Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas – the line’s smallest and oldest ship -- is finishing a brief stint in Galveston, Texas before it moves to Florida where it will alternate between home ports in Miami and Tampa through the beginning of 2024.
Upcoming itineraries on the 1,992-passenger ship (at double occupancy) range from five-night short hops to Mexico and the Bahamas to extended 12-night cruises that include stops at the Panama Canal and the ABC islands in the deep southern Caribbean. We jumped onboard a four-night cruise bound for Cozumel to see how the 26-year-old ship is holding up and if the love of the "Lady G" as she has long been dubbed, lives on. Here's what we found.
We’ve been following a Facebook group dedicated to Grandeur of the Seas for weeks. The enthusiasm for the ship is contagious. There’s no shortage of cruisers that adore this ship.
This particular sailing happens to be during a fall school break, so Grandeur is sailing with over 300 children onboard. The ship's hotel manager says during summer months, there were as many as 600 on some sailings. Even without a top deck loaded with kid-friendly attractions like splash pads and slides, the ship is a hit with families, perhaps due to the small size, which makes it easier to keep up with older kids who are on the go.
A smaller ship also works well for group get togethers. We’ve spotted (mostly through their matching t-shirts) mother-daughter multi-generation groups, girl getaway groups, and a 50th birthday gathering.
Though there are guests from as far away as India among the 2,200 onboard, the vast majority hail from Texas. We visited with folks who are sad to see Lady G leave Galveston, having cruised on her more than once. One woman said she loved that it feels more like cruising in the old days. The ship is also popular with casino cruisers. We've talked to several guests onboard utilizing the benefits of Royal Caribbean's casino loyalty program, Casino Royal.
The crew onboard are some of the friendliest we’ve ever encountered. From dining room staff and housekeeping to officers, pride in this ship is obvious. We especially liked the officers joining guests for morning coffee at Café Latitudes.
The ship is in fabulous condition overall. Things like touchscreen location maps near the elevators and well-maintained public spaces help Lady G hide her wrinkles. While there are obvious places where things have been patched and or repaired, that can be said about all but the newest ships. We were told that Royal Caribbean has every intention of keeping Grandeur in the fleet and has scheduled a full dry dock upgrade for 2024.
The staterooms are perhaps the only thing that dates the ship—particularly in terms of size and an 80s-era design with a lack of electric outlets. This is one ship where you must bring a multi-plug expansion device of some sort unless you plan a full-scale digital detox. The older design of the cabins makes up for the outlets with loads of storage -- something that is sometimes skimpy in newer ships. There are more than enough drawers and shelves for two people for a week-long cruise.
Oceanview and interior cabins far outnumber the balcony cabins and for those looking for Royal Caribbean's primo suite class rooms, this is not the place to find them. There are suites, but only a handful. Guests traveling in grand suites and up to have a Concierge lounge, shared with Pinnacle Crown and Anchor members. Diamond and Diamond Plus guests have a small lounge carved out of the South Pacific Lounge.
We've been pleased overall with the food onboard. Besides the Windjammer buffet and main dining rooms, Grandeur has an assortment of specialty restaurants, including Chops Steakhouse, Giovanni's Table, Izumi Sushi, and a Chef's Table. Plus, the adults-only solarium features a Park Café, which we wish was open longer hours.
The main dining room has been popular among the passengers we asked about the food. We talked to guests who have skipped Windjammer and specialty dining altogether, preferring the service in the main dining room. That’s fairly typical on people who choose this ship. Classic and included hit the mark.
We've yet to encounter an unhappy guest onboard. When asked about the age of the ship, several guests have acted surprised to learn it is both the oldest and smallest in the current Royal Caribbean fleet. Others, simply smile and nod.
One woman from the Houston area told us she likes it better than anything new and flashy; this is a crowd who avoids the upcharges and crowds of behemoths such as Wonder of the Seas. She was a little surprised at the large number of children onboard this week saying she'd always felt like it was a perfect ship for adults, "Especially for those of us of a certain age," she said with a big smile.
The consensus seems to be that small is not a problem. Most are happy to be cruising again and enjoy having a choice of ship sizes. We agree. Long live Lady G.