Grandeur of the Seas - Eastern Caribbean: Grandeur of the Seas Cruise Review by woodbridge_cruisers

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Grandeur of the Seas - Eastern Caribbean

Sail Date: November 2006
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Baltimore
Here is our review of the Grandeur 13-night repositioning cruise from Baltimore on November 19 to New Orleans on December 2, 2006.

We're a family of four Canadians  parents in our early thirties and two children, ages 4 and 6. We left Baltimore on November 19 and sailed to Bermuda, Tortola, St. Maarten, Curacao, Aruba, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We have sailed before with Royal Caribbean and Carnival.

We do all shore excursions on our own. A quick tip for all parents is to bring your own life jackets for the kids. They're not necessary in all cases but the quality of the life jackets that you're offered in some places leaves something to be desired. We've added the times we were docked and able to get off the ship. Remember, you have to be back on board 30 minutes prior to departure.

Pre-cruise We chose to drive 8 hours from our home near Toronto to Baltimore. We spent the day before the cruise in Hershey, PA, visiting Hershey's Chocolate World and More the amusement park. The kids loved the rides, visiting Santa and seeing everything decorated for Christmas. Late that evening, we drove from Hershey to the Hilton Garden Inn near the Baltimore airport. We paid $60 through Priceline for the hotel room. We paid $65 to park the car for 13 nights.

Day 1  Embarkation The kids got us up bright and early. We decided to venture to the Wal-Mart near the Arundel Mills shopping centre. We returned to the hotel around 10 am and took a taxi to the Baltimore cruise terminal. Cab fare was about $25 and the ride was about 20 minutes.

The Royal Caribbean registration process was relatively painless. We were hoping to be on the ship by 11 am. However, the Coast Guard was doing a thorough inspection of the Grandeur thereby delaying our boarding. We waited in the terminal and had some complimentary cookies, coffee and water until we were able to board at about 12 noon.

Our 4-year-old son was very excited about boarding and going on a big ship for the first time. Our daughter cruised with us last year on the Carnival Destiny so she was a veteran.

We couldn't immediately go to our rooms so we decided to head to AdventureOcean with the kids. They were having an open house and were kind enough to let our kids play until we had lunch. After the kids played, we went to our cabin, met Pretzel, our cabin attendant, dropped off our bags, and headed to the Windjammer for lunch.

After lunch, we unpacked, toured the ship and got ready for the muster drill. Sail away was at 4 pm. We watched tv before dinner and then went to the dining room. We met our fantastic waiter, Domiciano, who was an absolute gem. He performed magic tricks for our kids and tablemates. Check out the tribute video we created of our dining experience with Domaciano it's available on YouTube (look for Grandeur Magical Dinners). We ate in the dining room with the kids practically every night.

Day 2  At sea Not much happened today. It was a bit too chilly to sit by the pool. The kids enjoyed their time in AdventureOcean. This sailing had very few kids  of about 2,000 passengers on board, there were only 72 under age 18. Needless to say, our kids received very personal attention from the staff. The crew was really looking forward to this sailing because of the unique itinerary.

My wife went to the adult arts and crafts classes on every sea day and had a blast. I was even dragged to a few of the classes and had a good time. The classes became very popular by the end of the cruise. The instructor, Evelyn, who jokes that she's a retired stripper from Las Vegas, did a fabulous job of creating some very fun and great looking crafts including oil rub paintings, faux leather picture frames, sunglass cases, and wine bottle vests.

We went to the Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle, took part in a second line mardi gras parade organized by a fellow Cruise Critic member, and got dressed for our first of only two formal nights. We were expecting 3 formal nights on a cruise of this length.

Day 3 King's Wharf, Bermuda9:10 am - 2:30 pm Bermuda power tour! We were allowed off the ship just after 9 am. We had pre-purchased ferry tokens aboard the ship to save time. We got on the ferry and waited, waited, waited until about 9:45. We arrived in Hamilton just after 10 am. We jumped in a cab with our driver, Winston, who took us to caves. We visited both caves and had a fantastic time. We had brought flashlights for the kids and they were very impressed with the tour guide at the second cave who closed the lights and let the kids explore the cave with their flashlights. If you've never visited a cave, this is definitely an experience that shouldn't be missed.

Our cab driver waited for us to finish our cave tour. He then took us to the nearby Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo. We saw the fish, animals and artifacts and took many photos. The cab driver then took us back to Hamilton. Total cab fare for the day was just under $50. We had a quick walk through downtown, took the ferry back to King's Wharf and then got soaked. Although it was raining, we wanted to see the shops, glass factory and other sites. It was pouring rain but we managed to walk to most of the sites at King's Wharf. We then made it back to the ship just before 2:30 pm. The ship left at 3 pm. We had a snack, rested up and then went to dinner.

Days 4, 7, 10, 13  At sea More of the same activities  crafts, AdventureOcean, reading, games, etc. We were bored at times during the day and we found that they didn't always have interesting activities for us to do. My wife would have loved more arts and crafts. We took part in most of the AdventureOcean family activities. On sea days, we also did homework with the kids.

We recall four buffets  a gala buffet, a chocolate buffet, a Caribbean/pool buffet, and a Windjammer buffet. We managed to stay up late enough only for the chocolate buffet. It was a delight for our eyes and tummies.

We had no problems with motion except on day 13. Just after lunch that day, my wife, son and daughter were in bed due to motion sickness. Everyone was fine by dinner but we had to quickly pack that evening. We weren't the only ones with motion sickness that afternoon  the ship was rocking and rolling and there were barf bags (and cleanup crews) on the staircases.

Day 5  Road Town, Tortola12:50 pm  6:30 pm Dolphin Discovery! We had pre-booked the Royal Swim ($129 each) for the adults. We weren't sure if the kids would want to get in the water with the dolphins and didn't want to risk being out of pocket. We took a taxi to Dolphin Discovery which is located at the Prospect Reef Resort for $16 ($4 per person).

Once there, the kids saw the dolphins and immediately said that they wanted to get in the water with them. We went to register and asked if we could add the kids. We paid for the Encounter ($79 each) for the kids. We all put on our life jackets (compulsory), water shoes and headed off for our adventure. They told us that if the kids weren't comfortable in the water during the first 5 minutes, they would give us a refund.

Awesome! There's no better word to describe our experience. Our son was a bit apprehensive at first about being in the water but he was fine by the end. We bought the video (about $60) and purchased two photos of the kids.

We left at about 4:30 pm. There weren't any taxis passing by. We flagged down a van filled with children heading home from school. The driver only charged us $10. We headed back to the port area, snapped some pictures, and dressed for the second formal night which was coincidentally American Thanksgiving. We didn't find dinner to be all that special.

Day 6  Philipsburg, St. Maarten 7 am 6:30 pm Snorkel and semi-sub day. We got off the ship at about 9 am and headed toward the water taxi area. The kids stayed in AdventureOcean. There were various excursions offered. We decided to take a snorkel tour to a nearby shipwreck and reef that left at 10 am for 1.5 hours. We had a private trip that only cost us $30 per person. We purchased it from the very first booth on the left side when leaving the pier.

We headed back to the ship, grabbed the kids and had lunch. We took a taxi ($28) to Grand Case for the Seaworld Explorer trip (semi-submarine). The kids enjoyed the trip and seeing the underwater life. A diver fed the fish to attract them close to the boat. The trip cost us $100 ($30/adult and $20/child). This is a great introduction to the underwater world for kids although its too boring for anyone who has ever snorkeled or gone scuba diving.

We decided to enjoy the beach just west of the Seaworld Explorer pier in Grand Case. The water was ok but the beach itself was quite dirty with broken bottles and rubbish. We should have taken a taxi to one of the better beaches but we didn't want to tap into our time. We then returned to the ship.

Day 8  Willemstad, Curacao  7 am  5:30 pm The Sea Aquarium is amazing! We left the ship at about 8 am and headed to the Sea Aquarium by taxi ($15 total each way). We had reserved the 9 am Animal Encounters Scuba ($54 each) for the adults and the half day Kids Encounter ($45 each) for the little ones. We did not have to pay for a separate fee for admission.

We all had an amazing time. My wife and I had our first scuba experience. She was very nervous at first and I was very calm about scuba diving. Well, she had an amazing time by the end of it and wanted to go again. I, on the other hand, lost the mouthpiece twice and panicked while feeding the sharks. My wife brought me up to the surface each time before the guide came to check on me. I switched mouthpieces and I was fine for the rest of the experience but deep down I was very nervous. We fed various fish, sharks, turtles and stingrays.

The kids stayed in the Kids Encounter camp while we were scuba diving. They toured the facilities with a young guide and then had a chance to go snorkeling with us in the house reef with the shark and turtle viewing areas.

After snorkeling, we toured the aquarium and saw a dolphin demonstration.

We headed back to the ship for a late lunch in the Windjammer. We dropped the kids off at AdventureOcean and went shopping in the downtown area and at various booths set up near the waterfront.

We walked around town but unfortunately most stores were closed since it was Sunday. We took the free ferry across to town and saw the very neat floating bridge in action.

Day 9  Oranjestad, Aruba  7 am  6:30 pm DePalm Island and Waterpark. We had a great time in Aruba although we had a very bad experience early in the day. We took a taxi early in the morning from the pier to the De Palm Island ferry (about $20 for everyone). We went to the ticket counter with a coupon we had pulled off the DePalm website which allowed two kids to go free with two adults paying the full price.

The agent didn't want to honor the coupon although it appeared on their website (and continued to appear several weeks after we returned home). After the agent called her office, she was able to have the coupon honored. We paid $84/adult for the full day Passport to Paradise tour. It would have been an additional $42/child.

The new Blue Parrotfish Waterpark on DePalmIsland is fantastic. Our kids were in heaven with the waterslides, squirt guns, and the shallow pool area at the base of the water activities.

Throughout the day, we alternated between the waterpark, snorkeling with the beautiful, bright blue parrotfish, swimming at the beach, and playing in the playground. They provide you with all of the snorkeling equipment. They also had snuba and helmet diving available for an additional cost.

The all-inclusive price included a breakfast buffet and a lunch buffet. They also had burgers, hot dogs and other munchies throughout the day near the open bar.

We returned to the cruise pier by the free bus provided by DePalm at about 5 pm. We then spent some time shopping in town before heading back to the Grandeur. We were exhausted but had a good day overall.

Day 11  George Town, Grand Cayman 9 am 4:30 pm Turtles and stingrays. In the morning the whole family ventured out by tender. We'll definitely avoid booking a cruise with tendered ports in the future. Tendering really taps into your day.

Once ashore, we tried to get a cab to take us to the turtle farm. We had no luck. After wasting more than 40 minutes trying to get a cab, we asked if we could take a bus there. The cab dispatchers would try to get us to take a tour that went to Hell and other locations we didn't want to visit since we had been to Grand Cayman before. The cabs want to fill up their vans with passengers going to the same location. Finally we were told that we could just take a bus.

We walked to the bus terminal and our family of four went and came back by bus for under $10. It would have been over $80 by cab. The kids had fun at the turtle farm and got to hold some turtles. We headed back to the ship for lunch. We left the kids in AdventureOcean for the afternoon.

My wife and I tendered again for our StingrayCity tour with Captain Marvin's. The other people who had booked for 1:45 pm cancelled so we had a private tour. We got to kiss the stingrays and had an opportunity to snorkel. My wife also had a chance to drive the boat. We had a great afternoon and purchased the video of our experience for $60.

Day 12  Cozumel, Mexico10 am  5:30 pm Helmet diving and the beach. We were originally supposed to stay in Cozumel until 7 pm but the cruise compass said that wed be leaving at 6 instead. To make matters worse, we had to tender in Cozumel. The worst was at lunch when we it took us about 50 minutes to tender when we headed back to the ship.

In the morning, my wife and I had booked to go helmet diving at the pearl farm near the Barracuda Hotel. We took a taxi downtown. We had an amazing time and we would go helmet diving again. The guides were great and we bought the video and photos (about $60) as souvenirs.

We took a taxi back to the pier ($3 pp) and tendered back to the ship for lunch and to pick up the kids for an afternoon at Paradise Beach Club. We had a fun afternoon at the beach. We just swam, lay on the lounge chairs, and made sand castles. Cab fare was about $13 each way for all of us. We shopped for silver at the pier and bought some other souvenirs. We then waited for the last official tender to leave.

We dressed for dinner and headed to the dining room. About halfway though dinner, we saw flashing lights outside the window in the dining room. There was another tender. We started counting the number of people who were late  one, two,& ten, twenty, thirty It turns out that a number of people had booked excursions through the ship that returned at 6:30 pm. Well, due to the schedule change, the Grandeur left Cozumel at 6 pm. I'm sure it was a lot of fun for those folks to tender while the ship was en route.

Day 14 New Orleans Disembarkation wasn't too bad while we were waiting on the ship for our color to be called. Once we got off, it was a different story. Getting a taxi was impossible. We waited for close to an hour to take a 3-minute cab ride that cost $28 to a hotel that we could have walked to in about 10 minutes.

Once we got to the Ambassador hotel, we dropped our bags and headed to the reception desk and asked how to get to Mardi Gras World. They said that a taxi would be the best bet. About $25 later, and many phone calls to the cabbie's friends to find out how to get to our destination, we arrived at Mardi Gras World. We later found out that we could have walked from our hotel to the Riverwalk Mall and taken a free ferry across the Mississippi River to Algiers. From there, there's a free shuttle. Live and learn...

Mardi Gras World is amazing! The kids had a great time seeing all of the floats and characters. We had lots of fun posing for pictures with our favorite characters, trying on mardi gras costumes, and seeing the artists in action. We had a quick lunch while there.

We then took the free ferry back across the river, shopped at Riverwalk Mall, and went shopping for luggage on Canal Street. We then went back to our hotel and walked over to Mother's for dinner. We found the service and food quality to be below our expectations. The prices were extremely high. Even the worst food we saw on the Windjammer was at least 10 times better than what we got at Mother's.

The next morning, we decided to take a walk through the French Quarter. Well, let's just say that there's lots of broken glass on Bourbon Street on Sunday mornings. We had breakfast at the McDonald's on Canal Street, headed back to our hotel, checked out and then took a $49 cab ride to the airport. The cab was in horrible shape  late 1970's model car with engine and tire problems. We then flew back to Baltimore with a connection in Charlotte. We then started our drive back home that evening. We stayed overnight in Williamsport, PA to break up the drive.

Food In general, we didn't starve. I gained 10 pounds, my wife gained 4 pounds. There was always something we could eat. Our daughter usually ate off the adult menu (e.g., lobster, shrimp cocktail) while our son stuck to the basics  chicken fingers, burgers, etc. Our kids were spoiled each night by Domiciano (our waiter), and the assistant waiter and head waiter.

The menu items were usually ok. We don't usually eat beef or pork so we had a limited number of choices at dinner. We tried having lunch most sea days in the dining room. The menu was always the same.

Shows We found the entertainment to be so-so compared to previous Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruises. Quite a few one-hit wonders appeared throughout the two weeks. There weren't very many production shows. The magician was great  we had seen him last year on the Carnival Destiny. We found that a lot of the entertainment was geared toward an older crowd.

AdventureOcean The kids had a great time at AdventureOcean. We didn't hesitate to leave them with the staff while we took part in shore excursions that they wouldn't enjoy or that would be unsafe for them.

Luckily the kids were usually in separate age groups. They were combined at times when there weren't many kids in camp. Our daughter had an amazing time in the program. She loved the science experiments, gaga ball, talent show, pirate night and so on. Our son also loved the program, an in particular the ball pit area slides.

We also took part in various family activities  shipbuilding, bingo, talent show, and disco. We were actually the only family to show up one night in the Viking Crown Lounge for family disco. We made the best of it and had fun.

The kids had lunch and dinner a few times with the AdventureOcean staff. Dinner is available on the nights where the ship is in port past 5 pm. Lunch is available on all port days.

Photos Our family became quite fond of one of the photographers named Honeymet or Honey for short. She was ultra patient with our kids and would let us take a quick look at the photos she took. She would make sure that the kids were positioned correctly. Needless to say, several hundred dollars later, all of the photos we bought on this trip were taken by Honey. She made our trip very special and captured many of our formal and informal portraits.

Cabin We had an inside cabin with two bunk beds. A little bit more storage would have been ideal. The mattresses and linens were horrible. We really missed the Carnival bed we had the previous year. We had asked for eggcrates on all of our beds several months in advance. We were too tired to look for them on the first night but checked the next morning. There were no eggcrates. We called to inquire and were told that they don't have them on the ship. At the purser's desk we were told that we'd receive a duvet under our fitted sheets to soften the beds. Well, we bought the story and slept on the lumpy duvets for two weeks. Although we managed with our beds, we were sickened as we were leaving the ship in New Orleans. As we were about to walk off the ship and the cabin stewards were busy getting the cabins ready for the next cruise, we saw some eggcrates that were taken out of a cabin on deck 4. We were too anxious to leave the ship that we didn't raise the issue with the purser's desk.

Another problem we had was with the blankets on the upper berths. They're of an industrial type quality and extremely rough. We had to ask the cabin attendant for regular blankets for the kids that weren'tt as rough as scouring pads.

Throughout the cruise we noticed a foul odor from the bathroom even after it had been cleaned. It seems like there is a problem with the plumbing on the ship with a sewage-like smell.

Overall We really enjoyed being on the Grandeur. The size of the ship is just right for us and the layout couldn't be better. There was the expected wear and tear but nothing much to complain about given that there are so many passengers, week after week.

The price was right (under $3000 for 4 people in an inside cabin) and the itinerary was ideal with a good balance of sea days and ports. The cabin left much to be desired in terms of bedding. There were a few hiccups along the way but nothing that would prevent us from sailing on the Grandeur or on Royal Caribbean again.

We enjoyed being on a longer cruise and were very happy to have the whole family together over an extended period. Less

Published 01/24/07

Cabin review: N Interior Stateroom

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