This being our seventh cruise, and our daughter's fourth, I would consider us to be seasoned cruisers having sailed with Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Carnival. Overall, this was our most boring cruise, the reasons of which you will ... Read More
This being our seventh cruise, and our daughter's fourth, I would consider us to be seasoned cruisers having sailed with Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Carnival. Overall, this was our most boring cruise, the reasons of which you will see below.
We enjoy cruising out of ports that we can drive to, so Norfolk is about the furthest we will go to from our home in Kitchener, Ontario. The first thing that was immediately apparent was that even at 50 years of age, my wife and I were to be younger that the average cruiser on this voyage. This did not please our 15 year daughter, and set the tone for the whole cruise. The embarkation process was efficient and prompt, even the shuttle ride from the parking lot about a mile away was good. If I were to sail out of Norfolk again, I would definitely consider staying at the Sheraton across the street from the cruise terminal and leave my car there for the duration of the cruise. Indoor parking, convenient, and save $90 parking fee.
Ship Info - The Grandeur of the Seas is an older ship, but I must agree with most reviewers that they have done a great job in keeping her clean, and in great condition with no real wear visible in the public rooms. I wish they had done the same in the staterooms.
Stateroom - Our stateroom was on deck seven aft. Its location was perfect for us because it was two decks below and two and three decks above all the activity on board. The cabins are small, and with three of us in the room at the same time, it felt cramped. The television is tiny (9") and the bathroom is the type where you can do most everything while sitting on the toilet. The tap on the sink was not supplying cold water, and even getting the staff to repair it did not work. Closet space is at a premium on this ship, so if you are a packrat, you may be in trouble, especially since some larger luggage will not fit below the beds. Speaking of the beds, they were OK, but not as comfortable as other ships we have been on with Princess and Carnival. Our cabin steward was efficient, although he never introduced himself, and did not see much of him. Dining - There are primarily three choices to dine on board the Grandeur. The Great Gatsby Dining room, the Windjammer Marketplace, or Room service. The dining room is a very pleasant space, airy and inviting, service was efficient, but not overly friendly. The food, although presented nicely, was a disappointment. Portions were small, lacked flavor and diversity. The Seafood was the worst of all; the shrimp cocktail looked like it came out of a supermarket $5 shrimp ring. The Windjammer is on level 9 in the front of the ship, not what I would consider the best location for a dining area. A great view, but you feel every rock and roll of the sea. The food here was of fair quality, and being a buffet, quantity is not an issue. Biggest problem, it was the same menu everyday for breakfast and lunch. Can't comment on dinner as we used the dining room every night. I wish we had gone there for dinner, because we had late seating (we had no choice) and if you leave the dining room hungry after late seating, you have a choice of room service or a small Solarium grill that served Ok fries, but really lousy pizza, burgers and hotdogs. We used Room service for the majority of breakfasts, and its' service was prompt and the requested time, but limited to the same things every day.
Activities on board - If you have taken at least one cruise, you will be familiar with the usual games and activities available on board. Well all the same stuff happens here, pool games, horse racing, belly flop and hairy legs contest, all predictable and boring for repeat cruisers. Do you like Bingo? That's an expensive pastime on this ship. $21 for a 3 game card for four different games and $31 for six games per card. And the payouts to the winner is 100 to 180 dollars. Lousy when there are 300 people in the room playing.
Kids Clubs - Our daughter is 15, and this area was a major disappointment for her. The Fantaseas club is basically a room with video games and arcades for kids to spend their parents' money on the Sail card, there was no music available for kids to enjoy, and the staff member there basically left them on their own. This can lead to big trouble, which at the end of the cruise it did for some kids, as the managed to get some young adults to buy alcohol for them, and partying and some destruction occurred. This was reported to the crew on the last night and the affected parties were promptly arrested by Norfolk police. Who knows, maybe a better on board program may have prevented this. Fortunately, our daughter made fast friends with a good group of kids, and they had fun together, exploring the ship, and hanging out.
Service - Overall service on board was good and professional. I found the stall were not friendly with passengers, with minor exceptions of our assistant waiter and the odd bar waiter. Boy, were they pushing the drinks on you, everywhere you went. Most of the staff went about without a smile and basically ignored you when you told them you did not want any alcohol. The cure for this was to bring a glass of water or iced tea with you when you go to the lounges and order your drink when ready. Entertainment - Well, what can I say here, predictable and somewhat boring. Comedians, a juggler, magician, Elvis impersonator, Ship's dancers and singers, Cruise director and staff. They tried to do their best, but let's face it, we have heard the same jokes for years, corny, boring stuff. If you are a Karaoke fan, this was probably the most enjoyable part as some of the folks were actually pretty good, rivaling the singers on board.
Ports of Call and excursions - We preferred to take our own excursions on the Islands, one to save money and two to get a better flavor for the local culture. Our tour guide in San Juan was Victor Reyes and he was very good, showing us Old and New San Juan like we have not seen before. He was very pleasant informative and best of all unhurried. Great value at $25 per person for a 3 hour tour, and air conditioned too. Our guy in Saint Thomas was Patrick, another good guy that took us on a 4+ hour tour all over the Island, with a one and a half hour stop at Emerald Beach. A very nice quiet, non-crowded beach near the airport that belongs to the Best Western Emerald Beach resort, but allows cruise passengers to use it's beach at no charge, including the umbrellas and lounge chairs, sweet. We really enjoyed this tour. On this trip, the ship docked on the northern side of town at a dock named Crown Bay, shopping there is very limited and a cab ride to downtown. Personally, I prefer the dock by Havensight mall with all the shops right there. Samana in the Dominican Republic is a different sort of place. If you remove the facts that the area is very poor, there are crappy motorcycles everywhere, the roads are horrible, and the general living conditions are almost unbearable to our standard of life, the countryside is very beautiful and for the most part unspoiled. I was told by the locals that things are improving, but progress is slow. It seems that this ship is the only one that stops there. Everyone on our tour gained a greater appreciation for our way of life at home. Hurricane Gustav forced the cruise line to change our itinerary, so our last stop was their private Island in the Bahamas, Coco Cay. This was a great stop offering good beaches, snorkeling, parasailing and souvenir shopping.
Disembarkation - This process was fairly well organized. We were off the ship and on our way to the parking lot by 10:30. It seemed really slow getting off the ship, but they did a good job in not congesting the customs and terminal area.
Summary - We rated this voyage as fair, but not memorable. Read Less