be in Florida longer I'd book another cruise on her in a second. I just like to know what to expect so detailing the few minor negatives will help you know what to expect on your cruise.
We live in Florida, so we did not have any pre- or post-cruise arrangements other than an easy drive on Florida's Turnpike. This was the first cruise we've taken in and out of Fort Lauderdale and it was by far the easiest, quickest embarkation and debarkation we've had on any voyage. The only minor trick was that we left from one dock (21) and returned to a different one (25), so that threw us for a minute when we were trying to locate the parking garage. Parking for Monday - Saturday at the pier was $75; credit cards accepted. Be aware that when entering the port area the guard asked for ID for everyone in the car, so be sure to have that handy when you are arriving. After stopping at the guard gate you head for the dock to drop your bags, then park in the garage.
We were waitlisted for My Time Dining (which meant we couldn't make reservations online before departure), so our first stop once on board was the My Time Dining desk where we were able to switch from main seating. We prefer My Time Dining so that we can get a table for two rather than sitting at a big community table. This is where we made a mistake - we only made our reservation for the first night, not subsequent nights. Turns out the My Time Dining desk has very limited hours, which we kept missing since there was other stuff to do on the ship. I don't see why RCCL can't keep the My Time Dining phone staffed all day, but they don't so be sure to make your reservations online or onboard first thing (what we considered to be the prime dinner hours from 6 - 8 fill up quickly). Once we finally caught up with Alexi, the My Time Dining guru, we made reservations for the rest of the cruise. On the first night we had TJ and Eiki (pronounced Achy). They were very good so we asked for them every night. I'd highly recommend asking for their section if you're doing My Time Dining. We took all of our dinners in the main dining room and found the food comparable to any other RCCL voyage - the menu and the quality are very consistent, providing an overall enjoyable experience.
Once first night dinner reservations were taken care of we headed for the cabin, a Category N inside cabin on Deck 3 (3623) towards the rear of the ship. We were very pleased with the location as well as the amount of storage available - tons of drawers and I love it when the mirrors have the side compartments with shelves. We had ample room to store everything, especially since the closet came with plenty of hangars. As it was the smaller cabin it only had a single seat chair, not a love seat, and no coffee table. The bathroom was very tiny, with the toilet at an odd angle that required some interesting contortions since we're both pretty tall. The shower is the now old-school curtain kind, not the newer photon torpedo tube kind, so the curtain moving in on you is a little annoying. There is a laundry line in the shower for hanging things to dry.
Minor complaints: The safe does not use a numeric combination; you have to swipe some personal card of yours with an electronic strip. The directions say not to use your ship card. Having read a prior review that mentioned this, we brought along a gift card from a local store that seemed to work fine until about half way through the cruise. Then the safe quit locking. We just gave up on locking the safe at that point.
The TV is very tiny. I mean tiny. Really. RCCL needs to upgrade these to some larger flat screens. On our voyage movie selections included "Invictus," "Avatar," "It's Complicated," and a few others.
Attire in the main dining room was very casual. Every night, except formal night, we saw multiple folks wearing shorts and t-shirts. I wore a nice top and casual skirt every night; my boyfriend wore khakis and a polo shirt. We inquired and were basically told they didn't really care what you wore except for formal night. We did see a couple of folks in tuxedos and fancy gowns on formal nights; I wonder what they thought of the casual attire. I hesitate to tell you not to bother packing the business casual clothes in case RCCL decides to crack down on this, but we wondered why we bothered to pack the extra clothes.
We panicked a bit the first night when we got back to the cabin around 8 pm and still didn't have any luggage. I called the front desk and was told our bags were being held in security due to "suspicious items." The suspicious items turned out to be bottled water that they were convinced held alcohol. They also were on the look out for clothes irons and had several confiscated models on the table. After inspecting the water to verify it was all sealed we were allowed to take our bags back to the cabin. While I don't mind them holding the bags for a security search, it would have been nice if they had left a voicemail or a note card in the room telling us that rather than scaring us with the lack of luggage.
First port - Grand Cayman! On our first trip here last year we booked an island tour through the cruise ship, which I highly recommend for first time visitors to see a lot of the island. We really enjoyed the limited time we had at the turtle farm when we were on the overview tour, so we decided to go back. I bought tickets for the day online and we figured we'd catch a quick taxi there. That was our second mistake. All of the taxi drivers at the pier were only interested in booking all day tours of the island. Nobody was interested in a quick drop at the turtle farm. We finally made our way to the "bus" (to the left as you go out of the pier, across the street, and down a couple of blocks) which is really a mini-van. For $2.50 a person they apparently cover the whole island. If you want to catch the bus you just wait on the side of the road - we stopped and picked up a couple of people that way. One family got off at the beach, another couple got off with us to go to the dolphin swim place across the street from the turtle farm.
The turtle farm was great fun. I had a blast taking pictures of the birds in the aviary and then holding a gazillion different turtles that tried to smack me with their cute little flippers. We had planned to hit the on property lagoon for some swimming, but decided instead to head back to town for a little shopping. We were headed to the side of the road to wait on the bus when a taxi stopped, so I gave him thirty bucks to take us straight to the pier instead of cruising around for more passengers. We shopped a bit then headed back to the ship and hit the pool since it wasn't crowded on a port day.
Second port - Cozumel! On prior trips to Cozumel we've done everything from cooking school at Playa Mia (great fun!) to the Segway tour (more fun!). This time we took a taxi downtown for $10 ($7 + tip) to Los Cinco Soles to have some authentic Mexican food and do our souvenir shopping. We then strolled the main drag shopping, sightseeing, drinking tequila (offered free whenever I was considering buying jewelry), and high fiving people when Mexico scored a goal in the World Cup until we were shopped out and then flagged down a taxi for another ten bucks to get back to the pier. This was a nice relaxing day, but it was hot, so if the heat bothers you (we're from Florida) you may want to consider other alternatives. Again, I'd highly recommend this ship and the five night itinerary.