Grandeur of the Seas Cruise Review by do_not_spindle
- Sail Date: December 2018
- Destination: Southern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Interior
Plus: We like the smaller ships. GoS is well maintained, never dirty, and has a very friendly crew. We're OK with the inside cabins, better light and sound control (usually) and we don't need a huge amount of space for 2.
1st time we had Mike as CD. Excellent job, I like his bad puns and he had some neat magic tricks (I want to know how he pulled off the last one on the last night). His asst, CC, is also good and has an enthusiastic staff. Lots of programming and games, and Mike was very creative at making sure there was at least one show a night, even when performers got (sea) sick.
Dancing: Wife & I are big dancers, Real Time Band came through (again), and they've expanded their playlist and take more requests. Their Rock-a-Rockie (Karaoake with them) were fun. The calypso band was also good, and we enjoyed the ship band when they played. Recorded "ballroom" in South Pacific was just OK - too many really old slow tunes. We gave the DJ some suggestions, so did the couple providing the dance lessons on the at sea days. The strings duet suffered an injury mid-cruise, they were easy to listen too but not playing anything danceable. We didn't see any of our dance friends from the '16 and '17 trips, made some new ones.
Entertainment: We have seen several of the acts before, still enjoy them espec when they add new material. The Motown singer (and his son) and the Beatles tribute band were excellent. I heard that the piano player/singer in the schooner bar was quite good, and very entertaining.
Service: Ship crew generally provides excellent service. Cabin and Windjammer were particularly attentive. R-Bar never hassled us for ordering ice water all the time (dancers do that).
At Sea: Lots of activities, and there were ballroom dance lessons from an excellent husband/wife pair each day as well as line dancing and other activities from the cruise staff. Mike (the CD) and CC (AD) and their team were very creative.
Ports: Excellent weather all 5 days. Just windy in St Kitts.
St. Croix was OK to disappointing, the town is small and still recovering from 2017 hurricane damage. Beach near the pier is very rocky, wear water shoes or sandals. If we go again, I'd want to take an island tour or maybe intro to scuba (the scuba shop mentioned that they must work through the ship, no walk ashore and schedule your own session).
Antigua: Took cab to Valley Church Beach. Quiet, VERY scenic. Well worth the extra time and $. Shopping in St Johns is OK.
St. Lucia: We tied up at the old pier again (a German ship was at the other pier). Good island for cheap stuff and t-shirts. Went to Marigot Bay (private cab) for a few hours. WELL WORTH IT (even if the roads are terrifying).
St. Kitts: I like this island. We did some shopping, has better liquor prices IMO vs. Antigua. Wife found a lovely ring and bracelet at one of the jewelers. Better price than we saw for similar the next day in St Marteen. Too windy for beach (same as we experienced in '17).
St. Marteen: Lots of recovery vs. what we saw a year ago (GoS was one of the 1st ships in post-hurricane). But still a ways to go. We were told French side is still in bad shape. We stayed in Phillipsburg, did some shopping and had lunch in town and then just hung out on the town beach. Liquor prices have come down vs what I recall from '17. As good as what I saw in St Kitts.
Excursions: Didn't take any, just cabs as noted above with our travel companions.
Kids: Only about 36 aboard on this trip (between holiday breaks). The ones I saw were well-behaved. Note the Solarium was open to kids on several at-sea days dues to weather.
Other passengers: We're in late 50s/early 60s and felt like we were under the median age of the passengers. Not an issue for us, and I am impressed at how well the ship and crew could accommodate passengers with limited mobility.
Weather: 1st and last days were indoors (temps), although last day was bearable and not too windy. Several at sea days were windy and decks 5 & 10 (the track) were closed. Day 11 was ROUGH. We were coming in behind a storm and dealing with what I was told later were 20 ft seas; ship pitched a lot with frequent spray up to Deck 9 & 10. Lots of people got sea sick and main dinning was maybe 1/3-1/2 missing that night. Wife & I were Ok but 3 of our 4 friends with us spent day/night in bed.
Dinning: This was a mixed bag, I'll explain:
MDR Breakfast: OK, not much change in menu (various pancake options and special omelettes). Service can be called "sedate", be aware if you are in a hurry for an early morning tour or activity.
Windjammer Breakfast: Decent selections, some nice surprises (smoked salmon for omelettes!).
MDR Lunch: We like the Tutti salads, and decent selections usually.
Windjammer: About same as breakfast. VERY attentive service. Only a zoo on Day 1 (as usual).
And now, Dinner: What has happened to MDR service? I know RCL has been economizing on food and service in the MDR, but table service for 5:30/1st seating dinner has become ATROCIOUSLY SLOW. In 2017 & 18, we had great service, and never felt ignored or rushed if we were trying to make the 7:00 show. Our companions agreed with the assessment, we think it is an understaffed MDR and less experienced staff (the experienced ones are in My Time and specialty?). Our waiter and asst were not incompetent, they were overworked and rushing a lot. Noted that they often had to make extra trips for condiments that should be pre positioned at waiter stations (mint sauce, horseradish, even ketchup, syrup at breakfasts). Service did improve to adequate when one of the MDR captains pitched in. They should not have to have done so. Also the MDR coffee at dinner consistently sucked and I'd go to WJ or Park for something tolerable. At least they figured out quickly we all drink a lot of iced tea.
MDR Food: Decent if somewhat repetitive selections. The menu has been paired down and you now order dessert with dinner instead of ordering later. Food was well prepared and presented. EXCEPTION: Be prepared to get undercooked beef; either be very specific about what you want, order it 1/2-full grade more done, or send it back. Lobster tails on 2nd formal night are ok, they get smaller each year. Order 2 or 3 to save time.
Windjammer Dinner Food: Reasonable selections and a special theme each night. Decent desserts, sometimes better than MDR.
Specialty Dinning: EXCELLENT. After some discussion with our friends and the MDR management and THEIR management, we went to the 3 specialty restaurants. CHOPS: My favorite. Order beef. It will be prepared PROPERLY and well presented. Lamp chops are OK but much smaller portion. If you order the 16 oz ribeye, come HUNGRY. Giovanni's: Very good, better for lamb or veal (I loved the veal). Larger sides/portions, we definitely over-ate here. Izumi: Ala cart pricing, reasonable for what you get. EXCELLENT sashimi. The rolls dishes are good for table sharing.
The ship ran several promotions for specialty dinning, and might be worth doing once aboard.
We did not use My Time.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: By far the easiest (as usual) we ever experience. Check in was hampered by only one working scanner. Quickly onboard after we got thru that. No longer have a carry on bag check. Staterooms open at 1:00, wife's bag arrived soon thereafter. Mine showed up during dinner. Go figure.
At end, exited ship at the 'everyone please go home now" announcement at 9:15 and were in the Uber with our bags at 9:45. Customs was fully staffed and the line moved well.
We love this ship and are likely booking the early December (11/30 actually) 2019 cruise. We already have a cruise in late January, we shall see if the MDR is a train wreck or has improved. Other than the service in MDR I noted above and the slightly less than perfect cabin, it was a great trip. Captain and crew handled weather well, you have to expect it this time of year.
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This cabin connects with 3109. The door had some light and sound leaks and the occupants of 3109 were on the loud side; had to play music on iPad when going to sleep to provide an alternative sound source. Good room with the above caveat.
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