Updated Review (09/2010) ------------------------
Although I referenced both good and bad details in my original review below, I certainly focused on those parts of the cruise that did not meet our expectations.
Since posting the original review, our travel agent contacted Royal Caribbean with our concerns, and Royal Caribbean responded with what seemed to be general empathy on their part. After learning that this was our first and only experience with Royal, they also went as far as to provide certain incentives for us to give them a try again.
I was impressed that they took the time to contact us, addressed our concerns, and made a concerted effort to try to get us back on one of their boats in the future.
The issues I documented below are still a concern, but I was impressed enough with Royal's willingness to make things right that I wanted to take a moment and update our review. I do believe we will sail with Royal again within the next 12 months, and I will post another review of that experience at that time.
Original Review (08/2010) -------------------------
Our family of 8 cruised on the "Grandeur of the Seas" from 8/9 through 8/13, with stops in Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We had two cabins, the "Grand Suite" # 8510 and the "Junior Suite" # 8576. My wife and I are 39 and 41 respectively, our kids are 15,13,12,10, and 5, and we brought my father-in-law who is 65. This was our 5th cruise, with two previous trips on Disney, and one each on Celebrity and Carnival. We will definitely cruise on Disney again, and most likely on Celebrity. We will never cruise on Carnival again, and we are lukewarm about Royal Caribbean.
I've divided the review into three parts - the good, the so-so, and the bad.
First - the good:
• I thought our assistant waiter - Ronald - did a great job, as did our cabin stewards - Mary Joy and Judy. The head waiter - Roger - also made it a point to be available during the week.
• I thought the food was very good most of the time, and the waiters were very accommodating. My father-in-law asked for some additional escargot one evening as an appetizer - and the waiter never stopped bringing additional plates to him. It was a bit overkill - but a very nice gesture.
• The size of the suites and the size of the balcony was very good.
• I thought the cruise director and activities director - John and Katrina - both did a very good job. They were pleasant and accessible throughout the cruise.
• I thought all of the evening entertainment options were very good, and unlike Carnival, the entertainment was very appropriate for kids and young adults (no g-string dancers, no cursing, etc).
• The magic "class" that the magician Levent put on for the kids was amazing. Even more impressive was that he wasn't contracted for that class, he happened to see the abundance of kids on the ship and he asked the cruise director John if he could put a class together for the kids. That was a great gesture and he did a great job.
A few things that were "so-so", but not enough for us to say we had a bad time:
• The grand suite was large, but not so "grand". The exterior to the bathtub had rust stains all over it, the tile floor was all cracked, the grout was cracked on the tile floor so sometimes when you walked on it in bare feet small pieces of grout would stick to your feet and be pulled up.
• The suite was located right underneath the buffet restaurant, so every morning around 3:00am I would wake up to the sound of the tables and buffet stations being dragged across the floor so they could clean, and then around 5:30am to 6:00am or so it sounded like they were starting to bring the food out to the buffet stations.
• The balcony door was "loose" so even the slightest motion would cause it to "bang" against wall. Most of the evenings at sea it sounded like someone spent the night on the balcony knocking to get inside.
• The bed in the suite was horrible. I spent part of first night sleeping on the rollaway cot and putting one of the kids in the master bed. This was however something that they attempted to correct. I mentioned it to our steward Mary Joy, and she loaded up the bed with additional mattress pads which made it a bit more bearable after the first night. It still wasn't great, but I was up a lot in the evening anyway because of the noise, so the bed was no longer the biggest issue.
• The exterior door of the suite (to the hallway) was severely "bent". The door would be closed at the top, but open about an inch or two at the bottom. If you looked at the door when it was open, you could see that it was severely deformed. I'm sure it was simply as a result of the ship "settling" over time, but at first glance, it almost looked like someone tried to pry open the door at the bottom. Other than letting in some of the light and noise from the hallway, the mangled door wasn't a huge issue, as the security of the room wasn't compromised. That said - this wasn't an interior cabin on deck 1, it was supposed to be a "grand suite".
• The dress code in the dining room was not enforced at all. We are far from snappy dressers, but the cruise materials specifically state the definition of "cruise casual" and "formal" for the dining room. There were even signs stating that shorts were not allowed in the dining room, and yet there were plenty of people wearing t-shirts, sports jerseys, baseball hats (even while dining), and a handful of adult men with shorts/sandals, etc. We had one table for ourselves, so it wasn't too big of an issue, but it does bother me to know we were packing all of these additional clothes for us and the kids that were not necessary. If they are going to publish rules, they should make a reasonable attempt to follow them. If they don't plan on following them - they should change the rule so other passengers can plan accordingly. It would have been a lot easier if we went to dinner each night in shorts and a t-shirt.
And now the issues that might cause me to pass on any future Royal Caribbean cruises:
There were a whole bunch of additional amenities that were supposed to be available to guests of the grand suites. We received almost none of them.
• The biggest amenity we were looking forward to using was the "Concierge Lounge". I received an e-mail from the concierge a few days ahead of the cruise talking about some of the special amenities for suite passengers. When we arrived in the room, there was a letter from the concierge talking about the lounge - but there was no information in the suite about where the lounge was. We checked the maps of the ship - and it is not listed on the map. We asked a steward in the hall (not our own cabin steward) where the lounge was, and they didn't know. Monday came and went and we never found it. On Tuesday we didn't think about it again until later in the day, because there were supposed to be appetizers and drinks served in the lounge.
• My wife found the lounge on Tuesday afternoon (deck 7), but her key didn't work. I went down to the lounge and my key didn't work. I went back up to the room, and the letter we received from the concierge said that she would be available in the lounge from 5pm to 8pm every day. I went back down around 5:15pm and knocked on the door - no one answered. I continued knocking and another passenger let me in. The concierge was not in the lounge during her posted hours. I waited for a few minutes, and there were no staff members in the lounge, so I took a can of Sprite and a bottle of beer (complimentary) and headed back up to the room. The concierge happened to be coming down the hall at that time and reprimanded me in the open hallway for bringing beer out of the lounge, literally holding her hand out to take the bottle back. She had a pleasant demeanor, but it was no less embarrassing. I went back to the room.
• The information in the suite stated that kids were not allowed in the concierge lounge between the hours of 5pm and 8pm because they serve alcohol during those hours, which is understandable. After dinner that evening we went to the lounge as a family, arriving at approximately 8:10pm, thinking we would get some soft drinks for the kids. When we entered the lounge we were met by a staff member who said that kids are not allowed in the lounge. I looked at my watch, and I told him it was 8:10pm, and that the materials said kids were only prohibited from entry only between 5pm and 8pm. He said no - kids were never allowed in the lounge - it was off limits 24 hours a day. I protested a bit, because I had just read the rules before making the trip down to the lounge. We started to leave, and the concierge I met in the hall earlier in the evening came into the lounge. She also said kids were not allowed, so I mentioned the materials in the suite and she corrected herself telling me that we could all come back at 8:00pm. I told her that it was already well after 8:00pm. At that point she asked "are you all staying in the grand suite" (remember we had two rooms). I explained that my father-in-law and two of the kids were in the junior suite, and she told me that they would have to leave. I should point out that there were a total of just two other guests in the lounge at that time. It was not as if there were 50 people in there and I was parading in another group of 50. At that point I became frustrated and said we would all leave. She had embarrassed me once in the hallway earlier that day with the beer, and now she was telling me in front of my family to effectively leave two of my kids in the hall. As we started to leave I think she sensed that it was a bad decision, and at that point she invited us to stay, but the damage had already been done. I should also point out that this was all done with us standing in the entranceway to the lounge - we never even made it all the way in to sit down. To be fair, the concierge that kicked us out did call our room later that evening and apologized to my wife, but she never spoke to me, nor did she make any effort to invite us back or reach out to us on the other days we could have potentially used the lounge.
• The lounge was supposed to have a continental breakfast available every day, and the kids wanted to go to it, but after the two embarrassing episodes on Tuesday we never went down there again. I didn't want to run in to yet another staff member who would might give us trouble with kids being in the room.
• The same day as the two concierge lounge issues, I had an issue at the pursers desk. It might seem like a little thing - but it occurred 30 minutes after we were kicked out of the lounge - so it was the exclamation point on what was already a very bad day. The daily cruise schedule for Grand Cayman was posted Tuesday evening, and it stated that the ship would arrive at 7:30am, which we knew. What we did not know - and was not posted anywhere on their website or in our cruising materials - was that unless you were on a ship-sponsored shore excursion, you wouldn't be able to leave the ship until between 8:30am and 10:00am. We had previously booked a private excursion that we had to meet at 8:30am. We assumed that if the ship was arriving at 7:30am, that an hour would give us plenty of time to get to shore. On any other trips or at hotels we've stayed at, the concierge would have been the first person I would look to with an issue like this. In our situation, we effectively had no access to the concierge given the way we had just been treated, so I went to the pursers desk. I explained our situation to the staff member, and he said that there are tenders that leave before 8:30am (typically reserved for ship-sponsored excursions), and that I should just "show up" at the tender station at 7:30am. I was thankful for his suggestion, but I told him I was a little nervous about just "showing up", because it seems like we never get the same answer from two staff members. He left the counter and went in the back and said he double checked and it would be okay. I then said "so I should just show up and say I spoke with you and they will know what I am talking about", and he said "just tell them you checked at the pursers desk". I said okay, and I wrote down his name, and I said I'll tell them I spoke with you. He said no -just tell them you stopped at the desk. I said okay - but if they question me, I don't want to be running around the ship at 7:30am looking for you, I want to tell them whom I spoke with at the desk. He then said "tell them the pursers desk manager approved it". I said "great - what is his name". He told me "he's my boss in the back - but you don't need his name - just tell the tender people the manager said it was okay". I then asked him directly - so are you telling me you aren't going to give me your bosses name? The staff member said - "it just isn't necessary". At that point I got upset, and I reminded him that as a passenger I've been told the captains name, the first officers name, the cruise directors name, the chef's name (they are all published in the welcome materials), and I was shocked that as a passenger I wasn't allowed to know the name of the pursers desk manager. At that point the staff member relented and told me his name. Why was such a simple request so difficult? In the end, everything worked out fine, as we showed up at the tender station at 7:30am and nobody asked us anything. We simply got on the boat with no questions asked.
• The welcome letter from the concierge said that we had access to "business services such as copying and faxing", but there was no information anywhere in the room about how to gain access to those services.
• The welcome letter said that as suite passengers we would be invited to a "Special Cocktail Party hosted by the Captain", and that "invitations would be sent". No such invitations were provided to us - in either cabin - for the entire trip.
• There was supposed to be a "complimentary" bottle of wine provided in the suite by the concierge - and there was one there upon our arrival - but we literally stared at it the entire trip without opening it. After so many problems and misinformation, we feared that we were given the wrong information again, and that it wasn't complimentary. I know this may sound silly, but it seemed like no one understood the various amenities promised to the suite customers, and I wasn't in the mood for another altercation, so the bottle sat unopened all week.
• The issue of staff members not understanding the suite amenities was apparent within 15 minutes of our arrival on Monday. Our keys were "gold" in color, to identify us as suite customers. The very first time I presented the key for something (it was at a bar or a shop - I don't remember), the staff member said "that's interesting - why is your key gold when all of the other keys I see are grey". In any other situation, this would have been typical small-talk between a guest and a staff member, but as the week went on I remembered that conversation as being indicative of the problems we were facing. I think Royal Caribbean promises a lot - without backing it up with proper training of their crew.
• The final issue happened the morning we were checking out. Our bill was slid under our door, and there was a $22 "mini-bar" charge for the last day of the cruise. I knew we didn't use anything from the mini-bar, so I checked with our other cabin, and they didn't use anything from the mini-bar. I found our cabin steward, Mary Joy, who was shocked and said "she never entered that charge". She felt bad, and she showed me her "papers" that proved she never entered that charge. She said that it was obviously a mistake, and that I should go to the pursers desk to get it corrected. I went up to the pursers desk at 6:55am, and the person who helped me was none other than the concierge we had all of the issues with on Tuesday. She didn't recognize me, which was not surprising. She said she corrected it on the computer and she told me I was "all set". I then asked her if I could get a new print-out of the bill for my records. She went into the back room, and when she came out she said that it would " take about 15 minutes" to print it out. Why it would take 15 minutes to print a document I don't know - but what choice did I have. I said I would come back in 15 minutes, but I asked her if they could have it ready for me so I wouldn't have to stand in line again. Approximately 20 minutes later I went back to the pursers desk, and there must have been 10-20 people in line by then. I kept trying to get her attention, but to no avail. I stayed in line and finally made it up to the front again. I told the staff member waiting on me that the concierge had printed out a new copy of our bill. The staff member looked through a bunch of papers, then went over to the concierge, and finally came back to me and said it's not here - but I can print it out for you now. It took 20 seconds to print (versus the 15 minute estimate provided earlier), and I had wasted another 15-20 minutes waiting in line.
• One remaining item to mention - although it did not affect me. The reason there were 10-20 people in front of me during my last visit to the pursers desk is because the day before, in Cozumel, all of those people had purchased liquor on shore. The ship is supposed to hold on to the liquor and deliver it back to the staterooms on the last evening of the cruise. We were docked in Cozumel next to the Oasis of the Seas. The liquor for all of those passengers was loaded on to the Oasis of the Seas at the port - it was never brought back onboard the Grandeur. Those folks were pretty ticked off.
In closing, the bulk of these issues were related to our status, or lack thereof, as suite customers. As I mentioned previously, we still had a decent time, primarily because this was a last minute decision for us and the only reason we booked the suites was because that was all that was available to us when we booked the cruise. That said, had we planned it months in advance, and had we purposely been looking to utilize the suite amenities, we would have been severely disappointed. If we had booked a "regular" room, and therefore had no expectations of additional service, we probably would have been just fine.
Despite the lack of service, the overall ship was nice, the food was good, the shows were good, and we had a nice time. It just bothers me that we paid for an additional level of amenities as suite customers that simply were not provided. Because this is an older ship, perhaps Royal has placed their more customer-service oriented crew on the newer flagship boats. Read Less