This was my 33rd cruise -- a 25th anniversary gift from my mother. She chose this cruise because it was a great bargain, and we prefer a smaller ship without the bells and whistles. We live on Long Island, so Baltimore is only 3 hours ... Read More
This was my 33rd cruise -- a 25th anniversary gift from my mother. She chose this cruise because it was a great bargain, and we prefer a smaller ship without the bells and whistles. We live on Long Island, so Baltimore is only 3 hours away. We have sailed on Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, with the most cruises on Royal Caribbean.
Embarkation was so easy! You enter the port area, they take your luggage right out of the trunk for you and onto the ship, and you find a parking spot. Wonderful! As Diamond members, we got to go on a special line to embark, but it would have been just as easy if we were first timers.
The ship is showing its age. I especially noticed this when we were in the tender, right next to the battered, rusty hull in need of a paint job. Other signs of aging were faded numbers on the elevator buttons and that sewage smell that other reviewers have noted. Otherwise, the ship is well maintained and the interior is as beautiful as when I first sailed on the Grandeur in 2000 (she was built in 1996).
As far as activities go, if you want relaxation, this is the ship for you. Other than trivia and game shows in the centrum, plus the usual "sexist man" and belly flop competitions, most activities were either for a charge, or were free lectures connected to some sort of sales pitch, whether from the spa, the shops or the fitness center. If you want to sit and read a book or simply take a nap in the sun, this is a good ship! Actually, I shouldn't say that -- of course, you can enjoy the Quest and some fun dance parties.
The Cruise Director, John, and his wife, the Activities Manager, Katrina, come across as slick and phony -- but they definitely grow on you by the end of the cruise at which time you realize they genuinely mean what they say. In fact, John puts on a Neil Diamond show near the end of the cruise as a tribute to his "mommy."
Fellow cruisers on this sail date (April 17) were mostly retired grandparents in their 50s, 60s and 70s, mostly from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Very friendly down-to-earth people. Also, I have never seen so many tattoos in my life!!
The service is where this ship shines, and that's why they call it "the ship with a heart." The crew was always smiling and happy and ready to help. In the main dining room, the table of 4 next to us always had their ice tea waiting for them, thanks to our terrific waiter, Endi. Our assistant waiter, Ikomang, was terrific, too -- we never knew until the last day that this was only his third cruise; he was so professional!
The itinerary was just perfect -- 4 days at sea, followed by Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica (Falmouth) and my favorite place in the entire Caribbean ... Labadee!
In Cozumel, my husband went diving and got his PADI certification, while I went in the water. We did not go to town to shop because we really didn't need anything and did not care to bargain.
In Grand Cayman, we went to Sea Grape Beach (part of Seven Mile Beach) and enjoyed the water.
In Jamaica, we went on the Rafting on the Martha Brae River shore excursion, which I did last year. It is so relaxing and enjoyable, Here's my little tip for you: at the end of the raft ride, you end up at a little bar. Give the lady at the bar $2 and ask her to get you some ackee and saltfish, which is the Jamaican national dish. I have wanted to try it for some time, and I really liked it!
Finally, Labadee! My husband and I went on a jet ski, which was a lot of fun! We spent the rest of the time at Nellie's Beach, our favorite spot which I highly recommend to you. Another tip, there is great snorkeling -- at a depth where you can stand in the water -- in the reef area under the cabanas at Nellie's Beach. You don't have to go on a fancy snorkel tour to enjoy seeing sea urchins, brain coral, sea fans and loads of beautiful fish! Another tip in Labadee -- if you shop, only go to the market in the building with the orange walls and red roof. They have beautiful things in there. Please avoid the aggressive vendors at the artisan village -- or you will end up hurling curses at them. Anyhow, we were the first off the ship and the last back on in Labadee. Just can't get enough of it.
Our cabin: We had Cabin 3020, an outside oceanview stateroom. Not the best but certainly not the worst. The beds were basically 2 cots put together and very hard to get the luggage beneath, and the pillows were not the fluffy cruise ship pillows I am used to. But I thought there was ample storage. The only bad thing about our cabin was when the room steward forgot to make up our room one night, which I thought was odd because that's his only job. He came to our door the next morning, feeling guilty and bearing his business card in case we needed to complain, but we did not.
Dining: Again, not the worst food, but not the best either. The best meals I had were the seafood pasta and the sole muniere. The lobster on formal night was salty, and the rack of lamb on the other formal night was fatty. The duck had so much fat I had to order something else. The cold fruit soups, which I love, were inconsistent -- with ice chips one night, lukewarm the next. The food in the Windjammer was just OK, and much smaller than the buffet on a larger ship. Every day they'd have a different ethnic theme. The Windjammer closes after dinner, so if you want a snack you have to go to the Park Cafe next to the Solarium Pool, and the food there neither looks nor tastes great. But the service in the dining room was outstanding. We had 8:00 seating and never left the dining room later than 9:15!!
I would also like to mention that the ship had a wonderful Passover seder on board complete with a buffet.
Let me mention one small problem I encountered. I believe that, as a Diamond Member, I am entitled to a backstage tour, but my Crown and Anchor representative said that the backstage tour was only for Diamond Plus members on the Grandeur because it is a smaller ship. I think this is unfair ... a perk is a perk! Nevertheless, we enjoyed the Diamond Lounge and its amenities, but thought the concierge, Inna, was either cold or ditzy -- we couldn't figure it out.
Entertainment; The production shows were high energy, and there was always a live band, but some of the song choices were poor. The Tango Buenos Aires show was kinda boring. There were singing and comedy acts -- most of which I had seen before -- like Karen Grainger, the female impressionist, and the ventriloquist with the dinosaur dummy in the egg. The Rosario Strings duo were very, very good, as were the other bands that performed. I avoided the piano player in the Schooner Bar whenever possible -- he was pathetically awful. He could not take requests, and did not know tunes or lyrics. He inevitably always had a guest standing beside him coaching him. This was unfortunate. Since a new group of aerialists came onboard, they performed once in the centrum and were incredible. Also, the farewell crew show was the best I had ever seen! Another beautiful touch was, on the final night, a tribute to Baltimore and the Star Spangled Banner, and a salute to our veterans and first responders. It all ended with us singing "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me" and shaking the hand of the person next to us and wishing each other a safe journey home.
Disembarkation was as quick and easy as embarkation! Quick and orderly!
In summary, this is a friendly ship with excellent service. Take advantage of the homey, relaxing small ship experience while you still can! Read Less