Eastern Caribbean Itinerary-- July 17, 1999 First, about us - we are in our late 40's with a 17-year-old son. This was our fifth cruise, third with Royal Caribbean. We booked the 1 night pre-cruise package and air through Royal ... Read More
Eastern Caribbean Itinerary-- July 17, 1999 First, about us - we are in our late 40's with a 17-year-old son. This was our fifth cruise, third with Royal Caribbean. We booked the 1 night pre-cruise package and air through Royal Caribbean. Our flight to Miami was early AM, so we had the entire afternoon and evening in Miami the day before the cruise. We placed the ship tags on our luggage and checked it at the airport before departure. RCCL handled it from there. We didn't see it again until it was delivered to our cabin. A representative from Royal Caribbean met us at the gate when we got off the plane and put us on a bus to the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami, a very nice hotel. Upon check-in, I requested a nonsmoking room, high up, with a view of the water so we could see the ships come in the next morning. They were very accommodating and gave us a very nice room on the 16th floor, with a small balcony, facing the water. Friday night, we went to Bayside Marketplace and had dinner (and a few creamsicles) at Lombardi's, an excellent Italian restaurant. If you're looking for a place to eat in Miami, I recommend this restaurant. On Saturday morning we were able to check-in for the ship right in the lobby of the hotel, and received our boarding passes right there. No lines, no waiting, no fuss. At approximately 12:30 a bus took us to the pier and we boarded immediately. We had a category H stateroom on "A" deck. The cabin was on the small side, but that's what we expected. We also booked the "Crowning Touches" package, so there was a bottle of Dom Perignon on ice waiting for us in the cabin. A quick word about the Crowning Touches package - at a cost of $400 per couple, it is an excellent value. For each couple it includes 2 RCCL robes (to keep), a bottle of Dom Perignon, a facial or full massage in the spa for each of you, an 8x10 formal portrait in a silver frame, pre-dinner canapEs and post-dinner petit fours delivered to your cabin each night, a champagne (Moet White Star) breakfast in bed, and an invitation to the bridge. After the standard life boat drill, departure was delayed for about an hour due to some delayed airline flights. We set sail shortly after 6:00 PM. The ship Our first afternoon on board was spent exploring the ship, and what a ship it is!! The first thing we noticed upon boarding was the Centrum which is just beautiful. It starts at deck 4 and goes to deck 9. All the on board shops, as well as the purser's desk and shore excursion desk are located off the Centrum. The dining room has 2 levels on decks 4 and 5, and there are 2 pools on deck 9, one of which is in the enclosed solarium. There are also 4 hot tubs by the main pool and 2 more by the solarium pool. You could always get into one. The shipshape center and spa is adjacent to the solarium. The layout of the ship is great, and it is easy to get around. The main show each night is in the 2 level Palladium Theater. The Windjammer is spacious, and never seemed crowded despite the number of people eating there. The casino is a decent size, although I would have preferred another blackjack table instead of all the slot machines. There are also plenty of lounges for other activities or to find a place to relax with some music, and there are plenty of bar waiters around if you want a drink. Deck space is plentiful and deck chairs by the pools and on the sun deck were always available, despite the few inconsiderate folks who "reserved" them. We also enjoyed lounging in the chairs on the sides of the promenade deck. It was nice and quiet there, and not the least bit crowded. For the stargazers, there is an observatory platform complete with star charts rising above deck 10. And of course there is the RCCL signature Viking Crown lounge at the top of the ship. The Viking Crown is the site of the disco each night. Food Throughout the week, we had breakfast (and an occasional lunch) in the Windjammer and never had difficulty finding a table. The food was excellent, varied, and plentiful. We ate dinner in the dining room each night. The food was varied and just superb, and the service was better than excellent, maybe the best we've ever had. Our waitress and assistant waitress were just incredible, almost as though they could read our minds. And they gave new meaning to the word quick. When salads were served, the assistant was no more than 10 seconds behind with the dressings. If a main course or dessert called for a sauce, she was right there again. I never had to request a second helping of anything; they were right there to offer it, as though they knew I wanted more. They even brought me a third lobster tail without me asking. There are late afternoon snacks and ice cream served in the Windjammer, and hot dogs, fries and pizza is available most of the day and into the wee hours in the solarium. There are no more daily midnight buffets. One night there is a buffet by the pool and on the second formal night they have the Captain's Gala Buffet in the dining room. On the other nights, the waiters walk around the ship with trays of hors d'ouvres and canapEs. Personally, I don't miss the midnight buffets and actually like this arrangement better. Service As stated above our waitress, Rita from Hungary, and assistant waitress, Annie from Romania were fabulous. The head waiter, Markus from Austria, came over to our table at least two or three times each night to make sure everything was to our liking, and to discuss how we spent our day and what we were planning for the next day. The wine steward was very nice, and arranged for the champagne that came with our Crowning Touches package champagne breakfast in bed, to be served at dinner instead. We shared it with our dining companions, a lovely couple from Ireland and their 18-year-old daughter. Our cabin steward, David from Barbados, was excellent - very friendly, accommodating and efficient. We would see him in the hallway every morning and every evening, and he always asked if we had everything we needed, and inquired about how we were enjoying the cruise. The bar waiters are never very far away if you want a drink. They make their presence known, but are not pushy. Activities and Entertainment There is so much to choose from, you can't do it all. We decided to skip the shipshape activities this time around since we already have plenty of shipshape paraphernalia. We also skipped the daily bingo because we never win, and skipped the art auctions because we have no room to hang anything else. There was the usual assortment of pool games and one of my favorite activities - horseracing. This year I was finally a successful bidder in buying a horse. The bidding was very light, almost nonexistent, so my son also bought a horse, and a friend bought another. We had a lot of fun dressing up, showing off, and naming our horses (Nag of the Seas, Teen Rebel, and Lady Grandeur), but alas, we all lost in the owners' derby. The belly flop competition was held just prior to the horseracing; so I opted to skip that, but I coulda been a contender. The nightly entertainment was pretty good, but with so many other things to do and so many other lounges with music on board, the Palladium Theater was never crowded. Bowser (of Sha Na Na) had a very good show and brought back some good memories. The band by the pool was High Seas. They were pretty good, but by the end of the week some of their repertoire got a little old. The kids and teens each have their own lounges on deck 10. The youth programs on RCCL are really great. They kept the kids so occupied, that it was hard to believe there were a few hundred kids and teens on board. The casino is open when the ship is not in port. There are plenty of slot machines and a couple of tables for each of the traditional casino games. Itinerary Labadee, Haiti - a very nice private peninsula. Nice beaches with warm, calm water for swimming, but not much in the way of snorkeling. There is a local crafts market where the Haitians sell their wares. There is some very nice stuff, and some real junk. The people are very pushy and can be annoying. It reminded me of walking through a straw market in Jamaica. Every price is very negotiable, and they expect to negotiate. If you show some interest but start to walk away, they will come down dramatically. We purchased some hand carved items at a fraction of the original asking price. One suggestion, don't take out your wallet. Put some cash in a pocket or in one of those water wallets and you can always claim you have very little or no cash. If they see a wallet with cash they won't leave you alone. San Juan - We hired a taxi and took a tour of old and new San Juan for a few hours. Most of the sightseeing tours offered by the ship can be done considerably cheaper if you do it on your own. My son went off on his own with a shore excursion to go horseback riding. It was his first time on a horse, and he really enjoyed it. After our tour, we did a little shopping in old San Juan and then stopped off at the Crown & Anchor Club for a cold drink and a little relaxation before heading back to the ship. The club is a really nice setup and I must commend RCCL for the idea. St. Thomas - So much to do and see, and so little time. We took a taxi to Coki beach for some sun and snorkeling. It is a nice small beach, with very good snorkeling. There is also restrooms, snacks and bar service. Afterwards, we stopped downtown for some shopping. A trip to St. Thomas wouldn't be complete without some shopping. Without going into detail, just let me say that prices on jewelry, perfume and cosmetics are fabulous. Cococay - RCCL's private island in the Bahamas (a.k.a. Little Stirrup Cay). Cococay is much nicer than I expected. While my son went parasailing, we explored the island and stumbled upon Blackbeard's grave. After a barbecue lunch, we walked along the shore and found a nice shady spot on the second (or third) beach. Snorkeling here was really good, but not really necessary. Just wading out into the water, waist deep, we could see a lot of fish. While I was ashore, a rather large stingray swam right by my wife, inches away. She called out to us, and we could see it from the shore. We spent the rest of the day relaxing on the beach sipping coco locos. Debarkation The chaos I expected never happened. We retrieved our luggage with no problems, and since we had booked our air through RCCL, we were able to check our luggage with Continental Airlines right there at the pier. We then boarded a bus with only our carry on bags for a quick ride to the airport. Conclusion We had a fantastic time, and heartily recommend the Grandeur and the eastern Caribbean itinerary. Read Less
Grandeur of the Seas Review By Miriam Romain - aka Host Mir7 I'll start this off by saying that we approached this cruise much differently from the past four we've taken. In the past, we've booked a cruise in July for ... Read More
Grandeur of the Seas Review By Miriam Romain - aka Host Mir7 I'll start this off by saying that we approached this cruise much differently from the past four we've taken. In the past, we've booked a cruise in July for October or November. We've also have been gone for at least two weeks. Well, because my husband got a new job in January, we were unable to take our usual two-week cruise and July came and went. In August we were talking about how we weren't going on a cruise, when my husband found out he could take one week. I looked at some of the last minute fares on the Internet and couldn't decide if we wanted to throw caution to the wind and book a cruise because of the ship or itinerary. We decided on itinerary and best deal. We found a great deal on a ship we wanted to see and I called a TA I know from the boards and told him what we had found. Well, not only did he come back with a better price on what we had found, but he came back with a couple of options for us, one being a cabin with a balcony that was very affordable! I had been dreading not having a balcony, but that problem was solved quickly. It was made even better when we were upgraded to a mini suite at the back of the ship, my favorite place! The cruise we chose, on the Grandeur, was our first on Royal Caribbean (can you believe it?). We knew this ship was going to be much larger than ships we've sailed on, especially the past two years, but I was looking forward to a change of pace. We also knew, from past experience, what could happen when sailing during hurricane season and we were willing to take our chances. We've missed ports before, we were both seasick once, and I've watched my bowl of consommE slide down the table. It didn't matter. The point was for my husband and I to have some time together since we're both so busy at home! We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and because we had purchased RCI transfers, we found the RCI person and told her that we had to tag our luggage. We wanted to make sure it had at least made it to Florida! We found it, tagged it and put it back on the carousel, as directed, and then we were directed to a bus for a ride to Miami. Because it was Saturday, there was no traffic and the trip lasted only about 35 minutes. Check-in Before we could check in, all of our paperwork had to be filled out. Because this was a last-minute trip, we had been so busy we forgot to fill out anything! So, we hurried and filled out the necessary forms and walked in expecting to wait for a while in line. Much to our surprise, there was no line! There was an available person to check us in. It went quickly and we stepped onto the ship! I was a little disappointed that when we showed our cabin number we were told we were on Deck 4 and had to take the elevator up to Deck 7 and walk to the back of the ship. I had expected to be escorted. Okay, so RCI does things different from my experiences on Renaissance and Celebrity. It was a looooooong walk to the back of the ship, but we were in our cabin by 1:30 and we weren't to sail until five. Our Cabin I had read on our boards that the RCI cabins were small in comparison with other ships, so I wasn't expecting to have too much room, even in a mini-suite. How wrong I was! The room was plenty big for the two of us. We had the bed, and a sofa and chair. There was more than enough storage room for all of our stuff except our suitcases, which we stood up in a far corner of the room. I did not understand the wisdom of putting a set of drawers in the closet. I thought that space (to the far right as you look at the closet) would have made a perfect spot for the suitcases. The bathroom was plenty big, and we had a tub, which was a nice touch for us. We didn't get any toiletries until the second or third day, but that didn't matter to us. But the best feature, by far, was the balcony, at least for me. It was much larger than I expected, and very deep. We had four lounge chairs, one regular chair and a small round table on that balcony! Plus, the balcony above us covered part of it, so the two times we cruised through light showers I was able to keep dry and continue reading my book. Our cabin steward, Tracey, was wonderful! He was always smiling and joking with us. He kept calling me Miss Miriam and asking if there was anything we needed. The first day at sea, when we walked back to our cabin, we thought that we were in the wrong place because a sign had been put on our door - No Smoking Oxygen in Use! Tracey saw my husband's CPAP that he wears for his sleep apnea and thought it was oxygen. It was great. Anyone who wanted to visit us would know not to smoke. Unfortunately, we had to borrow an extension cord because we forgot one. We found there were very few outlets in the room, but we figured it all out. My one complaint about our cabin was that we were directly above the Pacific Lounge and you could hear the music at night. Luckily, the band (which was not good at all) stopped performing at 1 a.m., so it wasn't so bad. I cannot imagine having to listen to that music all night! Checking out the ship As we were walking around this beautiful ship, we found the line for people who wanted to change their dinner seatings. My husband wanted to make sure we were at a table for two. Unfortunately, we were assigned to a table for four and the maitre d' made no promises that he could help us, just that he would try, but all the tables for two were taken. My husband was not a happy camper as we checked out where things were on the ship. The Centrum with the glass elevators was beautiful! There was one thing that struck me about the ship that I didn't understand. Remember I said it was a looooooooong walk to the back of the ship? Why is there not another set of elevators half way between those at the Centrum and the back of the ship? I certainly got a lot more exercise than I had bargained for! We checked out the different bars and the restaurant and went back to our cabin to hopefully unpack. Much to our great surprise, there was a message on our door when we returned that we had been moved to a table for two at the second seating, which is exactly what we wanted! We're supposed to leave, where's my suitcase? At 4:30 I was getting antsy about our luggage when my husband's suitcase was delivered. Well, one of us could unpack. Yes, he had his own suitcase and I had mine. The thing is, I knew this cruise was not going to start the way I had imagined it because I wouldn't be able to have a glass of wine and sip that while we were leaving port. This is my very favorite thing to do on a cruise and why I love the back of the ship. I can sit there, sip wine and think back on the day we'd just had. It is pure bliss for me! Well, we left port and my suitcase still had not arrived, which meant that the bottle of wine I'd packed wasn't there either. I was rather ticked off. I thought that since we got to the ship so early, our luggage would be one of the first to be delivered. Wrong. But, it did finally arrive around 6:30! What had happened? My luggage tag showing our cabin number had come off and they had to find me by name on the manifest. I can understand that. So I calmed down and opened that bottle of wine! The Restaurant and Food Going back to first and second seatings was a little strange for me because I'd gotten so used open seating on Renaissance (which I really, really liked). But, we had a great table for two on the second floor, or rather balcony, of The Great Gatsby dining room. We were right at the steps, so we could see the entire main floor. We also had great seats for people watching as everyone arrived for dinner! Service in the dining room was incredible. Our waiter, Naveen, and assistant waiter Rolly, were excellent. They knew after the first night that we always wanted a fresh bottle of Pelligrino water (yes, we pay for it at restaurants at home, too), and the wine steward was very attentive. In fact, I noticed the last night that after I had finished my bottle of wine, he was still serving me someone else's! The label was different! Our headwaiter, Tony, stopped by to talk to us every night, sometimes more than once. Ours was the FUN table! The food, overall (and this is MY opinion) was fair at best. The best meal was the second formal night when we had lobster and filets. In keeping with the jovial mood we had set with Naveen I ordered surf and turf! The lobster was so good, we each had two! Talk about being stuffed after dinner! Other than that, I didn't find anything to write home about. I was disappointed that there was only one salad offered each evening. I wish there had been at least two to choose from. I did not care for the one listed most nights and I'm not a picky eater. I'm also not a dessert eater, but my husband is and he said the desserts, overall, were fair. We never went to the Windjammer for breakfast, electing instead to have breakfast each morning in the room. It helped keep the days more relaxing for us. It also kept my husband from eating things on the buffet he knows he shouldn't have. We always ordered tea for two so I could have the hot water to make my own coffee in the French Press I always carry with me on cruises. My luggage always smells like coffee because we grind the coffee the night before we leave. I used to wonder where to put the coffee grinds after finishing the coffee, but I now carry extra Zip Lock bags. They work great. Lunches in the Windjammer were pretty good. We never really waited in a line, and were always able to find a table. Guess we were lucky. We also went every day to tea at 4 since we were at the late seating. There was some interesting food there, too. I passed by the desserts, but found other things. And the servers always came by to ask if my husband wanted ice cream, which he usually did! One night we were invited to dine with another couple at their table because they had two extra seats. We had to clear it with Naveen and Tony and then with their headwaiter, but it all worked out fine. It was strange, though. Our service upstairs was much better than downstairs, where we were guests. The waiter was not as friendly as ours was. Oh, and because my husband is rather large and has a bad back he requested a different chair. That was not a problem, but the night we dined downstairs, Naveen brought the chair down to him! Days at Sea There is no end to activities on days you are at sea. We liked to sleep late - well, we were on vacation -- have breakfast in the room and then see what was going on. My husband talked me into partaking in the wine tasting that was offered one day. It cost $9.50. I thought that was a bit steep, but I still had fun. I have no idea what he did since he doesn't drink and it didn't interest him. I even won a bottle of wine! In fact, I was sitting with a young woman who was on her honeymoon and she also won a bottle of wine, but it was a red, and she did not drink red wine. I won a bottle of white wine (a very good wine) and, being the sport I am, I traded with her. Afterall, it was her honeymoon! I like good red wines as well as white, and this one was pretty good! We also liked the art auctions. After having bought some artwork on two Celebrity cruises and having the right knowledge about what we collect, we were able to get some real bargains! For instance, I collect animation cels - but actual cels, not serigraphs. There has been one cel I've been searching for, and I found it on this cruise of all places! A Tasmanian Devil. It's rare, which is why I've been looking for three years and not seen it, and I got a GREAT deal! A word of warning about the art auctions, though. They are run by Park West Galleries and as I understand it, RCI was the first to have the auctions on board and responsible for it spreading to other ships. That's not the warning. The warning is that you need to look at your receipts when you get them. Park West will send up to five pieces for $30 or $35. If you buy artwork at two different auctions, as we did, you need to tell the auctioneer to adjust the shipping if you have five or fewer pieces. Also, they add a fee for an appraisal. It's not needed. In our case, we got the Certificates of Authenticity (they arrived today - 10/17/00) and the cels are stamped in a way that shows they are authentic. In our case, when we had the appraisal fees deducted, we saved ourselves at least $100. Every little bit helps. And why does everyone want to give me wine? The art auctioneer gave us a bottle of champagne because he liked us. Maybe it's because we knew what we were doing, I don't know. It was a pretty nice champagne! My husband found his favorite reading spot was in the Library while mine was on our balcony! We did not venture up to the pool except at lunch, and it was very crowded. We're not sun worshippers, but I love my balcony! Nightlife on the ship My husband and I tried to make all the shows after dinner in the Palladium Theater, but I think we missed one. The shows were very good. We had not seen this quality of entertainment on any of our previous cruises (well, except one). We went to see Karoke and my husband was going to sign up until he saw the people who were performing. Roger's got a GREAT voice, but didn't think he was in the class of the people who were actually singing. They were wonderful! We thought the first night they were shills, but found out differently. I've already mentioned my opinion of the band in the Pacific Lounge, and will leave it at that. We really enjoyed the Newlywed Not So Newlywed game. Last year we were rooked into it on another cruise and I know how difficult and intimidating it is up in front of everyone. But, the funniest thing of the cruise occurred during this game. The women had answered the way they thought the husbands would and then the husbands came out. The question was - What is your favorite condiment? The answer one guy gave was Trojans! I'm still laughing! I was a little disappointed in the casino. Neither of us smokes, so we were careful to go to the no smoking area. There are signs everywhere, including on the slot machines, but it didn't make any difference to some people. There was only one roulette table that had smokers around it, too. I can tolerate some smoke, but not when it's being blown in my face and certainly when I'm sitting in the no smoking section. Oh well. RCI didn't get too much of our money this trip. And, someone actually won a big jackpot one night on the slots. Each night in the Centrum, there's a singer who performs nightclub songs. She was wonderful. We'd sit and watch her before going in to dinner and usually go back for a short time before returning to the cabin. Ports of Call Our ports of call were Labadee, San Juan, St. Thomas and CocoCay. We took our time getting on the tender to Labadee and spent about 1.5 hours there. It was very hot, but we found a hammock in the shade and stayed there for a while. I went to the small market there and bought the obligatory T-shirt and we went back to the ship. It had rained that morning, but there were people who had done the waverunners and said they had fun. We'd been to San Juan and St. Thomas before, but found Butterfly People in San Juan to be amazing. We were glad that RCI had lounges on both islands to cool off and get a cold drink! We did a little shopping in St. Thomas and called it a day. We went snorkeling in CocoCay. The morning outing was very nice. We saw some cool fish and only one jellyfish. After lunch on the island, we went back one more time to snorkel, but the tide was coming in and the seas were getting rough and the jellyfish were becoming too numerous for me! This and That We loved the ship. It really is beautiful and I hope to sail the Grandeur again very soon. We met some wonderful people from around the world, and that is always fun. It was also nice not being the youngest ones on the ship! Yes, there were some kids, but I did not see many of them except one night when they were dressed as Pirates and came through the dining room. I heard that there was some trouble near the hot tubs, but not until after the cruise. As I said before, this ship was larger than we'd ever been on but the only two times it felt crowded was the last night of the cruise when the show times were different and when we were trying to find our luggage when we left the ship! Would I sail on an RCI ship again? YOU BET. But first, I have a trip on the Dawn Princess planned for December. I booked that one the night before we left for the Grandeur. Read Less
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The first thing I want to say is thanks to everyone [on the Cruise Boards] who helped make my first cruise so enjoyable. I will try to be very objective with my review and tell the good along with the bad. We left Pittsburgh Saturday ... Read More
The first thing I want to say is thanks to everyone [on the Cruise Boards] who helped make my first cruise so enjoyable. I will try to be very objective with my review and tell the good along with the bad. We left Pittsburgh Saturday Oct.21, 2000 , at 7:15am, arrived in Atlanta at 9:05 am, and flew out of Atlanta at 9:50 am (Delta airlines, was one of the best flights and service I every received........arrived in Miami, was met by a Royal Caribbean representative and let to our transfer bus....on the bus as we reached the pier a representative told us what tickets to take out of the book and what to get ready...did all the checking in they issued you your card, took your picture, one of very many and on the boat you were...very, very efficient.....very easy. Once on the ship you are just so amazed at the largeness and beauty of it all. Our cabin was 7557 inside stateroom. Very nice, roomy lets say ample space....We left off our carry ons and went up to the Windjammer for a buffet welcome lunch. We ate and walked around a bit and went back to our room. We meet our cabin steward his name was Vincent...advised us of a few things and off he went.........Well, we traveled around the ship trying to get acquainted with it and I also changed my dinner seating to the Main seating from the 2nd seating, they were sure glad to see me as they said they had a long waiting list for second sitting. Our luggage arrived around 5 m just in time to get ready for dinner. The first night they said was very casual, I wore a sun dress my husband wore dress shorts and a shirt and that was more than fine. We meet our table companions, two other couples, they were originally from Russia and had moved to New York around 8 to 10 years ago. They spoke some English and we all conversed in our own way.... they were wonderful people, we enjoyed their company tremendously throughout the cruise. Dinners......Our waiter was Erkan from Turkey, he was wonderful, wonderful (if only I was younger lol)....he made the vacation, could not be more helpful, joked around was very polite.....just cannot say enough good about him. The dinners were good, I would say fabulous but good, if you didn't like something he would get you something else, they would be absolutely no reason why you would leave the table dissatisfied. Breakfast and Lunch...... We ate breakfast the first couple days at the Windjammer and then decided to try the Great Gatsby, I never went back to the Windjammer again. Lunch we only ate lunch a few times and that was once at the Windjammer and the other times at the Great Gatsby. They would be absolutely no reason to go hungry, room service was 24 hours a day....and every evening when we got back to our room we ordered a fresh fruit plate and a cheese plate. ( I keep dialing #56 but no one answers since I have been home lol ). We are not big alcohol drinkers so could not really say anything . Pools..............The solarium was very beautiful, but it was entirely to hot and stuffy for me in there (you see I am going thru that hot flash thing )......but it was very pretty. The outdoor pool was very, very small and so crowded....all the chairs were pretty well taken, especially the ones in the sun close to the pool, which was fine for us, because I enjoyed the shade by the open windows to feel the ocean breeze....but, we never had trouble getting a chair, and you could have as many towels as you please. The water began at 5ft and I do not swim, and I am short so I mostly sat at the edge of the pool and kept splashing myself to stay cool...it was fine with me.... Enjoyed the belly flop contest, I was going to enter but besides it being all men, I can't swim and it was int he 5ft water ....so that ended that, but had a good time cheering everyone on. The shows.........we went to every one of the shows and just enjoyed them tremendously, they were all wonderful in their own was, really, really, enjoyed them. I am doing this review in parts as I have so much to say, usually I am a quiet person (boy what a lie lol )....I want to say one nice surprise when we arrived we had champagne waiting in our room from our travel agent which was a very nice surprise. I also want to say one of the only disappointments and believe me when I say it really didn't matter........was our cabin steward, Vincent, we seen him the first day, and once more after that...and that was it....he really didn't go out of his way for anything......the room was clean, but just clean...........but hey, it really didn't make a big difference to us. We basically don't like to be all fussed over anyway. (who are we kidding???? lol ).......I want to say the majority of all the staff were very friendly and helpful...they really tried to make a nice time for you...it is hard to believe the hours these people work and how they remain with smiles on their face constantly is unbelievable, the way some people treat them, I know I wouldn't last, a lot of them would have big lumps on their heads from where I would drop the plates, etc., on them. So lets see, I guess before I go on I definitely want to say,,,,do not get a room without a window at least, we got an inside stateroom....but would never again get one, you feel just too closed in, it is so nice to get up in the morning and look out and see something, instead it is pitch black. Shore excursions.....Well first was Labadee, Haiti, the water was like bath water and clear and aqua and beautiful, they had a barbecue there and more than enough to eat...we went to the market and let me tell you I felt like a rag doll being pulled this way and that way for the vendors wanting you to look at their stuff......it was not a pleasant experience, but if you remain tough, they eventually get the message...I did not try to bargain them down to practically nothing, I gave them what I felt the item was worth........some of the people were just so happy they practically paid pennies for things...that definitely was worth a lot more, well that is up to everyone...I couldn't do that......but it was another experience. Next was St. Kitt's that island got hit hard with some hurricanes in the last couple of years, needs to get built up again, us and another couple took a taxi and this taxi cab driver was wonderful, he took us all over the island for about 3 hours, we rent to the rain forest, ( very small ), to the fort, climbed many steps (it was like 99 degrees and 99 humidity..( I was very red faced out of breath and sweaty......ugh!!) but the view was worth it...very nice..lots of nice pictures...I got a picture of a native on a donkey with a long chain with a dog on it...he charged me a $1.00...what a laugh...it just was very different, I was very glad we went on an excursion, I am not saying not to go on the ships excursions, but especially if you can find another couple hiring a taxi is so much better, you go where you want and stop where you want. We then went to St Martins, all we did there was get off the ship and walked to the everything cool beach and hung there all day, beautiful, and very, very relaxing...the next day was the St. Thomas...I was not really impressed with it...too commericalized, but still beautiful, I found out later we could have taken a taxi to Megans bay and relaxed at that beach all day......so that would have probably been a good idea....but instead we went back on the ship early and basically had it to ourselves, very nice and quiet. Well, Friday night was picture taking and good-byes at dinner, very emotional time...met such wonderful people...the dining room time at dinners got to be such a special time, the waiters etc., sang songs, we all got up and danced they performed almost nightly, with everything else they had to do...just so special.....next was packing etc., so Friday night packed put everything outside our cabin...Saturday morning up at 5am...showered etc., then went to the Delta airline representative at 6:30 am. got our boarding passes and then went to the dining room for breakfast....back to our rooms and went to the Pallidium theatre where we had to meet as we were going on the old and new San Juan tour...waited there till 9:30...went off the ship, picked out our luggage, porters took it through customs for you, and to the truck where your airline rep was she put the labels on the luggage and on the tour bus you went...very efficient....after the tour we arrived at the San Juan airport at 12:30 and our flight was not till 5pm..what a terrible time waiting there just so crowded, nothing good to eat, what they had was very expensive and just too long to wait for a flight, go on the plane on time arrived in Atlanta had to wait there two hours and then on to Pittsburgh (home )...arrived home at 1 am...very tired and a very long day...I would definitely do that different, but our flights were arranged with Royal Caribbean. Next time we would do our own.....and it would be a lot less expensive also.....but basically it could have been a lot worse with the flights. I guess in closing I would say I would definitely cruise again, and yes I would cruise through Royal Caribbean again also, I felt them to be a very good cruise line. If you want to be super busy you can if you don't, you don't have too.....a very diversified schedule, it is all up to you. I think this was one of the most refreshing vacations I have ever had. I just wish I could go again next week...lol....... But it was a wonderful experience and it is one I will remember for a long, long time. If you have the opportunity....go for it.... Whirlwind 11/05/00 Read Less
September 16-23 2000 This was my 3rd cruise (the other two being 11 and 15 years ago!) and my companion's first. We are both in our thirties. We had picked this cruise mostly because the price seemed great for the ship and the ... Read More
September 16-23 2000 This was my 3rd cruise (the other two being 11 and 15 years ago!) and my companion's first. We are both in our thirties. We had picked this cruise mostly because the price seemed great for the ship and the itinerary was just what we looking for. Embarkation We got to the port around 1:45 pm. Still had to pass a metal detector and fill out some custom paper work but we could actually see the ship: and what a ship it is! Even if we counted the days before departure, it's always a bit of a shock to see how big these ships really are. A lot of RCCL people were working and things went pretty quickly. After being impressed by the elegance and size of the Centrum and a quick glimpse of the Great Gatsby dinning room, we easily found our cabin. Having booked a run of the ship plan, we got a bridge A category N interior room. It wasn't big but would do fine! The designers did miracles for storage space! It was close to the front lifts, great to go to the pool or to the Windjammer. Up to deck 9 for lunch at the Windjammer. The food is good and there is plenty of it. We then take a few minutes before the drill to fill out our shore excursion order form. They say that some tours get full pretty quickly so we decide to take no chance and to give it in now (even if you do have until 4pm on the next day). It's already time to leave Miami. We pass by the Norway and do some hand waving to its passengers. Since we have a second seating supper, we have plenty of time to walk around the ship and get acquainted. We didn't get our suitcases until right before dinner but we had packed with that possibly in mind. Our first dinner goes well and the food and service are exactly what we expected: nothing less than excellent! We are at a table for 10 and get to meet people for the UK, Haiti and the US (we're from Canada). Days at sea These days were great to just lie around and relax. We tried out both the Solarium area and the "regular" pool deck. You need to be really quick (or very lucky) if you want to get chairs in the Solarium area. This area was the best to relax because this is no noise or loud activities going on. The food was also good but always the same menu: pizza, hot dogs and fries. Days at seas are formal dinner nights. If you have a second seating dinner, you have two choices to avoid line-ups at the photo shoot: either you get there before the first seating is finished or you wait after your seating is over. On the second formal evening, don't miss the midnight buffet. It is worth the wait to see all the ice carvings and sculptures made of butter, chocolate and bread. Labadee, Haiti We chose the snorkeling tour to Amiga Island. The weather isn't too good but we still get a good view of the coast of Haiti. Snorkeling was very deceiving (and we got the same comment from fellow passengers). There were very few fishes or coral to see. For those who like shopping, you can buy souvenirs from the boat that takes you to Amiga Island and on Amiga Island itself. Even if that's the last place you'd expect to see a Market! Going back to Labadee we go by the ship and get to admire how impressive it is from sea level. At Labadee, after walking through a small arts and crafts market, we stop to enjoy lunch at BBQ "restaurant." There are plenty of picnic tables, all under a wooden canopy. This is a perfect place to take a break from the sun. There are many lounge chairs and hammocks on each of the beaches. The water is very clear and you can just sit and relax while enjoying a view of the ship (don't forget your camera)! San Juan, Puerto Rico The sights on the way to San Juan are fabulous. The view of El Morro's Fort from the ship is impressive. Getting off the ship is another story. The line is very long and goes all the way around the Centrum. We chose to wait until the line gets shorter but with close to 2000 passengers, this can take more than a few minutes. Turns out that this would be the only "bad" experience we got the whole week. I can live with that! We had decided to visit Old San Juan on our own by foot. We headed directly to Tourist Information Centre for a complete (and free) map of Old San Juan. We had plenty of time to walk all the way to El Morro's Fort, San Cristobal Fort and do some shopping. If you intend to visit the Forts, you might want to consider taking a taxi there since it is a long walk, especially in the heat. There's one shop you don't want to miss. It's called Butterfly People. Very expensive merchandise but worth the stop. We leave San Juan at 8:00 PM. This will be the only time we leave a port after sunset. The lights of the city always give out a nice view. St. Thomas, USVI We went on Buck Island Sail and Snorkel tour today. 6 of us board a 40 feet sail boat for and hour-long trip to Buck Island. The view of St. Thomas and the comments from the guide are great but the rocking and rolling of the sailboat are enough to make me very sea sick. Once we get to jump in the water, I feel better. There are plenty of fishes, some nice coral and even turtle! After going back to the ship for lunch, we go back to shore for a short walk to the Tramway up to Paradise Point for the best view of St. Thomas, the surrounding isles and best of all, the ships in port (the Disney Magic was also in port that day). You get all this for $12 per adult. You'll also find nice shops with competitive prices. Be sure to get a glimpse of the bird show. Coco Cay We followed the good advice from a Cruise Critic member and got up early to get tickets for the first tender to leave (you have to get in line at least half an hour before they start giving out tickets). We had ordered breakfast from room service to save a bit of time. As usual, the service was right on time and the food was excellent and in generous quantities. Being literally the first at the snorkeling area, we got to be alone at the sunken plane where there are the most fishes. It's a bit scary at first because they are in your face but you get used to it! We went to the other sites but there were too many jelly fishes for our enjoyment. We had already been out there for an hour and a half! By noon, the snorkeling area was crowded. Time the head for the grill where there's nobody in line yet! Talk about great timing today. After lunch, we went to the other side of the island to a quieter beach. The water is shallow for a long time and the water is crystal clear. We even get to see fish without our gear. Entertainment We went to 3 of the shows and they were all great. You get a very good view from all the seats. We also went to karaoke and to the piano bar in Schooner bar. Great talent to be found there! One of our favorite spots was the Centrum where you always had a singer doing popular Cocktail dance music. Overall We had a great week, just not enough time or energy to do all the activities! We were really impressed by the way Royal Caribbean takes care of every detail. We experienced great food, service and entertainment. In our sense, this is the only way to get away from it all. We can't wait to go back! catpat@sprint.ca 11/10/00 Read Less
I just returned from the Grandeur on Saturday. This was our first cruise. We traveled with a group of approximately 70 people. We arrived in San Juan late due to our airplane being overbooked out of JFK. Still made it to the ship on time. ... Read More
I just returned from the Grandeur on Saturday. This was our first cruise. We traveled with a group of approximately 70 people. We arrived in San Juan late due to our airplane being overbooked out of JFK. Still made it to the ship on time. My first impression of the boat was how large it was once you got up beside it. We got on after waiting in a two lines, one to show our birth certificates/photo ID and then another line to receive our supercharge cards. Took about 30-45 minutes. We boarded and went to our stateroom. We had a room on deck 3 with a nice size window. I thought rooms were ample in size but showers were very small! We had time to grab dinner in the dining room and participate in the muster drill before we sailed at 10p.m. The first day was a day at sea. I was surprised by how much you could feel the boat rocking. The waves were about 8-10 feet according to the captain. It was this way for pretty much the whole trip. I still feel like I am moving as I sit here typing this. This first day at sea was great since we could explore the ship and relax on the pool deck. There were plenty of chairs for everyone -- especially if you went to deck 10 right above the pool. Great music was played by the band and their were several events like horse racing and various pool contests to keep us entertained all day. The second day was in Aruba. We went snorkeling and scuba diving with arrangements a friend who had previously been to Aruba made. Later that afternoon we walked into town to check our the local shops. At night we went to Carlos and Charlie's as everyone on the board recommended. It was a LOT of fun! They play great music and get everyone drunk. You have to be in the party mood if you plan on going there. We had to leave around 12:30 to get back to the ship before it sailed at 1a.m. We didn't want to leave! The third day we were in Curacao. We planned on going to the beach at the Seaquarium but discovered if you walk to the Princess Beach Hotel next to the Seaquarium you can use their beach for free and also use their chairs for free. The Seaquarium beach wanted money for everything. In the afternoon we went into town to look at the shops. The fourth day was at sea. Spent the day lounging by the pool again. Very relaxing -- got lots of sun. We went through a 5 minute rain storm but then the sky cleared to beautiful blue again. More pool games like the belly flop contest and more good music by the ship's band. The fifth day we were in St. Martin. We liked this island the best but hated tendering to shore. The tender boats only held about 75 people and there were 2200 on board the ship. We got up early as recommended to avoid the lines -- got our tender ticket before 9 a.m. but didn't get on a tender boat until 10:30. The tendering process was chaotic and disorganized. Once getting on shore we hopped in a taxi and headed for the French side to Orient Beach. This beach has a nude side and a "regular" side, however, even though we choose the regular side there were a lot of nude people on the beach. The beach was absolutely gorgeous. A little bit over commercialized with all the vendors trying to braid your hair and rent you beach chairs but if you said no they were polite enough to leave you alone. This beach has all the water sports so we rented wave runners in the afternoon. We had a blast. I even saw a sea turtle while riding out in the waves. We spent the afternoon looking in the jewelry stores. Tendering back to the boat that afternoon we waited about a half hour in line to get back to the ship. Not quite as bad as trying to get off the ship onto the island. The last day we were in St. Thomas. This is a beautiful island as well. We took the ship's Turtle Cove excursion and went on a catamaran and snorkeling trip. Saw many colorful fish and my husband saw a sea turtle. Spent the afternoon shopping and bought a few pieces of jewelry. They have absolutely anything you could possibly be looking for here. Later that night we sailed back to San Juan. Overall the cruise was great. We would definitely go back again. My only complaints were that the tendering was a mess and our dining room service at our table was pretty poor. Our waiter was not very good. He kept serving people the wrong dishes -- my plate to my friend or vice versa. We also always seemed to be one of the last tables done eating each night. We wouldn't even have our main course and the table next to us would be eating dessert. The service was a bit slow from our waiter. Also, I saw before my trip that someone on the message board mentioned the dining room recycled plates without washing them for serving the soup or appetizers on. I believe her after seeing the plate my soup arrived on the last night. It had cocktail sauce and dirt on it. It obviously was not washed from the previous serving of the shrimp cocktail appetizers. It kind of made me lose my appetite. Luckily it only happened on the last night. Although our cabin was kept spotless during the trip we also never saw our cabin attendant aside from the first night when he introduced himself. There were no animals made out of clothes as many of you mentioned. Usually the pillows were just arranged differently each night. Darn, I was looking forward to the animal thing! All in all -- we would go again. The positives far outweighed the negatives. The weather was fantastic. The shows were good, however, aimed at a little different age group than my own (late 20's). The evening activities like Karaoke and Novel Quest were fun. We even came in 2nd place with Novel Quest and got RCI hats for a prize. I would also highly recommend going with a group rather than on your own. As they say, the more the merrier. Happy Cruising!!! 11/27/00 Read Less
We were 14 in all on this cruise: my husband & I, my parents and 5 of my cousins and their husbands. Our ages ranged from 40's to 70's. This trip was planned more than a year in advance to accommodate everyone's schedule ... Read More
We were 14 in all on this cruise: my husband & I, my parents and 5 of my cousins and their husbands. Our ages ranged from 40's to 70's. This trip was planned more than a year in advance to accommodate everyone's schedule and with an itinerary that pleased everyone. (No small feat!) Royal Caribbean got the nod due to the Southern Caribbean route that included San Juan, Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten, St.Thomas. Nine of the 7 couples had been on a previous cruise. We took the air/sea program offered by RCI and it worked just fine. We had direct, nonstop flights to and from Chicago/O'Hare. Landing to a very warm San Juan, (it was 20's and very windy when we left) we were met by the RCI rep and escorted to our bus for the 15 min ride to the pier. Check-in was very easy and this was the first time we have ever had to show our birth certificates & photo id's before being issued our ship's passes. Boarding we also had our pictures taken and you "keyed" in and out every time you left or returned to the ship. They also had x-ray scanners just like the airport. I was very impressed with the security arrangements. They were not intrusive and the process was always quick and easy once everyone got the hang of it. We were directed to our rooms and were pleasantly surprised by the size. They were well laid out and the bedroom portion was as large as Celebrity's cabins. I really appreciated the vanity/desk with the mirrors and lights on both sides and the outlets for your hairdryer and curling iron right in the desktop. That was very convenient. Lots of storage for all our stuff and we had 2 of those new boxy suitcases and were able to put them under the bed. My only complaints about the bed were that we never saw a bedspread (that was the case with all of us on that level) and my mattress was concave. I like to sleep on my stomach and it was impossible, it was that bad. But again, I never thought to ask them to change it either! The bathroom however, was a different story. Big enough for 1 (one) person only and the shower was big enough for a child or a very skinny adult. I'm only 5' tall and I had trouble finding room to bend down to wash my feet! Some of our group was quite tall and/or heavy and it was quite a challenge to reach all parts without flooding the bathroom in the process. Our cabin steward was Brian from Jamaica and he introduced himself to us right away. He kept the cabin spiffy the whole time and surprised us w/pillow sculptures every day. Trying not to make too many comparisons to Celebrity, I was surprised that there was no water pitcher available. There was bottled water for sale and assorted soft drinks on the counter. I guess we were spoiled by having a small fridge in our Celebrity cabins. Also the ice bucket wasn't insulated and ice melted quickly. But we were hardly in the cabin and so it wasn't a big deal. We found my parents cabin easily enough by the big decoration on the door. We had arranged beforehand to have their room decorated by RCI to celebrate their 56th anniversary. For $28.95, there was the afore-mentioned door decoration, streamers & balloons in the room and a small cake with "Happy Anniversary" written on it. Which was quite good, by the way. They were so surprised and very pleased by it. We met the rest of our group in the Windjammer Cafe for lunch. There was another comparison to Celebrity as the buffet line was very poorly laid out with items all over the place resulting in a lot of people crossing & re-crossing to find what they wanted. Needless to say, there were several collisions with spilled drinks. By the end of the cruise, the ramp connecting the 2 buffet areas was sticky enough that my shoes were making a sucking sound when I walked over it! It made me wonder if they ever used cleanser when cleaning the floor. We didn't eat much at that time as we had early seating and it was going to be @ 5:30 so they could have the lifeboat drill before we sailed. When we all arrived in the dining room, we were left trying to straighten out our table assignments as we were scattered at 3 different tables instead of two tables next to each other as requested. This is where our waiter Jose from Portugal stepped in and began a week of exceptional service for us. He reassured us that when we arrived for dinner the next day, all would be arranged. And it was, even though it meant changing the table arrangement just for us and redoing it for the later seating. We had settled on early seating to accommodate the couple who had made the arrangements, but all agreed after a few days that later seating would have been better. It was just too rushed to get back from shore excursions to get ready for dinner without any down time to relax and/or get involved in any other ship activities. Jose was a master at making everyone happy. No small task with a group of 14. His helper was Iselein from Romania who had only been on the ship 3 weeks and needed a little prodding from time to time to remember items. But she was very sweet and tried very hard. Jose brought out extra appetizers, (especially the shrimp cocktails), different soups than what was ordered so that everyone could try them, extra pasta & entrees just to try so that plates were really going up & down the table like a real family dinner! We all had as many lobsters as we wanted and my cousin's husband ordered a hamburger & fries the last night because that's what he had a taste for. Mario the headwaiter was more visible and did more for us than any maitre'd I've seen on other ships. On different nights, he made pasta dish which was delicious; he took the shrimp scampi and the lobsters out of the shells, and made a Bananas Foster for dessert. The wait staff serenaded us with "O Solo Mio" on Italian night. There was also a Caribbean night and a French night. My husband tried escargot for the first time and ended up with a double portion. (Again thanks to Jose.) The bar staff wore pink jackets and made the rounds before dinner for cocktails and after dinner with "shooters" which were liqueurs in various combinations with a take home glass. I think 2 of my cousins ended up with full sets! Any "complaints" and I use the term loosely were minimal and were mostly just observations and comparisons to Celebrity. As a whole, the dining experience was always wonderful, relaxing and a lot of fun. Only once did one couple opt out for the casual dinner in the Windjammer and that was because they slept through dinnertime. Or at least, that's what they tried to tell us.   The ship itself is beautiful, but starting to show some wear and tear. Again, I was surprised at how dirty some areas became without any visible cleaning for the whole cruise. Many of the pool seat cushions were soiled from people putting their feet up with shoes on them, (Shame on them.) and the attendants just turned them over rather than replacing them to be washed. And this was on the first day. The deck area where people would eat outside the Windjammer Cafe was often full of debris from sugar packets and creamers all morning without anyone sweeping it up. One morning, my father sat all morning at a table that several of us had eaten breakfast on and not one person came to wash it off. My cousin had a big gripe with the grill arrangement as she walked all the way back to the Solarium pool to get a hamburger and had to wait 15 min for them to grill it for her. Small potatoes, I agree, but it was lunchtime and maybe a few should have been ready. The grill served up decent hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and pizza but it wasn't convenient and when a whole crowd came back from shore excursions after 2 PM after the Windjammer had closed, they had a hard time feeding all of them. The line extended the length of the Solarium. This is also where I noticed a more casual approach to cleanliness. When picking up some trays off tables, if some food fell to the ground, it was just left there to be stepped on or kicked aside by assorted passengers and crew. Since I was in that long line, I had ample time to observe this. We found the piano bar on Deck 4 in the Centrum to be a perfect gathering spot before dinner to try the drink of the day. This was a visually appealing and focal point of the ship. Despite a supposedly full ship (more on that later) we never felt crowded except on pool days. There were many issues, none of them ours, over the saving of deck chairs. One of my cousins spotted a chair with no one in sight and sat down and was verbally assaulted by a woman who called her a filthy name. One of the husbands observed 2 men get into a nasty dispute over the saving of deck chairs and ship's officers had to intervene. I think the large number of families contributed to the crowding. It was February break on the East Coast and there had to be at least 200 kids. Which brings me to the part about the full ship. My husband & I had taken a category H guarantee and had hoped for a nice upgrade. On RCI's web site, they showed cabins with balconies available up to 1 day before sailing, but alas, it was not to be. But we were still on the same deck with the rest of the family and it really was quite convenient to everything by stairs. We started in San Juan, Sea Day, Aruba, Curacao, St. Martin, Sea Day, St. Thomas, San Juan. They were probably some of the nicer islands we've been on. We felt very safe the entire time we were wandering around. The ship docked at every port, so no tendering at all. My mother and I walked the ½ mile into Willemstad, Curacao and walked all over the downtown in search of a special Nao figurine I have been seeking for 2 years. I found it in a little store not far off the main street. Everyone we interacted with on the islands was pleasant and wished for us to come back and spend more time there. Alas, it was over too soon and we waited in the piano bar for our flight to be called. The person calling the flights had quite the accent and it was difficult to understand her. But we were off by 10 AM and despite much conflicting information given on board over which airlines would be available to check our luggage, United was there and we put our coats in the suitcases to be unloaded at cold Chicago/O'Hare. (What we would have done if our luggage had been lost had never entered our minds.) With 6 hrs to kill until our flight, one of the husbands found a van driver able to take all of us who called himself "Puerto Rican Louie." For $15/pp payable when we arrived at the airport, he took us on a tour of Old San Juan, dropped us off downtown for a little last minute shopping (and potty break at McDonald's), lunch at his cousin's restaurant "Lupi's", and an hour or so at the Wyndem/El San Juan Hotel for a little gambling before we had to catch our flight. It was really worth it. He was a riot! All in all, we had a great time, but if we do it again we will probably use Celebrity if only for the small comparisons I made. Royal Caribbean did deliver a fine cruise vacation and we never felt shortchanged in any way. I would probably do this itinerary again.shofer1019@yahoo.comFebruary 2001 Read Less
Eastern Mediterranean Cruise June 30 - July 7, 2001 This was our first Eastern Mediterranean Cruise, having done the Western Itinerary in 1999 (two weeks from Amsterdam, Holland to Genoa, Italy and seven ports in between). This itinerary ... Read More
Eastern Mediterranean Cruise June 30 - July 7, 2001 This was our first Eastern Mediterranean Cruise, having done the Western Itinerary in 1999 (two weeks from Amsterdam, Holland to Genoa, Italy and seven ports in between). This itinerary was probably the most "port intensive" of all of our cruises (five ports in seven days!). You have it from us, sailing throughout the Greek Isles can be both delightful and dramatic. The trip included a close up of Stromboli, the active Italian volcano that juts straight up out of the Tyrrhenean Sea and sports fumaroles and red lava flows at the top with tiny villages at the base: How can people live so calmly on a rumbling volcano? Passing through the Strait of Messina, brought to mind the Odyssey of Ulysses and his adventure in this tempestuous sea, with the threatening monsters Shylla and Charybdis, facing each other across this strait. But, for us, the sea was calm and the view of Calabria and Sicily marvelous. Nevertheless, with a little imagination just sailing through this historical sea is impressive. The next most significant memory is sailing through the caldera of Santorini, which demarcates the original boundaries of this remnant of an island (What was once a near perfect circle of an island is now a mere crescent). We were lucky that our cruise week coincided with a full moon on the Aegean Sea. What a sight: just spectacular! If you haven't done this itinerary yet, book it now, because it is all you could possibly dream it would be. Since the Grandeur is the sister ship of the Vision, which we described in our last review (June 6, 01), we will skip the ship descriptions and specifications which are almost identical, rather, here we'll focus on service and itinerary. EMBARKATION June 20th we flew Alitalia Airline from Miami-Milan-Rome; unfortunately the plane change in Milan was a difficult one, which made us long for the direct Miami-Rome flights of old! We did not use the cruise package, but instead we rented a car (Avis), which we picked up at the airport and spent ten days in the Samnium Mountains (South Central Italy) before returning the car just a few blocks from the pier at Civitavecchia, the morning of embarkation. Since the Grandeur was berthed directly behind the new terminal, embarkation was easy. A crew member was prompt in taking Vincent's wheelchair aboard where the documents were processed within minutes. The new RCI ticket packet is simplified and handy. We met Hotel Director Tony O'Prey at check-in. He makes passengers feel at home immediately and continues to do so until debarkation. What a courteous person he is -- Thank you, Tony for all your kindnesses! We were in our spacious stateroom in less than ten minutes (approximately noon). We went straight to the Welcome Aboard Buffet, where a crew member carried our trays and assisted us through. The food was good and the dessert table excellent. We were happy to return to the Grandeur after four years and were full of anticipation for this exciting trip. THE SHIP The Grandeur of the Seas was built at Kvaerner Masa Shipyards, Finland and launched on Nov. 2, 1996, as the dedication placard in the Viking Crown Lounge reads. It looks just like the Vision of the Seas: it's white with aqua/green glass on the top decks, characteristic of all RCI ships, and has the sleek shape of an oversized yacht. The major difference between this and other RCI Vision class ships is in the interior decor and artworks. RCI has made extensive use of wood and other fine appointments on the Grandeur which makes it worthy of its name. The two deck high Gatsby Dining Room is a good place to start: The 20's era flapper statue in the middle of the grand staircase evokes images of Zelda Fitzgerald with its swaying fringed outfit. The far wall has a two deck high water fall and the other three walls are hung with paintings depicting "Roaring Twenties" party life. This dining room has the most comfortable chairs, with arms rests and lumbar support. The Centrum is both a handy reference point and a place that is in constant movement with dancing, singing and even cooking demonstrations. The ship's decor is pleasant and subdued, with unique pieces of art almost everywhere. The style is consistent throughout the ship, with more traditional artwork (no abstract or futuristic motifs), indeed appropriate for this itinerary. There are several pieces of sculpture that merit mentioning: * Deck 5 has four huge translucent white marble Urns, lit from within, with swans and birds incised on them flanking the entrances of the Palladium Theater, which has crystals hanging along the front of the stage and on the ceiling. * Deck 6 by the Centrum has a resin bronze boy with cap, camera and tour book by Clinch entitled "Where the Heck?" * Deck 7 in the library has a larger than life bronze man on a chair with cigar in hand and newspaper over his face called "Snoozin" also by Clinch, appropriately positioned on the side of one table. We were pleasantly surprised when we discovered it. * In the Viking Crown Lounge are a series of life size Steel Vikings statues by Walenty Pytel and a Viking Ship by T. E. Skelinen. Other artwork worth mentioning are the large murals in the stairways representing Spanish scenes of matadors and senoritas, and a collage with a ballroom scene near the theater. CABIN We were in Superior Ocean View Stateroom #7102 port side, wheelchair accessible. It was furnished with a queen size bed; a sitting area with sofa bed, upholstered chair and a large coffee table; mirrored vanity/desk area, a huge bathroom with additional railings and a 4'x4' shower. This cabin has tons of storage in closets and drawers, more than adequate for four people on a two-week cruise. The far wall is glassed with a sliding door to the verandah with two chaises, two chairs and a table. The color scheme was similar to the Vision, with muted tones of gray, blue, lavender and pink. The Grandeur is scheduled for dry dock this fall and in several areas refurbishing is needed-- upholstery etc. But, all in all, she is a beautiful ship. FOOD Food is available round the clock-- The Windjammer and the Gatsby Dining Room have fixed schedules and the Solarium has pizza (not very good) but they serve excellent hot dogs, burgers and fries which are available most of the day and evening (the European cruisers all wanted to make sure that the beef was U.S.; they are still living with mad cow fear). Snacks are served in all of the bars, lounges and the Casino from 11:30 pm to 12:30 am and the bars are open from 9:00 am to 2:00 am the next morning. Room service is 24 hrs. per day. Usually we ate breakfast in our cabin and it was punctual, hot and abundant (omelets were fine, bacon crisp, coffee hot and rolls and croissants fresh). Unfortunately, we did not personally meet the Executive Chef, Martin Grabenhofer (Austria), but read of his extensive culinary background. RCI has the best meats afloat, we also had succulent salmon and the salads were innovative (Boston Mimosa, Waldorf and especially Ensalada del Chef with orange segments and mixed greens). At lunch we had the Philadelphia Cheese Steak and the Tuna Melt Sub served on great, crispy French bread. The International menus were nicely varied but we particularly liked some Greek fare: Santorini fruit salad with Ouzo, Spanakopita (spinach and feta cheese pie) Beef Souvlaki skewers, Mousaka and Yiaourtini (yogurt cake with orange liquor). There were terrific ices, sherbets and ice creams; memorable chocolate cakes and delicious cookies. However, even though the Chef had trained in Venice, the pastas were not up to those we had enjoyed for the past ten days while in Italy, prior to embarkation. We are finding it harder and harder to order pastas on board RCI ships, since al dente is rarely achieved and the sauces just don't taste Italian. Even a simple dish like spaghetti Carbonara was ruined by adding a cream sauce, that's a no-no! The spaghetti were neither Carbonara nor Alfredo, but somewhere in between. However, we have to admit most non Italians didn't notice a difference. The gala meals are always the best and this cruise was no exception: We dined with Staff Captain George Paraskevopoulos (born in Australia of Greek parents and a graduate of the Mercantile Academy of Greece). He was delightfully candid about life at sea and hosted a dinner with escargots, soupe a` l'oignon, Caesar salad, Surf and Turf (lobster tail and filet mignon), blackened salmon and velvet chocolate cake. He toasted his guests with water to emphasize SAFETY at sea, but ordered fine wines for the rest of the table (more later). Great food, gracious company, and all under the watchful eye of Maitre d` Massimo (see service). SERVICE The tone and ambiance is set by the Captain and his crew follows his lead: Captain Carlos Pedercini (Argentina) is RCI's youngest captain, receiving his Master's license at age 28 and at 36 he is a serious Master of the Grandeur; he wears his honors well. Staff Captain George emphasized the strict protocol and attention paid to safety by RCI with its Tricolor Alert System (Red, Yellow and Green) requiring specific staff duties at all times. Sleep easy cruisers, the Bridge is in capable, cautious hands! Tony O'Prey, Hotel Director, is an affable capable man with one mission: He makes sure everything is done with flair and that the passengers are pleased. We were happy to see that there is a Chief Purser aboard, Julie Hansen was caring and totally efficient and responsive to cruiser's concerns which she followed up personally. Fortunately RCI has not attempted to run other ships as it did the Radiance of the Seas, where an experiment assigning ship hotel management to independent administrators, breaking the chain of command from the Captain on down. Initially this experiment resulted in failure. We have not followed the situation on the Radiance, but we feel that common sense will prevail at the top of RCI management and the tried-and-true system with the Captain, as the sole master of the ship, with the well established chain of officers and crew, will remain as the one and only valid system in the whole fleet. In the Gatsby Dining Room we found the service outstanding under the direction of Maitre d' Massimo Barbiero (Italy). We could trust his honest assessment of the menu and were happy with his specific suggestions: Fine food, fine service, and a delightful atmosphere (in part due to the trio of musicians who played there nightly). We had a table for two at the top of the Grand Staircase overlooking the Salon and the Captain's table. Our Waiter Ajini Khalil (Tunisia) was attentive, but not hovering, just perfect. Asst. Waiter Rodrigo Estay (Chile) was smiling and friendly and Head Waiter Jayaraman Iyer (India/France) was also a knowledgeable sommelier. Lunch in the dining room was always interesting with Waiter Vincenzo Caraglia (Italy); he sought out Vincent to discuss Italian soccer, Formula I Auto Racing, etc.-- friendly and prompt service. We felt right at home on our second cruise aboard the Grandeur. The Repeaters Captain's Cocktail had an excellent CanapE Buffet, free drinks and friendly faces. We met many nice cruisers and staff. Social Hostess Chez van Straaten (S. Africa) was both bright and gracious. Her parents were on board for a 28th wedding anniversary and a second honeymoon to revisit Athens. We know where Chez got her charm. ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Kyle (Texas, USA) heads up an active group which runs everything from daily Bingo to dance lessons and games. This cruise had several evening shows worth mentioning: Los Pampas Gauchos gave a literally hair raising routine (you've got to see it to believe it!). Judy Kolba gave a combination Singing/Comedy routine that we heard was hilarious (sorry, we did not catch her). Day Three's RCI production of "Starstruck" with its tribute to the silver screen and dazzling combination of live performance and film projection, with the RCI dancers deftly jumping in and out of the giant screen was breathtaking. The dancers' timing was perfect to achieve this wonderful special effect. Dominic Allen was the ultimate entertainer with both his vocal and instrumental expertise. The audience loved him. The Celeste Trio had a wonderful female vocalist accompanied by her husband Marcangelo and percussionist Mr. Leyette. They were everywhere from the lounges to the Centrum and had a very demanding repertoire and great reception. Last, but not least, Naki Ataman (Turkey) performed his special U.N. Tribute to 24 Countries (Theme "Around the World in 80 Days"). The audience honored his piano virtuosity with a well deserved standing ovation. As usual, RCI's Entertainment is worth seeing and hearing. PORTS OF CALL The main reason for this cruise was the itinerary and we are happy to say that our expectations were met, but the less than one day taste of Athens left us longing for more. Next time . . . and there will be a next time (God willing!), we will approach this cruise differently. We'll fly first to Athens for a three day stay and take a cruise back to Venice, Italy. Sounds good to us. We are now at a point in our lives that whenever we check off a vacation destination, we must add another one in order to keep that list going. Civitavecchia, Italy: This is an engaging home port for Italy, where ferries to Sardinia (a trendy vacation spot) leave daily. We took a ride up into the mountains as far as the beginning of the Tuscan Hills. If you are interested in Etruscan Necropoles and Museums visit nearby Cerveteri and Tarquinia; Civitavecchia is a an excellent starting point. Of course Rome is a short one hour bus trip. Definitely extend your cruise vacation either before or after or you will regret it. Katakolon, Greece: Greece comprises over 1400 isles of which only 169 are inhabited. This small town on the western coast of the Peloponnese (Greece's largest peninsula) has as its main attraction the famous archeological site of Ancient Olympia, where the Pisans first held their Olympic Games about 1,000 B.C. The contests reached their heights in 6th century B.C., but were banned in 394 A.D. The modern revival was in 1896 and Greeks are enthusiastically building and planning to host the games in 2004 in Athens. Ioanna, the tour guide through Olympia was knowledgeable, humorous and made history come to life. The Doric architecture was massive in the Palaestra (wrestling school), the Prytaneum (where winners were honored) and the Temple of Zeus (not one of its original 25 columns still standing, this was the site of the gold and ivory statue of Zeus listed as one of the seven ancient wonders of the world). The Temple of Hera (which is better preserved) once held the statue of Hermes by Praxiteles (circa 350 B.C.) which is now across the road at the Olympia Archeological Museum.. The first olympic stadium which set the distance for races and gave its name to all stadiums to follow was truly awesome. The start and finish lines still exist and are white marble and its sloping grassy sides held 30,000 spectators. The ruins of Olympia reveal a well organized sports center of gigantic proportions in ancient Greece. We gamely started out to tour these ruins, but soon realized it was hard with a wheelchair on unpaved ground. Sean, a fellow cruiser courteously took over and pushed Vincent through the entire site -- An Olympian Effort! Efcharisto`(Thank you). This tour (excursion KKA1 on the ship's list) is a must. Although the ship's 11:00 am arrival makes this tour in the summer uncomfortable from the heat of a high noon sun and we barely made it back to the last tender at 5:30 pm, it was an afternoon to remember. After this visit, we will never view the modern Olympics again in the same old way: The spirit of the old Olympians is with us. Santorini, Greece: Aaah! This is the Greek Isles of postcards and travel guides. White washed buildings on cliffs with blue cupolas. This volcanic island erupted in 1450 B.C. and there remains only a crescent shape with the island of Nea Kameni in the center of the caldera. Very impressive and evocative of Geology 101. Sailing through a caldera! The ship anchors off Skala and the blue/white town of Fira` can be accessed by climbing the over 600 steps of the Serpentine Path (we don't think so), riding a stubborn donkey (no way) or our choice "the cable car." Fira` was destroyed by an earthquake 1956 and rebuilt maintaining its former charm of houses built into the mountainside. The narrow streets are uneven cobblestone and no cars. We visited the Archeological Museum, but the tour of the day was Ancient Akrotiri and Santorini (excursion SOA1) which we did not take due to the wheelchair. Akrotiri is famous for its wall paintings (not frescoes since they are painted on dry walls) but fortunately for us the best of these we saw in Athens at the National Museum, including "The Fleet", "Boxing Children", "The Fisherman" and "The Spring Fresco" (misnomer). Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey: Here we were steered wrongly by the ship's Shore Excursion desk. Because of Vincent's wheelchair we were told to catch a cab-- to the tune of $100. The driver knew little English, and refused to leave us at the top of Ephesus and pick us up in the bottom, as promised. We suggest cruisers, even those with wheelchairs, take the ship excursion KDC1: Ephesus Ruins and house of the Virgin Mary. We found out later that a lady in a wheelchair had no problem with this tour and loved it. Next time we'll know better. Piraeus (Athens), Greece: Athens is seven miles from the Port of Piraeus. Best tour here is the ship's PRA1 the Acropolis and Athens sightseeing. We opted for PRB1 the National Museum and sightseeing which meant viewing the shopping district. Next time we would like to see more of Athens which may mean staying over either at the beginning or ending of our cruise. Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy: Rome was the final city on this itinerary and this is such a monumental city that it requires an extended stay. It's our favorite city since Vincent is a graduate of University of Rome and knows it well. Fond memories of our family stay there for a year in 1980 - '81, during Vincent's sabbatical appointment at the Catholic University, give it a special place in our hearts. We do Rome by ourselves, but we suggest that cruisers use the ship's excursions since the "Eternal City" is one newcomers may need a guide to tour. DEBARKATION Debarkation as usual was simple, Vincent's wheelchair was escorted all the way to the luggage area and out of the terminal. It was the end of a Grand cruising experience. SUGGESTIONS It is very hard to improve on a great cruise, but we are making the following suggestions in an attempt to make a great cruise greater: 1. If the itinerary could be arranged so that the arrival times for Katakolon and Santorini would be early morning as were the times for the other ports, cruisers would not be starting out on excursions at high noon, the hottest part of the day. Some of the ruins are unbearably hot at that time. At present, arrival at these two ports is 11:00 am. In our opinion they should be changed if possible to 8:00 am. 2. Once again RCI should hire a chef with expertise in Italian cuisine who would improve the sauces and pasta dishes thus attracting more lovers of true Italian cooking. Read Less
My wife and I together with another couple (who we managed to convince to come along) did the cruise on the above ship from Civitavecchia (Italy) which departed on 11.08.2001 and returned 7 days later. Despite the numerous setbacks we ... Read More
My wife and I together with another couple (who we managed to convince to come along) did the cruise on the above ship from Civitavecchia (Italy) which departed on 11.08.2001 and returned 7 days later. Despite the numerous setbacks we encountered, the cruise was great and the crew were particularly helpful especially in view of the fact that our luggage got lost on route to Italy, my friend and I were lent a tuxedo at no charge and free laundry service was offered. I even took ill for most of the cruise to the extent that I was hospitalized on board with some unknown blood virus. A special thanks to your ship doctor from Iceland for his efforts. The ship is beautiful and well maintained. The food was EXCELLENT and really we could not complain which these days is a rarity. However, there are two things that really got me quite upset and I thought it best to bring it to your attention in order that others do not experience similar problems. Firstly, at booking stage our South African Rand was trading at about R8.20 to the US Dollar. We had to pay a deposit at a rate of R8.30 to the dollar to allow for any possible fluctuation in the short term. We agreed and understood especially in view of our buoyant currency. However, when it came to paying over the balance of the cruise fee a few days later we were charged at a rate of R8.50 to the US Dollar. At this stage the rate was about R8.26 to the US Dollar. I personally feel that this is not the way to do business and was tempted to cancel the trip out of principal. Unfortunately, once I had told the wife about the trip there was no chance of canceling. I don't know who's ruling this is but it is a problem and the rate of R8.30 should have been adhered to as per our initial agreement. Secondly, on the day before disembarking we were given a wad of envelopes in order to tip all and sundry. We were also given a recommended tipping rate per person. We proceeded to put money into the envelopes for those that we decided made our trip such a special occasion (the trip was a wedding anniversary gift for my wife) and completed the questionnaire you handed out. Once this questionnaire was submitted and tips dealt out the service levels changed like day to night and the last few hours on the boat unfortunately became such a dampener. Several questions plague me - Is this the norm on every cruise that they take the money and run before the job is over? (It certainly was not like this on my last cruise). Is the 15% surcharge on wine not for the waiters? Were they being friendly just for the tip? Are the staff really tired and too happy to see the back of us? Did we not tip adequately? (which may be possible especially as our currency is so weak against the US Dollar - in which case the trip should be marketed to the Americans and English.) I really don't know!!!! The other couple that went with us felt the same as we did and they tipped the recommended rate if not slightly over. Any comments on the above would be appreciated. Despite all this I will consider another trip on a different ship in RCI's fleet in the next year or two and I'll make sure our luggage gets to the boat with us even if it means checking in and out at every airport and as for my health - well that is sure to be okay with just with the thought of sipping cocktails in the sun. We'll bring our kids too. If you have any comments about my review, or would like to ask me a questions, please don't hesitate to e-mail me at: royag@iafrica.comSeptember 2001 Read Less
First of all, I cannot express how great this vacation was. We had a blast. We were in cabin 8538, a category C suite with a balcony. We were originally in a category D and we were upgraded a week before. We were in #8538. If anyone has ... Read More
First of all, I cannot express how great this vacation was. We had a blast. We were in cabin 8538, a category C suite with a balcony. We were originally in a category D and we were upgraded a week before. We were in #8538. If anyone has the opportunity to book this cabin, DO IT. It was a great location. It was a mid ship location right next to the Crown and Anchor study. It was also right next to the centrum so it was always nice to go out of the room to see what was going on out there. We were right below the pool deck and the Windjammer cafe. PERFECT location. We did not hear any noise either. We arrived in Miami the day before and stayed at the Wyndham Biscayne Bay. It was just okay. We got it for $50.00 though so couldn't complain too much. Don't eat breakfast there though, it was bad. We arrived at the port at about 11:30 and check in was smooth. I think we actually got on board at about 12:30. We threw our carry-ons in the cabin and went around the ship. She was beautiful!! Very Impressive!! We grabbed a little snack at the Windjammer too. We got our luggage fairly quick. We unpacked and made our cabin "home" for the next 10 days. Plenty of storage space in a category "C". We went upstairs to the pool deck for the sailaway party. As usual, a calypso band was playing and we were enjoying a BBC (Bailey's Banana Colada) as we set sail. Very nice! Day 2: at sea. Did the usual--laid out, ate, walked around the ship. This was formal night as well. Day 3: Cozumel. We grabbed a taxi and went to Chankanaab park in morning. We snorkeled, walked the botanical gardens, lay in the sun. After about 2 1/2 hrs, we went back to the ship, got cleaned up and grabbed another taxi into town. We ate at Palmeras for lunch, it was very good!! You must try it! Day 4: Grand Cayman. We did Stingray City. For me, it was a bit overwhelming. I didn't realize these little critters were SOOOOO big. I swam on the outskirts of the crowd and enjoyed it much better that way. I also got a facial this day on board. Day 5: Montego Bay. Personally, not impressed. We went to the City Centre shopping mall. Everyone was very pushy. We couldn't walk anywhere without being pestered. Day 6: At Sea Day 7: Aruba. This was FABULOUS! We grabbed a taxi and went to Palm Beach. The sand was so white and the water was so clear. It was very HOT. At night, we went to Carlos and Charlie's, (we are docked in Aruba until 12:30 AM) this was place was a blast. We went back to the ship and there was a sailaway party at 12:30 AM. That was fun. Day 8: Curacao. We were so tired from being up so late the night before, we just hung out on the ship. This was our 3rd time to the Caribbean, we didn't feel like we were missing much. Day 9: At Sea. The usual, laid out, ate, watched a movie in the Palladium. This was formal night. Day 10: At Sea. The usual again! Debarkation went smooth I think. There was a delay due to the US Coast Guard being in the terminal. We started debarkation around 9:00. We were off the ship at 10:15. Little Tidbits of Info There were some great spa specials on port days. For instance, my facial was discounted $30.00. They also had this thing called "Pick and Mix." This is where you can choose 3 things between a mini facial, a foot and ankle massage, a hand massage, a scalp massage, or a re-polish for 60.00. The food was DELICOUS! We were very impressed. Our waiter and assistant were wonderful. Their names were Ovi and Roxana. They are husband and wife. We had such a great time with them. They were very neat people. On the second to last night, a couple of us changed our orders and Ovi said, "Listen, tomorrow night I am going to open a big bottle of champagne when you people leave!" He was very funny! We did not see one single show. We had too much fun doing everything else! Heard they were great though! Windjammer: loved it for breakfast, didn't care for it at lunch, never had it for dinner. NotSoNewlywed game was hysterical. Midnight Gala Buffet is not to be missed, neither is the Midnight Chocolate Buffet. We walked right on board with 2 bottles of liquor from Jamaica, not a word from anyone. And, I think that's it. OH, you have to sit in the Centrum at night and listen to the Welldone Duo. They are terrific. The ship was beautiful. She is moving to the West Coast next year to do the Mexican Riviera. I think we may go on her then! December 2001 Read Less
Embarkation All went smoothly, although a little slow, due to the extra security. RCI is doing something new however, for Platinum and Diamond 'Crown & Anchor' members. We say "new," because we may have ... Read More
Embarkation All went smoothly, although a little slow, due to the extra security. RCI is doing something new however, for Platinum and Diamond 'Crown & Anchor' members. We say "new," because we may have been the first ones (experimental group?), or maybe they have done this since they opened the new terminal. They have a special room set aside at the terminal; I believe it's called the 'Crown and Anchor Room.' We arrived for embarkation early, as did about half of all who were sailing, and were directed to this 'special' room, for 'special' treatment and had all the paperwork completed and our cabin keycard in our hands about 3 minutes after we arrived. We were then directed to the stairs leading to the gangway. We passed a very long line of people who, we thought, still had to register, or didn't have a clue what line they were in. We bobbed and weaved our way to the stairs, when we were stopped by security and almost accosted by an angry mob. They thought we were "cutting in," and since they had been standing in line for "hours," they were ready to attack. No one understood (or cared) that we just were doing as we were told. So we meekly walked all the way to the back of the line. All-in-all, we still boarded the ship around 12:15PM. Preface First of all, we have to say, we've cruised on the Grandeur of the Seas in 1997 and have done this exact same itinerary sailing the Splendour of the Seas in 1999. So, this was meant to be, and was, a totally relaxing cruise. Overall Impression This was a wonderful cruise, but then again, out of the 15 we've been on, we haven't hit a bad one yet. The Grandeur had just had a 'spiffing up' in October, so she looked shipshape, fresh, clean and sparkling. We had lots of sunny warm days (9, I believe) 1 cloudy day, comfortable nights, and only a couple of minute showers. The seas were relatively calm with a couple of light rock and roll nights. But for anyone contemplating this cruise, or any other cruise, these weather and sea conditions shouldn't be taken as the norm. However, we find that this time period is ideal sailing for us. Both the staff and entire crew were very friendly and cooperative, with no false airs about their pleasantness toward the guests. We were always greeted with a friendly "Hello," and a smile, and we believe they were genuine. The ship was only 3/4 of capacity and was dominated mostly by seniors, with just a handful of young adults, and the fewest number of children we've ever experienced. This ship and cruise would be ranked right up there as 'one of the best' and we'd strongly consider repeating it. Actually, we tried, but the Cruise Consultant on board wasn't available most of the time, and her computer, with a direct link to Miami, was down the entire cruise. We did find out that the new Brilliance of the Seas will be taking over this itinerary in 2002. Cabin - C8088 - Bridge Deck - category C - stern cabin We've never had a balcony cabin at the back of the ship before, but now believe that is the place to be. We spend a good amount of time, day and night, on the balcony. It's especially enjoyable after the shows and casino, looking at the stars and the moon and listening to the sound of the Caribbean Ocean rushing pass us. Our stern balcony was large, measuring 12' X 12,' with 2 straight back chairs, 3 chaise lounges, and 2 small side tables. Starboard and portside balconies for category C are approximately 6 1/2' X 11 1/2.' On the way back to Miami (the last 2 days at sea), we did have sun most of the day out there. The cabin was roomy with lots of storage space, some of which we didn't even use. Like the balcony, there was plenty of room to move about in comfort and relax, with 2 easy chairs, 2 hassocks (also used for storage) a sleeper sofa, coffee table, 2 beds made into a queen, refrigerator, safe and generous sized bathroom with tub. We could have called this cabin "home" on a longer cruise; it was that nice. The cabin could have been even roomier if one of the easy chairs were removed. We did do some rearranging. We have heard and read that there was excessive vibration and noise in the aft and stern cabins. There was very little of both; you could hear/feel it once in awhile, but one could simply say that a ship is a moving vehicle. The biggest disadvantage to having our cabin, is that it is above the galley, so you smelled food being prepared all the time. Even after you've just completed a 5 course dinner, and you walk out onto your balcony, you get the aroma, and you say, "Wow, does that smell good!" or, "When do we eat again?" Passengers If we were young adults, which we aren't, I would definitely say this was a geriatric group, so this particular sailing was not for the younger generation. Probably 75% were seniors, 20% middle aged, and only 5% younger families and younger couples, and we'd guesstimate 10% were not from the states. Being 'people watchers,' we observed many passengers, and found them very demanding and constantly complaining about something. From the moment we boarded the ship, there were people demanding an upgrade (until they found out they had to pay for one); complaining about not getting off the ship early enough at the ports of call; the hours set for breakfast, lunch and dinner; food; service, and it went on and on. We found it amusing, especially when you heard something like " .... and I never saw my cabin steward until the third day." That's not the same as "..... my room hasn't been made up in three days." All this was, we're sure, detrimental to the staff and crew. We couldn't have disagreed more with these complainers. Again, it was a perfect, or as near perfect a cruise as we've had so far. They just seem to get better. Staff and Crew This was one of the friendliest cruises we've been on. All members of the staff and crew had a sincere smile and a pleasant 'Hello." The Purser greeted us by name, and we wrote a note to the Captain praising the Purser for his kindly assistance, and the Captain sent the note back to the Purser with a 'pat on the back' comment. Our Head Waiter also referred to us by name, as did our room steward, waiter, and assistant waiter (although he had trouble with his "t's" for one of our table mates). We asked several Head Waiters the very first day about a particular dining room staff member, someone who was our waiter on our very first cruise, and was kind of an influence on our desire to continue to. We did hook up with him back in '97 on the Grandeur, and was pleasantly surprised that he was still in the business, but this time, as a Head Waiter. Of course, all the Head Waiters knew Apollo, and ran over to get him. We hooked up once again, and he is now a Senior Head Waiter. It was fun reliving old times. Pool Seats The age old problem of saving or reserving pool lounges wasn't really an issue on this cruise. It happened a few times, but with very few people. Pool attendants placed towels over the lounge arm early every morning and these few "lounge hogs" were quick to take them and place on the back, and one or two more on the seat to make them look used and/or reserved. Then they would place a personal item (cap, book, t-shirt, etc.) to cement the fact that that was their 'place' for the day. This ritual usually occurs between 6:30AM - 8:30AM, but the occupants wouldn't show up until near noontime. We were very tempted to run around and remove towels from the savers chairs, but resisted the urge! The days at sea are tough in that everyone wants to be poolside. If everyone who wanted to be by the pool occupied chairs while there and vacated them when they've had enough sun, there would be more than adequate space for everyone, even if they later chose to return. Fortunately, this wasn't a major problem, since this group of passengers were late risers anyway. Shows We didn't attended most of the shows, but they seemed to been pretty good, based on what others have said - spent most of the evening in the casino or out on deck. We also heard that this was a tough crowd to please - couldn't get them excited about much, although everyone seemed to enjoy the Coasters performance. Food First, and foremost, in everybody's mind, is FOOD. This is where RCI has to do a little more work. We rated the overall quality as good, but with a lot of room for improvement. We had our dinners at the Main Seating in the Gatsby Restaurant every night, and the service by our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent. What we were pleasantly surprised at was that the headwaiters were very visible, always around, worked, and visited every table every evening. This was the first cruise we experienced the workings of headwaiters. We did lunch in the main dining room most of the time and the buffet lunch in the Windjammer Cafe a few days. We had a hamburger (once) in the Solarium, and found it lacking. Actually, the hamburger offered in the main dining room was far superior to that served in the Solarium. We did do breakfast in the main dining room every other day - no one does Eggs Benedict as well as RCI!! The dining room has open seating for both breakfast and lunch. It was a pleasant surprise to find the wait staff so friendly and accommodating, even though they weren't our "regular" waiter assistant, and headwaiter. We ate in the Windjammer Cafe (buffet) for lunch twice, but found the buffet menus weren't very exciting to us. However, they must have been for others because there were constant lines, but no real crowding and shoving. Once again, staff members were very friendly here also. Here are our food breakdown ratings: breads and rolls - excellent, appetizers - v. good, entrees - good (also note, very few beef entrees), desserts - v. good. Shore Excursions Having already been to all the ports of call in the past (Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Aruba, Curacao), we didn't do any tours; kind of went off and did our own thing - mostly just poking around the stores, made a few purchases, and did a couple of beaches, and rented a Jeep in Aruba (from Amigo Car Rentals). But, RCI has done a great job of providing an ample number of varied excursions, so there are plenty to choose from for both first timers and experienced cruisers. Montego Bay is the only port that they didn't provide excursion information prior to sailing. This may have been due to the civil disturbances Jamaica had earlier in the year, so they left it out of their tour publication. Overall Impression We'd do this cruise again in a heartbeat. The new Brilliance of the Seas will be taking over this itinerary in 2002. Unfortunately, the onboard Cruise Consultant wasn't of much help - wasn't there, was sick, broken computer connection with headquarters, etc. This was a part-time position, soon to be full-time, so maybe more can/will be done. But, the Grandeur itself, is wonderful, kept up very well, and is neither large to small. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to write us at wesnbarb@maine.rr.com. Now we have to get busy looking for and planning for our cruise for the Fall of 2002. January 2002 Read Less
Grandeur of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 0.0
Dining 3.5 0.0
Entertainment 3.5 0.0
Public Rooms 3.5 0.0
Fitness Recreation 3.5 0.0
Family 3.5 0.0
Shore Excursion 3.5 0.0
Enrichment 1.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.5 0.0
Rates N/A 0.0

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