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Top Grand Circle Ships
Grand Circle offers a full range of small-ship cruisetours for the over-50 set. While Grand Circle's ships are designed for the areas in which they operate, the ships are as much about comfort and convenience as destination.
Cabins are spacious and well appointed. On some ships (Western Europe) upper-deck cabins have true balconies, while lower decks have large windows (the lowest deck windows are barely above water level). Generally, the Europe-based ships tend to have twin beds only.
Bathrooms are small to roomy and excellently fitted out, and cabins are kept spotless. Usually, CNN, movies, and alternate language and music channels are available, along with an onboard info channel.
Dining is handled professionally, and depending on the ship, will be a mix of buffet (often breakfast and lunch) and served (dinner). Menu options vary, but local and regional specialties are always included and may be featured selections. Think chicken paprikash or wiener schnitzel or profiteroles au chocolat. Specialty evenings are usually offered -- an Egyptian buffet -- depending on the locale and itinerary.
General entertainment is low-key and casual; nobody goes on a Grand Circle cruise for karaoke or bingo, though both may be offered. There may be a costume night, or a black-and-white dress evening, or a passenger/crew talent show. They are all fun and people enjoy themselves.
The real focus of any Grand Circle cruise is the chance to experience other cultures, histories, traditions and people. Through onboard lectures and excursions ashore, through talks and meals with local people and visits with or demonstrations by local artisans, passengers have a chance to expand their knowledge and understanding of other places and those who live there. The responsibility for guiding and leading these efforts lies with the Program Directors, local residents with a deep knowledge of their culture and the training and ability to convey it to others. There will be several on each cruise, and they will be both cruise staff and tour guides as well as resident experts on just about everything you might want to know. They will also aid the passengers in understanding and abiding by local customs, and in making discoveries, the company's term for those moments of enlightenment and understanding each passenger will undergo during their trip.
As with all Grand Circle programs, the passengers on the company's cruises will all be over 50, in some cases much more so. The company does not market to families, and does not accept children as passengers. Passengers are generally well traveled, and at least half of them, if not more, will be repeat passengers with Grand Circle, and probably members of their loyalty program, the Inner Circle, an organization for those who have made three or more trips with the company.
The majority will be married couples, though singles and clusters of friends traveling together are not unusual. (The line says that solo travelers represent 1 in 4 of its travelers, and a roommate-matching service is available.) Passengers tend to be a combination of retired, semi-retired and still active, college-educated, and with strong business and professional backgrounds. Given Grand Circle's strong focus on learning experiences, most of the guests are curious and open-minded, and eager to try new things.
Also, since Grand Circle is an American company and generally (even on charters) does whole-ship trips, English is the language of the day at all times. The crews, and most especially the Program Directors, are all at the very least conversationally fluent. Passengers are all Americans or American-connected.