Can a cruise ship ever feel like home? For the many passengers who return multiple times to Baltimore-based Grandeur of the Seas, the answer is an obvious yes. Known as Lady G, the 1,992-passenger ship (2,400 at full occupancy) engenders high loyalty from repeat cruisers, who cite the vessel's manageable size, diverse itineraries and personable crew as draws. The ship even has its own Facebook fan page.
Built in 1996, Grandeur of the Seas is part of Royal Caribbean's Vision class of ships, although its sole identical twin, Splendor of the Seas, left the fleet in 2016. (While rumors frequently persist that Grandeur, too, will be sold, sailings are on the books through 2019 and the line has a contract with the Port of Baltimore into 2020.) The ship last received a major refurbishment in 2012, when specialty restaurants were added; dry docks since then have concentrated solely on maintenance and soft furnishings such as carpets.
The ship's age is most noticeable in the cabins, where the blonde wood, low beds and scuffed furniture can give the space a dorm-room demeanor. The retro feel of the ship works to its advantage in other ways: Balconies are larger than what you'd find on new-builds, as are elevators and hallways (the latter are particularly important on Grandeur's longer itineraries, which draw older passengers).
And, what some people might see as drawbacks -- no water slides or FlowRider, a handful of restaurants -- Lady G fans see as a plus. Repeatedly on our 12-night Eastern Caribbean cruise, we heard passengers raving about the ship's manageable size and homey atmosphere. Most people who cruise frequently on Grandeur have no interest in Royal Caribbean's brand-new ships -- and the higher prices that come with them.
They're happy enough with what Grandeur has, including Chops Grille steakhouse, Izumi and Giovanni's Table; an outdoor movie screen; and the glorious Centrum, a lovely six-story atrium that serves as the ship's hub. It's impossible to walk through it without checking out what's happening on the dance floor below or wanting to sit in one of the area's comfy chairs and sofas. As with any Royal Caribbean ship, Grandeur has a full line-up of programming and a Solarium, where the adults-only rule actually seemed to be enforced. (We also appreciated that at the pool deck, whirlpools were clearly designed for kids or adults.)
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Another factor that brings passengers back is the experienced and friendly crew, some of whom have been on the ship since it launched more than 20 years ago. From the bar staff that remember favorite drinks to a captain who leads nautical trivia, the crew is very interactive with passengers; we frequently saw the cruise director hanging out with ship regulars. We also observed a lot of patience with a demographic that faced some mobility challenges; of the 1,989 people on our sailing, 225 were over 75. One woman who boarded the ship in mid-November wasn't planning to leave until mid-April!
Whether or not you'll join these legions of Lady G-lovers depends on how well your priorities for a cruise vacation mesh with what the ship has to offer. If you're looking for an affordable cruise from the mid-Atlantic and you're OK with an atmosphere that, in this day of constant stimulation, almost qualifies as old-fashioned, Grandeur of the Seas is a lovely choice.
The age of the average Grandeur passenger depends heavily on what kind of itinerary the ship is running from Baltimore. Shorter summer trips to Bermuda and the Bahamas draw mostly families and a younger demographic, while longer New England/Canada and Western/Eastern Caribbean voyages draw retirees. On our December 2017 sailing, just weeks before Christmas, the vast majority of cruisers were age 50 and up. Nearly 80 percent were repeat cruisers. Almost everyone is from the mid-Atlantic or states that are nearby such as Virginia, West Virginia or Ohio.
Daytime: Royal Caribbean has three dress codes: formal, smart casual and casual. Days onboard are casual. Shorts are permitted in the Great Gatsby Dining Room at breakfast and lunch, but not dinner.
Evening: Generally, busy port days will have a casual dress code in the evenings, while a formal night will be held on a sea day. Smart casual is recommended for specialty restaurants. In reality, there's not a lot of difference between them. Casual is defined by sundresses or slacks and blouses for women and collared shirts and trousers for men, but we saw T-shirts and jeans. While some long and cocktail dresses and suits were visible on formal night, we saw plenty of people wearing simple dresses or pants and a collared shirt on formal night. (The ship does have a tuxedo rental shop on Deck 4, but we only saw one person wearing one.) Smart casual technically means a dress or pantsuit for women and a jacket for the men; this did seem to be followed in the specialty restaurants.
Not permitted: Tank tops and hats are not allowed in the main dining room at any time.
For more information, visit Cruise Line Dress Codes: Royal Caribbean.