This was our second cruise on Grandeur (plus two prior on Enchantment), all out of Baltimore. The big plus for us is being able to drive just ninety minutes to the port of departure. We're both in our mid-sixties, and over the past 38 ... Read More
This was our second cruise on Grandeur (plus two prior on Enchantment), all out of Baltimore. The big plus for us is being able to drive just ninety minutes to the port of departure. We're both in our mid-sixties, and over the past 38 years we've cruised 21 times on several cruise lines: RCI, Oceania, Windstar, HAL, and Uniworld (in Europe).
Embarkation, as we've experienced in Baltimore before, was quick and efficient. You drop off your heavy/checked luggage by driving right up to the longshoremen who take it out of your car, and then you drive to the line to pay for parking. It's not far to park your vehicle, and walk back to the terminal building. There are several security lines inside the terminal, so there wasn't a long wait, and then there are lots of RCI check-in desks beyond.
Grandeur still looks good inside and out. Our cabin and everything we saw around the ship looked very clean and in good order. Wireless Internet service seemed to work well wherever we tried it, either with our smartphone in our cabin or down on deck 4 just off the Centrum where the ship passenger PCs were set up.
Our first two days outbound found Grandeur in a really active Nor'Easter storm. (We missed Hurricane Joaquin altogether, but we didn't know that until several days into the cruise). Two days of heavy waves and swells, drenching rains, howling winds, and all outside decks off-limits. Cabin drawers and cabinet doors slamming open and closed with every rise & fall & roll of the ship. Saw several passengers take hard falls trying to walk down corridors and in public spaces, and also (unfortunately) saw folks getting sick. Reduced staff and crew we saw were really working extra-hard trying to take care of us passengers and still do their jobs, as well as pick up the slack from other crew members that weren't able to work until the weather improved. Luckily, my wife and I slept well and never missed a meal. :)
(Since food and service are quite individually subjective, please take my comments as such. We're not "foodies", and we think we have average expectations for food and service).
We ate all of our breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer Marketplace buffet. It was usually quite crowded, and difficult to find a vacant table, especially on our four at-sea days. Most of the clean-up staff was efficient, so that helped with table availability. Lots of hot and cold choices for breakfast, (omelets made to order were my favorite), but we noticed there was less variety and availability of pastries and breads at breakfast. The coffee was average, but better than on some of our other cruises. Lunches had a good variety of hot and cold selections, but we did notice salads and their sides weren't always available or as nice as we remembered. The freshly-baked cookies at lunch were usually excellent, and our favorite dessert.
Our main dining room ("MDR") service for supper was very good. We opted for "My Time Dining" on this cruise, so we ate supper at different times each day based upon when the ship left the day's port. We enjoyed our cordial and efficient waiter, assistant waiter, head waiter, bar/wine server, and host. Entree variety wasn't as good as we remembered from our other RCI cruises, but the hot food was always hot, and the cold food always cold. Soups were delicious. If you couldn't find an entree in the MDR that interested you, there were always the stand-by beef, chicken, pasta, and salad offerings. We felt the desserts in the MDR were only average.
We ate supper in all three specialty restaurants this cruise. This was our first experience at Giovani's, and we thought the food and service was okay, but nothing special. Chops was a bit of a letdown compared to our other dinners in Chops on our other Grandeur and Enchantment cruises. The beef was excellent as always, (at least as good or better than what we get at the best steak places ashore), but the accompanying side dishes' portions were smaller and not dressed well. The desserts were nothing special this time. This was our first time at Izumi's, and it was nice. My sushi was fresh and well-prepared, and my wife's beef/chicken skewers cooked on a hot rock at our table were good. Service in Izumi's was excellent.
On this trip we didn't attend many of the production shows, mostly because either the ship was rockin' and rollin', or our My Time Dining and suppers at the specialty restaurants didn't align well with the start time of the shows. The shows that we did attend were average. The stage band sounded better and seemed more active than we remembered from our last Grandeur cruise.
We enjoyed the aerial show in the Centrum, and the band that played there in the evenings on deck 4 was nice, with an excellent singer.
As for our daily stops on this itinerary:
Portland, Maine - The challenging (cloudy, overcast, blowy) weather forced a 4-hour late arrival, which changed (or cancelled) some of the ship-hosted excursions (including ours). We liked the afternoon excursion to Kennebunkport, although the drop-off time in town was too short to both walk around and also get something to eat in one of the many little restaurants.
Bar Harbor, Maine - The town itself is Norman Rockwell-worthy. On our beautiful sunny Sunday morning, it was easy to walk around, with lots to see, some good places to eat, and several nice town parks to enjoy. We took the ship's afternoon excursion to Acadia National Park, which was beautiful, and shouldn't be missed.
Saint John, New Brunswick - We're sure there are lots of things to do here on a blue-sky day like we had, but we opted for the pink Hop-on-Hop-off bus to see for ourselves what might be available. We got off the bus at the reversing falls bus stop, walked halfway across the bridge to get fairly up-close-and-personal with the falls, but that was the extent of our outing. Saint John has several heavy industries (a large paper mill, power plants, and the oil industry, all spewing plumes of something into the beautiful blue sky), and of course the huge Bay of Fundy port.
Halifax, Nova Scotia - On this drizzly grey day, we (and sixteen others) were bumped off of our original ship's morning excursion to Peggy's Cove with a whole afternoon to ride the Hop-on-Hop-off buses. While in line for the coach we found out the ship's excursion staff over-sold tickets for the size of the pre-arranged coach/bus. We waited around for almost an hour in the cold drizzle while staff figured out that they'd put us on the pink Hop-on-Hop-off bus in the morning instead, and then we'd join another coach to Peggy's Cove later in the afternoon. Because we now had a shortened time in the morning, we just rode both pink bus routes to see some of the touristy sites, ate lunch, and then joined the afternoon coach ride to Peggy's Cove. Even with overcast grey skies and a brisk wind, little lobster-fishing Peggy's Cove was scenic, and worth the trip. It's perhaps someplace we'd like to return to sometime in the future.
We had a wonderfully-smooth, blue-sky, lower-60s temps two days cruise back to Baltimore from Halifax. Everyone finally got to enjoy the outside decks for exercise or just relaxing sitting in the sun. Some were even brave enough to get in the outdoor pool, but there were more in the hot tubs.
Disembarking was the usual very-early-morning hassle, but the staff was well organized, and we were off the ship and on our drive home pretty easily.
Overall, we enjoyed our cruise north, and now we have great stories to tell about surviving our first two at-sea days.
Note: We're hoping RCI regains its senses for Grandeur's 2017 itinerary out of Baltimore to Bermuda. Why? For 2016, Grandeur is reduced to only spending 25 hours, (from one o'clock the first day until two o'clock the next afternoon), actually tied up at King's Wharf in Bermuda. That's just not enough time there to justify a "Bermuda" cruise. Read Less