ABOUT ME: I always feel that knowing the background of the reviewer is important for determining whether their opinions are likely to match your own, so here it goes. I am a professional in my mid-30s. This was my fourth cruise, all of which have been on Royal Caribbean. The first was in 2004 on the Radiance in a Grand Suite/Inside Cabin (moved to my own cabin after sharing with my parents). The second was in 2005 on the Navigator in a Promenade cabin. The third was in 2006 on the Radiance in a Junior Suite. Until this cruise, I did not participate in any onboard activities. My prior cruises were also always with my family. This time, I was accompanied by my boyfriend, who was cruising for the first time (first cruise not on an aircraft carrier, that is.)
OVERVIEW OF CRUISE: This was a five night cruise out of Tampa, stopping in Key West and Cozumel, with two sea days.
DISEMBARKATION: We had priority disembarkation because I am a Platinum member. We arrived shortly after 12 and were able to go directly to the desk. Within 10 minutes after checking in, we were allowed to board. Rooms, however, were not available until about 1:15.
CABIN: We had a balcony cabin on the seventh deck (7114). It was the typical small, but well organized balcony cabin towards aft. The closet had a set of drawers inside. The balcony did not have glass right to the floor, like on the newer ships, but this wasn't an issue. The balcony could hold two chairs and a small table.
The room included a small, older looking TV. Unfortunately, we were unable to check our SeaPass account via TV, like on the newer ships.
There were two outlets in the room, next to the vanity. I could not locate any outlets in the lavatory.
There were a couple of issues with the lavatory, however. Several times the toilet was on some sort of time delay. When the plunger was pushed, it would sometimes take as long as 10 minutes to actually flush, other times, it wouldn't flush at all. This was apparently a problem throughout our deck at least. Also, regulating the water temperature in both the sink and the shower was quite difficult. The sink especially was hazardous, as it would suddenly become scaldingly hot, despite being all of the way to cold.
Another strange issue was that there were no instructions on the telephone. We wanted a wake up call and the book said to follow the instructions on the phone. We simply called the operator and were able to schedule it. Admittedly, we failed to mention this omission to out room steward.
ACTIVITIES: This was the first time that I participated in any onboard activities to any great extent. We attended the Quest game show and competed in name that tune contests, among other things. I was rather surprised at the total crappiness of the prizes awarded for most things. I don't expect great things, but pens - really? Just participating was fun, though. Our tablemate came in second for Karaoke Superstar, which was quite impressive, since the woman who won was astoundingly good.
My boyfriend also did the rock climbing wall, which he enjoyed very much. He did not get to go until the last day, however, because there were often long lines. The staff, while certainly professional, were less than friendly. When you're hanging 200 feet above sea level, I'll take competence over chumminess any day.
The cruise director was far less cloying than the cruise directors on prior cruises. He had a very dry sense of humor and came across as a witty, cool guy, rather than a Kathy Lee Gifford, too much peppiness type.
CASINO: This is one of my favorite parts of a cruise. I don't gamble big, but I like to do it often. The casino staff, with a couple of notable exceptions, were not nearly as friendly or helpful as they have been on prior cruises. The casino is also very small, even for a cruise ship. There were approximately 8 tables, many of which were rarely open. They also did not have a Let It Ride table. The slots were about as bad as I have experienced anywhere. There were few of them and they were very, very tight. I recommend boning up on your table games. One nice addition were video blackjack and three card poker machines, with a video dealer and five player stations. The low $2 per hand minimum made them very popular.
BAR: I found the drink prices to be utterly ridiculous on this cruise. Royal Caribbean's prices have gone through the roof. A strawberry daiquiri was $10.00. I also found the bar staff to be more desperate. Everywhere you would go, someone would be hounding you to buy a drink - not asking if you would like one, but actively trying to get you to buy something. I was a bit turned off by the aggressiveness.
DINING: This was the greatest surprise of the cruise. I was disappointed that the ship did not have specialty restaurants, but with the quality of the dining room food, we didn't miss it at all. Out of the five nights, on only one night did we not like our entrees. Our server offered to replace it, but nothing else looked particularly appetizing. I had a grilled vegetable risotto. The saffron flavor was overpowered by an anise taste. My boyfriend had the strip steak, which was very fatty. Otherwise, however, the food was outstanding and was more than forthcoming.
Our wait staff was probably the best I have had on a cruise. Marina, our waitress went the extra step in every way. On the last night, she had the chef make a special chocolate cake for my boyfriend, who is allergic to peanuts, because she remembered how much he liked chocolate. She would also bring extra appetizers, entrees and desserts for the table to try.
The Windjammer was okay, but not a great improvement over prior cruises. The menu was extremely limited.
The room service menu was miniscule. I don't mind the idea of paying extra for late night delivery, but there was nothing particularly appealing. Literally, there were about 12 items on the menu. On newer ships, you may be able to order dining room meals, but I did not see this option anywhere.
STAFF: While our wait staff and room steward were very nice, the overall staff friendliness was a bit down from what I am used to. The Purser's Desk was constantly overwhelmed, with long lines and harried workers. This was likely due to the fact that you couldn't check your account balance on the television. There was also no Guest Relations desk, so all questions went through the Purser. Finally, the pressure to buy something, everywhere you turned, was a but off-putting.
ENTERTAINMENT: The quality of the entertainment, as far as the bands and whatnot around ship, was substandard. I have never gone to a production show, but we were going to on this cruise. We started to go in, a few minutes late, but stood outside to watch for a moment. I may have caught an off night, but it appeared to be a cross between a drag show and a high school musical. Let's just say, it wasn't to my taste.
MISCELLANEOUS: The most annoying part about this ship was the hidden restrooms. Some public decks appeared to not have any at all. On others they were hidden in odd hallways that were not well signed. If you are on the Grandeur and need to go, I suggest that you start looking for a restroom sooner rather than later.
EMBARKATION: We had priority embarkation, which was good because we had a 10:30 flight. It went smoothly, except for a delay due to two foreign nationals who apparently failed to appear at the immigration desk. I don't know what type of preparation is made for this process, but it was a good hour delay getting off ship due to their failure to appear.
OVERALL ASSESSMENT: I know that my review lists several annoyances, etc., but they are for informational purposes only. We really enjoyed our time on the Grandeur and would definitely go back if the price and timing were right. My nest cruise, I will probably go on a Radiance class or larger, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Grandeur.
Nice location, close, but not too close to elevators. Some vibration, but not bad. Very quiet. Lavatory had some water temperature issues.
This is one of my favorite ports. On a prior cruise, I took the trolley tour, which gives you a great overview of Key West. This time, we struck out on our own, walking up Duval Street to the Butterfly Conservatory and Southernmost Point. It was a great day, but remember to wear your sunscreen.
Cozumel is one of my least favorite ports. I consider it just a dirty tourist trap. We went on the Tulum Ruins Express excursion, as my boyfriend had not been there. It was well organized and efficient. Only one person got sick on the ferry ride to Playa del Carmen, which was a vast improvement over the last time I took this excursion. We were also entertained by the older woman sitting behind us who kept complaining about the fact that the Mexican commuter ferry that we were on had all of it's signs in Spanish first.
Upon returnt to Cozumel (the ferry takes off from the ship's pier, but leaves you off in downtown), we walked around and did a little bit of shopping. The prices were pretty bad, but we bought some gifts for the folks back home.