Grandeur of the Seas Tampa - Key West - Cozumel January 5-10, 2009
Day 1 - Tampa, FL My husband and I flew into Tampa the day before the cruise departed. We arrived in Tampa around 11AM and took the shuttle to the LaQuinta Inn. We got to the hotel and there were a few shuttles there taking people to the port for a Carnival cruise. Our shuttle driver asked if we were going on a cruise as well, we told him we were and he told us to talk to the coordinator who was there so we could secure a shuttle ride to the port with them. We did just that, $20 to take the two of us to the port and another $20 to take the two of us to the airport after the cruise. We had been up since 3AM, so we checked in, got lunch at the IHOP next door and then took a nap. When we woke up we were planning to go over to the International Plaza across the way for some shopping and dinner, but we then realized that it was Sunday and that most malls close at 6pm. They did. We went over anyway and there was a lovely outdoor area with all of the restaurants. We ate at Champps Restaurant and Bar. It was a good meal and a good atmosphere as one of the NFL playoff games were on. After dinner we retired to our room to relax and then head to bed, we had another big day ahead of us!
Day 2 - Embarkation in Tampa Thanks to the nap we took yesterday, we were up at 6AM! We decided to head over to IHOP and got some breakfast. After we were through it was about 7AM and we decided to go back to the hotel and to get ready, pack things back up and put the Royal Caribbean luggage tags on the bags. We had to be down in the lobby for 11AM for our shuttle so at 10:45 we went down to the front desk and checked out and then proceeded to wait outside for the shuttle as the weather was so nice! The shuttle arrived around 11:15AM and we loaded the luggage and were off to the port. We stopped at another hotel to pick up a few more passengers and arrived at the port around 11:45. This is where things got sticky! We got our luggage off of the shuttle and had no idea where to put our luggage! This was our 5th cruise, so this wasn't new to us, but there weren't signs anywhere. We saw a porter down the walkway a bit and headed that way. A porter took our bags and we were off to the terminal. We walked right in, through security and into the check-in line. We waited about 10 minutes and were finally next in line! Checking in was painless. We were assigned to group #6 to board the ship; they hadn't started boarding yet so we took a seat and enjoyed some cookies and lemonade. Finally, around 12:15 they started priority boarding. Then, they called groups 3, 4, and 5. After five things grew silent and all of a sudden they made an announcement that they were boarding #7! So we enter the already huge line and continued to wait, and wait, and wait. This was the lengthiest embarkation I have ever witnessed! It seemed like it took hours to finally get our SeaPass picture taken and another few hours to actually get onto the ship. By the time we were finally onboard, it was after 1PM. We proceeded directly to our stateroom. We were excited as this was our first balcony! We were in cabin 7644, it was starboard side and in the aft of the ship. On our way up there we noticed our luggage was already off of the elevators, so we decided to grab a bite to eat in the Windjammer and then come back to the room to see if they had delivered the bags. Sure enough, after lunch, our bags were at our door so we began to unpack. We also met our cabin attendant, Lincoln, who promptly stated that he knew our door wasn't closing right and that he would report it. Muster was at 4:30PM, so we had plenty of time. We finished unpacking and decided to check our dining room assignment. We had requested a two-top but ended up at an eight-top. We hoped that we would have some lovely tablemates! We went back to the room and got our lifejackets and were off to station 9. Muster was pretty painless; there were only a few stragglers, so it was over in a flash. We returned our lifejackets to the cabin went off to get a drink and then settled into our balcony to celebrate sail away. The sunset over Tampa was gorgeous; we knew we were finally on vacation. Around 7PM Captain Hempstead made an announcement that in a half an hour we would be passing under a bridge. We wanted to see this so at 7:25 we went up to deck 9 and we were minutes away from clearing the bridge. It grew pretty silent as the ship started under the bridge, once the tallest part of the ship passed through people were cheering and clapping, it was a sight! We had late seating dinner and the show was before dinner for us. It was the usual welcome aboard show featuring the band, the singers and dancers and a comedian. It ended up running late so we decided to leave at 8:30 and dash off to dinner. Our 6 other tablemates were there and they gave us a warm welcome. We met our waiter Roschman from India and our assistant waiter Rhoderick from Philippines. They were great. There was no bar service in the dining room. Our assistant waiter got us our drinks from the bar and the head waiter was the one to come around with the after dinner drinks. Dinner was delicious and we didn't finish dessert until almost 10:30PM. We were pretty tired again so we went to the casino for a little bit, lady luck was not with us that night; we decided to call it a night.
Day 3 - Key West We woke up this morning and we were still at sea. We had breakfast on the balcony compliments of room service. We used the card in the room and set it out the night before. After breakfast we took a walk on deck 10 and noticed we were going to be approaching Key West. We went back to the cabin and went out on the balcony. While we were in the cabin maintenance knocked and tried to fix the door, but soon realized that they needed to replace the whole mechanism so they would be back while we were gone. We watched us coming into Key West, sailing past the Carnival ship and docking at the pier. It was a lot of fun. We were here from 11AM till' 6PM, all aboard was at 5:30PM. We planned to take the trolley around the island as we wanted to see the southernmost point. Clouds were heading our way and Capt. Hampstead said that we may get some showers. We went along with our plan to head out on the trolley. We walked right off the ship around 12 noon and went right to Mallory Square where the Trolleys were leaving from. The next one was leaving at 1PM as we got there right after 12:30. We looked around the square, got some ice cream and before we knew it, it was time to get on the trolley. We enjoyed the tour of the island and got off at the Southernmost Point stop. Another trolley would be along in a half an hour or so. We ventured down to the beach area where there was a pelican posing for pictures. We then walked down to the southernmost point buoy, and who would have guessed it, they decided today was the day that they were going to paint it! We got some obstructed pictures of it and headed back to the trolley stop. Back on the trolley, we returned to Mallory Square and decided to find something to eat. We ended up at Sloppy Joe's Bar. It was almost an open-air type of place and there was live music. We enjoyed a delicious sloppy joe and some drinks. After lunch we went back to the ship. We noticed that our door was fixed and we ended up on our balcony again to watch sail away. Sail away was beautiful as the sun was setting over Key West. We decided not to go to the show tonight as it was a musical production and aren't real fans of it. We got ready for dinner and arrived around 8:30. Dinner was delicious again and we enjoyed getting to know our tablemates some more. We walked around the ship a little bit after dinner, perused the shops and went back to the room. We were tired from all of the walking in Key West, so we decided to call it a night. We were glad that the next day was a day at sea, a true day of relaxation.
Day 4 - At Sea We woke up on the later side this morning and enjoyed another delicious breakfast on the balcony. We mapped out the day (which mainly consisted of relaxing) and got ready to soak up some sun on the pool deck. We stopped in the Solarium first; the pool was very chilly so we opted to go into the hot tub for a bit. After we were pruned we got a bite to eat at the Solarium cafe and then it was off to deck 10 to bask in the sun. We got a great sport near the aft of the ship, port side. There wasn't much wind so the sun was pretty hot. Around 12:30PM we went to the Windjammer to have lunch. Their selections seemed smaller than other cruises we have been on, but we found something we each liked anyway. Bar service was non-existent in the Windjammer, it was hard to get a can of soda. After lunch we went and got a frozen yogurt and went to the pool deck to watch the belly flop competition. The competition was pretty good; there were even two women who entered! After the belly flop competition we went back to the room and took a cat nap. When we awoke we discovered that it was raining so we went to the Viking Crown Lounge to enjoy a drink. We stayed for a while, met another couple, chatted with them for a bit and then we went back to the room to get ready for formal night. We dressed in our best and went to take some pictures. Dinner tonight was very good again, tonight was the night they had the lobster tail. My husband was very happy! After dinner we changed out of our formal wear and cruised around the ship going to the casino once again. And, once again, we weren't very lucky. We walked through the shops again and then went back to the cabin. I was starting to not feel well so I went straight to bed.
Day 5 - Cozumel Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling well at all today and spent most of the day in bed. We weren't planning on doing much in Cozumel as we had been before so it wasn't a real let down. My husband went off to get some breakfast and got me some crackers and ginger ale. We were in the room most of the morning when I finally mustered up the energy to take a little walk. The Independence of the Seas was docked next to us and I wanted to get a few pictures. We went up to deck 10 and I took some pictures. The fresh air was helping and I decided that I felt well enough to get off the ship. Boy was I wrong! Between feeling weak and the heat of Cozumel, I lasted about 30 minutes before I turned around to get back on the ship. We were waiting in line to get back to the ship when we heard a commotion going on behind us. An ambulance had just gone down to the pier, but we couldn't see exactly where it stopped. A few minutes later this girl comes rushing down the line crying and saying someone in her family was hurt and if we mind that she cut the line. None of us said anything; I think we were all in shock. When we got to the ship we saw the ambulance was down at the Independence so we had no idea what had gone on. Back onto the ship and back into bed it was for me. My poor husband stayed in the cabin with me and watched Batman and Ironman for the umpteenth time. Around dinner time I tried to muster up the strength to shower and go to dinner. I made it to dinner and after about 20 minutes I realized that it wasn't going to work. My husband took me back to the cabin and I insisted he go back and enjoy dinner with everyone else. He did, he even brought my meal back, but I took one look at it and fell back asleep. That was pretty much to the end of our day in Cozumel.
Day 6 - At Sea Feeling much better this morning I went with my husband to get breakfast in the Windjammer. I took it easy, but I found out how delicious the homefried potatoes were! We decided to take it easy today. We went to catch some rays and soon found out that it was pretty chilly as it was very windy outside. We retreated to the room to start packing. Around lunch time we went to the Windjammer again. Lunch was ok, the selection was still lacking. We decided to try sitting on the upper deck again, but it was too cold once again. We went back to the cabin and enjoyed the balcony which was much less windy. We got showered and went down to the Love and Marriage game show. It was a hoot! They asked a few different questions than what we have heard before. When the show was over, it was back to the room to dress for dinner. Our show was before dinner so on the way we made a few purchases at the gift shop. We went to the farewell show which featured the cruise in review dvd, singers and dancers and a magician. The magician was so-so. The cruise director listed the top 10 craziest questions he gets asked every cruise, they were the same as the last few cruises we went on. After the show we dashed off to dinner. We were so very sad to have to say good-bye to the new friends we had made as well as to our wait staff who had been exceptional! Dinner was great again, e-mails were exchanged and like that, the cruise was coming to an end. We went back to the room, changed and packed up the last minute things. We put our luggage out a few minutes before 11 and we went off to the casino. I cashed in my "Spin to Win" ticket, put my chips in the machine and ended up winning a keychain! My luck was turning up! We ended up leaving the casino up $10! Sadly, we went back to the cabin, said good-bye to the balcony and went to sleep; it was going to be an early morning.
Day 7 - Disembarkation We were up at 7AM to shower and have breakfast. We were eating breakfast around 7:30AM and they were still looking for a few non-US citizens to report. We finished breakfast and went to wait in the centrum. The people who were walking off with their luggage were waiting in line as they were still waiting for the same non-US citizens to report to the lounge. Disembarkation didn't begin until about 8:15AM. We only knew because the gangway was right behind the seats we were sitting in. We didn't hear them calling any tags and we were getting anxious as we wanted to try to get to the airport early to try to book an earlier flight home. We were expecting a pretty bad snow storm back at home so we wanted to get home before flights were cancelled. We went up to deck 5. There was no line, things were moving smoothly. Customs was a joke; they barely checked passports, that's probably why the line was moving so well. We went down to the baggage area and promptly found both of our bags. We were out the door and on our shuttle at 9:30AM. We had to wait for a few more people and then we were off to the airport. We were at the airport around 10:30AM. We were able to get earlier flights and we beat the snow storm. Unfortunately, our bags weren't as lucky but we received them the next day.
Overall: We had a good time overall but was a bit disappointed with the cruise itself. This was our 5th cruise and was our least favorite by far. Embarkation was the worst we have experienced. The ship was showing her age and some small cosmetic work could probably do wonders. We found the Windjammer to lack the qualities of the other ones we have experienced in the past. We weren't completely sold on the idea that there was not one bar server in the Windjammer. The Windjammer staff was not eager at all to get you something to drink. We did however like that there were no bar servers in the dining room, it seemed to make it easier to get drinks as on some past cruises it was hard to find your designated bar server. We especially enjoyed our wait staff; they were prompt, caring and sociable to say the least. We still love Royal Caribbean and will continue to sail with them; we were just surprised that this cruise wasn't as enjoyable as the rest.
Cabin was a little noisy at night as it was right about a lounge, but it didn't stop us from sleeping. We were the last balcony on the starboard side, so we only had one neighbor.