My wife and I went on a 10 night cruise on this ship from Baltimore to the eastern Caribbean, March 30 – April 9, 2016. We booked a junior suite with a balcony because we knew we would be at sea a total of 5 days and didn’t want to be cramped in a small cabin in the interior of the ship or on the lower levels. This was the first time we had not stayed in a small cabin on the lower levels of a ship.
The suite consisted on a king size bed, 2 nightstands, small sofa, coffee table, a chair, dresser, closet, and a table and 2 chairs on the balcony. The suite had plenty of room for the two of us and a lot more storage space than I expected. The bed was very comfortable and the suite had a coffee maker and small fridge but no microwave or iron. There were only two AC outlets in the suite that we could find and none in the bathroom. The bathroom was pretty decent size and had an almost full size tub vs. a skinny shower stall. Our suite/room attendant was very friendly and did an excellent job, and our suite was made up at least twice a day.
One “perk” I was not aware of that came with booking a junior suite: when we got to the cruise terminal and I saw the lines to check in, after we had gone through security, I thought we would be standing in line for half an hour to an hour. However, because we had booked a suite (even though it was only a junior suite), we were directed to a separate line where we went ahead of everyone else and got checked in right away.
The ship was commissioned in 1996 so it is one of the older, and also smaller, ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet. It was refurbished several years ago, in 2012 I believe, but there were places where the ship is showing its age. The paint was peeling on our balcony and the caulk around the patio door and frame was dried, cracked and pulled away from the door and frame in many places. Workers did some scraping and repainting on our balcony during the cruise, but there were some places where they either missed or didn’t have enough time to repair.
One day I noticed a lot of dust on the dresser and saw that the ceiling AC vent was completely blocked with dust, which I cleaned out. Several days later, the AC stopped working completely and it got hot in the suite very quickly. The maintenance personnel were quick to respond and had it working within several hours. We returned to the suite right after the technician got it working, and when we walked in, he was on the phone with someone. I heard him tell whoever he was talking to that it was “the same problem as the last time,” so this was not the first time the AC in this suite had failed.
Our suite was on deck 8 and underneath the Solarium, and every morning around 5:30, I was awakened by banging, thuds, pounding, and what sounded like furniture being dragged across the floor. Luckily, I brought ear plugs and that, along with a pillow over my head muffle the noise enough that I was able to go back to sleep. If we ever cruise on this ship again, we’ll get a junior suite on deck 7, if available.
The food on the ship was very good and our wait staff in the main dining room, Rolando and Kiki, were absolutely excellent. However, the free coffee at the Windjammer and Solarium Cafés was pretty bad, and the coffee in the suite was even worse. The coffee in the main dining room was better and “tolerable,” but not what I am used to drinking. I didn’t purchase a beverage package where I could get the premium coffee and I wish I had.
Each day a newsletter called “The Compass” is published and it lists the weather, activities for the day, and any information pertinent to ports of call. However, there were several errors some other passengers and I noticed concerning the locations and times of the movies. In one edition of the newsletter, the name of the ship’s captain was incorrect. In another edition, it said we would be arriving back in Baltimore on a Wednesday but the correct day was Saturday. Clearly, the newsletter was not carefully proof read before it was distributed.
The gym was small for the number of passengers and didn’t have much of a variety of exercise equipment. Most of the time I went to work out, I had to wait for a particular machine I wanted to use and sometimes never got to use it because of others waiting ahead of me.
Many people we met had sailed numerous times, both on this ship and other, larger Royal Caribbean and other cruise line’s ships. Some of the younger folks who had been on the larger ships said they were kind of bored being at sea so many days because the Grandeur doesn’t offer as much as the larger ships. That may be true, but it seemed like there was always something going on to keep busy and my wife and I had very little idle time. I’m not going to list all of the amenities that the ship has to offer because this review would be way too lengthy and the information can be obtained on the cruise line’s web site.
When we boarded the ship, our suite was not ready so we, and most everyone else, were lugging around our carry luggage. We did not know it until after we got to our suite and read some documents, but we could have had stored everything we were carrying on one of the decks on the ship. I don’t recall exactly where now, but I’m sure one of the crew members would have been able to advise us. Just an FYI for first time cruisers.
One activity I did that I really enjoyed was a behind the scenes tour of the ship. I think the cost was $150 per person and lasted about 2 and a half to three quarters of an hour (even though it was only supposed to last 2 hours). I found it very interesting and worth the cost. However, I realize that something like this might not be everyone’s “cup of tea” and/or the type of an activity they’d be willing to pay that much per person for.
Despite the few negatives I mentioned, my wife and I would go on another cruise on this ship. The suite was very nice and after having stayed in one for the first time, I’ll never go back to an interior or lower level cabin. The crew was very friendly and helpful, the food was very good, as was the entertainment, and there was always some activity going on that we enjoyed doing.
Included in overall review of the ship above.
We did the "Tall Ship Experience" excursion aboard the Mercedes of Amsterdam, a large sail ship. What I liked about this excursion is that crew allowed the passengers, who wanted to, to help raise and lower the sails. The excursion was a great way to see the perimeter of the island and a couple of the crew members talked about the history and current status of the island. We got fairly close to the St. Maarten airport. We could see people hanging onto the fence in a public park adjacent to the end of the runway as jets would take off. They were hoping that the wind created by the jet engines would make them go horizontal while hanging onto the fence. Unfortunately, no jets powerful enough to make this happen took off while we were there, but we could see people getting "sand blasted" by the dirt and debris. What was very neat to watch was the planes coming in for a landing. It almost looked like they were going to land on the beach from the angle we were viewing them from.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We rented a beach bed/cabana on Adrenaline Beach and spent the day there. We walked to the beach from the ship and on the way there, we encountered pushy vendors which we were not expecting on a cruise line's private island. The beach was nice and there were about 18 to 20 beach beds on the beach. Towels, beach mats, and a cooler with 6 large bottles of water, and cabana service came with the rental. The only negative about the beach was that there were rocks in the water about 10 to 15 ft. from the shore, but then after that, it was smooth sand on the bottom. The rocks weren't sharp or pointed, but if you have tender feet, you may want to wear swim shoes or use a beach mat to get over them.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Mega Bay Beach
The beach, with its white sand, was beautiful and the water was crystal clear and you can easily see the bottom. We were further down the beach from where the concessions and beach equipment rental facilities were, and it was not crowded at all. However, the water was a little cooler than what I expected for a tropical island. But, it was only the first week in April when we were there. Some of the fish were not afraid of people and would swim right up to you and frequently brush your legs. This can be a little unnerving at first if you’re not aware of this/expecting it. Probably the neatest thing was watching the pelicans dive bomb for fish. However, they came very close to people in the water a couple of times when they dove into the water.View All 265 Magen Bay Beach Reviews
Carabali Rainforest Park Horseback Riding.
The pre-ride instructions were very good and the guides did a good job of matching riders to the horses. The ride through the park was great. It was not as hot and humid as I had expected, but we were there the first week of April, so it wasn’t yet the hottest part of the year. We took a 30 minute break/rest about halfway through the ride next to a flowing stream/creek (the guides called it a river), where we were able to buy refreshments. The tour guides were excellent and made sure that everyone stayed safe.
I was very impressed with the guide in the back of the pack. There was a mentally challenged young man in our group who had been put on the bus by himself by his grandmother. He was frightened when he first got on the horse and started to panic when the horse started moving around. When he started yelling, the horse became frightened and also was starting to panic. The tour guide quickly took control of the horse and did an excellent job of calming both the horse and the young man. In no time, the young man was laughing and having a good time and the guide stayed with him throughout the entire ride.View All 27 Horseback Riding Reviews