This is our second cruise out of Baltimore, and I will mention one word of caution if you’re driving to Baltimore. Rush hour on interstate highways into and around Baltimore begins at about 12:01 A.M and ends at about 11:59 P.M, so be prepared for some traffic slowdowns at just about any time of the day or night. Boarding and disembarking in Baltimore was probably the easiest of any cruise ships’ “home ports” we have used. The RCCL shore-side staff were most courteous and very helpful.
The ship’s staff were always friendly and many went out of their way to accommodate our needs and wants. One example of these folks going above and beyond: During our first dinner in the MDR, my wife asked for bread sticks. She was informed that they did not serve these. However, the next evening at dinner, and every day thereafter, a plate of bread sticks appeared at our table. I can only guess that our waiter had these specially prepared in the on-board bakery. The bread sticks themselves were insignificant. However the fact that they were served at all speaks volumes about the wait staff’s commitment to customer service.
We usually ate dinner in the MDR, and breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer buffet. Although we never left hungry, the meals in the MDR ranged from “very good” to “adequate”. Some of our dissatisfaction stemmed from the meals we selected, (trying new & different foods), but there also seems to be a definite lowering of the quality and in some cases quantity of food. One example is the size of the lobster tail, which over our 16 years of cruising has diminished in size to the point that the one served on the Grandeur seemed no bigger than a large shrimp. The Windjammer provided enough of a selection that no one should have left dissatisfied. Instead of one long serving counter, there were a number of different islands serving various dishes. So one could go directly to, for example, the soup section, or the hot food section without waiting in a long line.
The ship itself was always spotlessly clean, and we could see no real signs of wear and tear. Our room steward worked tirelessly to keep our room clean and twice daily brought a supply of ice. This is only one of two ships we have sailed on where there was no ‘fridge in the room. Since most ships’ fridges are stocked with overpriced drinks, leaving very little room for anything else, it really wasn’t an issue, especially with the availability of ice. If you sail on this ship take the opportunity to visit the Viking Crown Lounge on deck 11. The 360 degree view is spectacular. And, when they're available, the $5.95 martinis are great.
The nightly entertainment in the theatre was the usual mixed bag featuring guest performers as well as the ship’s own orchestra, singers and dancers. Some of the shows we liked, some were just O.K. This is such a subjective thing and I will only say that all of the performers were very talented, and we only left one show early, (Tango Argentina), because, to us, it was just not worth an hour of our time.
Some final observations:
The staff were all very helpful and accommodating, but when watching them in an unguarded moment, many appeared stressed and overworked. Perhaps RCCL has put too much WOW into building their new ships and not enough WOW into looking after the welfare of their staff.
Some of the staff at the Customer Service desk seemed a bit overly impressed with their own rank and status. In several cases responding to my question in a condescending manner, much like one would speak to a four year old, before I had fully asked it. I then had to repeat my question a second time to elicit an intelligent answer.
In our 16 years of cruising, I’ve noticed that the percentage of our fellow passengers behaving in a somewhat rude, arrogant, “me first” manner has increased substantially. The majority of passengers we have met are wonderful people who it has been our privilege to know, and interact with. However, many more now seem to be from the “ME” generation who were never taught, or do not care to act courteously, with any consideration for others. We’re a small community on a big ocean folks, so let’s be kind to each other.