Grandeur of the Seas Cruise Review by dodolin
- Sail Date: March 2015
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
My review includes our 10-day Western Caribbean cruise on Grandeur of the Sea and some comparison to Carnival Pride. Both ships are based out of Baltimore. They are both the lesser ships in their fleet, if not the least (smallest and oldest). And they run similar itineraries.
Our Grandeur of the Sea cruise is from 3/31/2015 - 4/10/2015. It started about 3 days before the Spring Break and covers most of the Spring Break. Stops include Labadee, San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Martin. We were in St. Thomas on Easter Sunday, St. Martin on Easter Monday.
Our last Carnival Pride cruise was on Thanksgiving 2013.
I read most of the recent cruise critic reviews about Grandeur of the Sea prior to sail. I found them helpful in set my expectations. After we boarded the ship, I found that I agree with most of the reviews. Even on some extremes ones, good or bad, I can see the reviewers point of views.
Since we live only about 30 min away from Baltimore, we arrived around 1 o'clock on the embarkation day. Both of my kids went to school in the morning. We registered online and had our set and sail documents printed. The process went smoothly.
The embarkation process are similar on both ships. Parking at the cruise port was $15 a day. Once we pulled in the lot, we were directed to drop our luggages from our car directly, then went parking.
Outbreaks are the bane of cruising these days. Grandeur of the Seas had a couple of outbreaks of Norovirus in the prior trips. We observed that they are very cautious with cleanness. One example is that my 9 year old son got sea sick during dinner. He had to find the bathroom. He couldn't hold until he reached the bathroom stall and threw up right behind the bathroom entrance. They immediately quarantined him and the area. My son was released once he was examined by the doctor and confirmed it only was sea sick. We heard another guest was a confirmed case of Norovirus and was quarantined in the cabin. Over the duration of the cruise, there is no outbreak of Norovirus.
My 3 yearly old had fever first 2 days on the cruise. The 102F fever started around midnight the first night and ran about 2 days. Temperature was very persistent. I think it was just the younger kid has weaker immune system and was exposed to a new bug. Despite the crew try very hard to keep the ship clean, I felt the cleanness of this ship was ok.
Our cabin is 3034, an foreword exterior cabin on the sea side. Room is very small though it can stay 4 people. Two pull-down bed can be dropped from ceiling. It is amazing that there is even a small sofa. The closet is very small and it is the only storage space big enough to put our 2 large suitcases. After I put two two luggages, there was very little space left in the closet to hang cloth. The beds are very low and luggage cannot be easily fit under the beds. You have to lift the bed up then shuffle your luggages in. The positives are the following. Bathroom decoration looks updated. Closet is not compartmentalized and give more flexibility in terms how the space can be utilized. On the desk, there are actually 3 120 power outlets. I never needed to use the power strip I packed. The flat screen TV is mounted on the wall. Quite a few life vests in our room were extremely gross.
Compare with with Grandeur of the Sea, Carnival Pride's basic cabins are bigger. Though bigger, it was not necessarily more functional. There was no love seat in the room and a lot of the extra space was used for closet. The closet was bigger, but it was compartmentalized in a fixed way. TV and bathroom were both older. On the positive side, the beds were the right height that the luggages can be easily slid under.
There are three categories of restaurants for main meals. Specialty dinning, main dinning room (Great Gatsby) and buffet (Windjammer). I feel that on Grandeur of the Sea, there is little difference in food quality between main dinning room and buffet. It is like they lower the quality of the main dinning, up the quality in buffet and found a common ground for both places. In fact, most of the food served in the main dinning room can also be found in the buffet in bulk quantity and less attractive setting. I am not sure if it was purposely done so the main dinning room would be less busy. It made the main dining room less appealing.
Snacks can be found at Park Cafe when Windjammer is closed. Park Cafe's snack can be pretty good looking, especially in the afternoon.
Formal dinning was on the 2nd day and the 9th day.
Compared to Pride, Grandeur of the Sea's Great Gatsby opens longer time. It opens daily for breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, it has smoked salmon. Both my husband and I found breakfast more relaxing in the main dinning room. On GofTS we did not experience the musical server dancing events common in the Pride's main dining room. Its just food. My husband hates when the servers run around and dance during dinner since it seems forced and demeaning to the servers with some variation of the typical announcement.
On Pride, restaurants have clear gap between each category. The buffet restaurant looks similar to cheap cafeteria. Plastic cup stacked high. Food is noticeably simpler and cheaper than main dinning room, therefore not as nice as RC's Windjammer. However, food in Pride's main dinning room is better than Grandeur of the Sea's Great Gatsby. This comes as a surprise given RC's reputation and price point. Over the last 10 years we have noticed marked incremental improvements in Carnival food quality. The overall choices and presentation are now superior. My husband (a business process engineer) believes this is reflective a superior executive execution on the restaurant side of things.
In conclusion, buffet food was better on GofTS, main dinning food was better on Pride.
There were not many entertaining activities on GofTS. A lot of activities related profit generation, Bingos, spa sales, workout sales, painting sales, jewelry sales, etc . Not many entertaining activities.
Overall, the stand up comedians, the bands and the piano bar pianist were more entertaining on Pride.
What I enjoyed most about our cruise is its excellent itinerary. It was excellent not only because the stops were good, but also the time we stopped at the port was excellent. Arriving port early in the morning meant that we could enjoy the gentle sun in the morning at a beach. Plus, we were always the first ship arrived the port, therefore we would have a solid full day at the port and capture the best spots. Finally, there were never more than 3 ships at port. The islands were not very congested.
(Carnival Pride's itinerary was subpart comparing to Grandeur of the Sea.)
Columbus Cove was the best beach for young kids because it had gentle waves. We took the tram to its last stop, took a short uphill walk and through a little village of local souvenir shops, then arrived the Columbus Cove. It was the farthest beach. The lunch line was shorter. Independence of the Sea was here the same day as we were. Since we arrived first, there was no problem for us to find a nice shady spot close to the beach to put our beach chairs. We noticed that beach chairs were out around 1 o'clock and beaches got very crowded. We read about the local people were aggressive with souvenir sales. Yes, they would try to engage you a conversation in all kinds of way. However, if you give them no eye contact, you could pass the shouts without further bothering. And they moved on to the next passengers behind you easily. In my opinion, the aggressiveness was not as bad as Jamaica where if you do not engage any eye contact at all, they would actually poke you by saying, "are you ignoring me? do you think you are better?". Overall, Labadee was an excellent beach stop.
We came to Old San Juan around 3pm. We had been here before so we simply walked around the old town. The alleys reminded me of many European towns. Charming. There was a CVS close to the port. Also a Marshall in town. I forgot to pack my 9 year old kid's swimming trunk (right, how could have I?). My learning experience in this - no places sell kids' swimming suit, not on ship, not in Labadee. Marshall was my only luck and did not price gouge.
My AT&T worked excellent here. ETL was at excellent speed.
Pina Colada was excellent in San Juan. We found a random restaurant on the street (not even in yelp) and ordered. The pina coloda was flavorful and generous with Rum. I would not skip Pina Colada in San Juan.
We are quite familiar with St. Thomas. Secret Harbor is our favorite so we wasted no time and went straight there. We used the taxi service, Petra's Cab, at the taxi dispatch area. $10 per person to Secret Harbor. Again, there were only two ships in port and we were the first one so we arrived the beach at a good time. Paddle boards at the dive shop ran out easily. We waited for 2 hours to get one. Secret Harbor's beach is very small. Our driver told us if there are too many ships, Secret Harbor can get too crowded. "It is no longer a secret." My AT&T worked excellent here. Please don't go there as they will need to change the name.
Last time (and first time) we were in St. Martin, we joined the cruise excursion (Celebrity) to tour the French capital of Marigot. We found the experience very expensive and lame. Therefore, I spent hours before we pulled out of the port of St. Thomas and searched fiercely for things to do in St. Martin. At the end of the 2 hours, I still couldn't come up with a decision.
We docked in St. Martin on Easter Monday. It is a holiday and not many shops were open. As we walked out the terminal, saw the rental car sign and we decided to rent a car. The whole island is 35 square miles. If we drive a car non-stop, we can finish the whole circle in 1.5 hours. It turned out to be a splendid idea for us.
Here is what we did. From Philipsberg, we drove northwest and stopped at Simpson Bay. Then we headed to Marigot. We first drove around the streets in Marigot. Most of the shops were closed. Those that were open were very touristy so we didn't even park and moved on to Grand Case. We almost drove passed Grand Case. From the major road, Grand Case looks like only a few stores big. Fortunately, we were curious enough (or bored enough). and drove the streets of Grand Case several times. (Streets were one way. If you missed a turn, you would have to make a whole circle back to the turn. ) Finally we found a charming spot by the ocean. There were about 6 BBQ shops overlooking some small piers. The water was tranquil. We had a wonderful lunch here. Not because of the lunch was super tasty. The view and the atmosphere was priceless. I felt like we were in a post card. Most shops were closed, but one little cloth shop next to the BBQs. This shop has the cutest dresses and is operated by a couple of French women. I love French people's taste in clothing! After lunch, we moved on to Oriental Beach. We found Oriental Beach a very exciting place (French Rivera in Caribbean indeed). It is a huge bay dotted with a lot of bars and their bright colored umbrellas. At around 2pm, the sun was too harsh for us. We also checked out the Oyster Pound and Little Bay beach then headed back to the cruise port to return the car at 3pm.
For us, renting a car was the right solution. I will do the same next time. The signage on the island is excellent with signs directing you to all major destinations and cruise port. The roads layout is very simple. GPS is not really necessary.
Passengers are mainly older couples and are within 3 hour driving distance from Baltimore. We are here because kids are having Spring Break, but the whole ship only has about 200 kids. When we took the Thanksgiving cruise on Pride, there were about 800 kids. Adult to kid ratio was almost 1:1.
Better main dining food with more silly singing and dancing.
More small bars and dance areas.
Younger demographics with may more children.
More fun activities and better entertainments
Grandeur of the Sea:
Better buffet food choices.
Quiter ship overall.
Superior itinerary with better port times.
I feel Grandeur of the Sea is for people who prefer quieter environment. And I feel there is great value this kind of more classic ship can offer. I would have enjoyed the ship a lot more if I didn't have my kids with me and I, too, could enjoy quieter activities. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed our trip due to excellent itinerary.
- Read more Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas Reviews
- Read Cruise Critic's Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas Review
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