We wanted to escape the colder period for winter for a few days, were looking for an economical trip, and needed a few more nights to reach RCL's Diamond status. We also love cruising from Baltimore and have been on Grandeur many ... Read More
We wanted to escape the colder period for winter for a few days, were looking for an economical trip, and needed a few more nights to reach RCL's Diamond status. We also love cruising from Baltimore and have been on Grandeur many times. My wife's long-range forecast was excellent and we managed to miss the late Jan cold snap and a light snowstorm. We've been to most of the ports before, so this was also intended to be a more relaxing cruise. Traveled with friends, although we all made our own dinner plans.
Our cabin was interior, Deck 3 midships. Location is very convenient to forward and aft stairs and elevators, easy to get to MDR and Centrum, and quiet. Never heard our neighbors.
MDR: We were 1st seating at a 6-seat with a couple from SoCAL and 2 older women from PA. We got along fabulously. Fnu and Naomi were the wait staff, they were excellent! Restored our faith in the MDR service [which had suffered a serious jolt from our expectations during our 12-night cruise early December]. So we never bothered to try the specialty restaurants. One of our travel companions has serious dietary restrictions and was happy with the MyTime service - they were able to meet all the necessary accommodations.
We usually had breakfast and lunch in the MDR, Windjammer for lunch on port days. We had breakfast in WJ once or twice, very pleased with selections and would have been fine with WJ as the only breakfast option. On port days, MDR breakfast did not have the ceral, fruit, and waffle bar, which was disappointing. They resumed having it for Nassau and the 2 at sea days. We also visited WJ after dinner a few times to check the desserts and selections - several times, we thought the WJ had better desserts.
CD was Mike M, with Nick as his AD. They had a great back and forth, and we enjoyed Mike's magic tricks at the start of the evening shows. Mike had to leave the ship at Nassau for an RCCL conference; Nick and the rest of the team ably picked up and kept things going quite well. Nick may have as much energy and enthusiasm as "Torando" Tanya when she was AD on Grandeur (anyone who's met Tanya knows this is high praise). Hope he has a long successful future at Royal and I expect Mike will be a CD someday. We heard that Mike is going to be going to Symphony of the Seas later this year.
The ship had problems with the stage equipment, so several shows were rescheduled or modified and we had additional performances by the ship's band (excellent as always) and the singers. Most of the headliner acts (singer, juggler, magician) were good to great.
The last headliner act was "Tribute Shmibute" which took a bit getting used to. We saw the current Broadway tribute and All Access before in December, so they were well done though nothing new for us. The crew talent show as a pleasant surprise - quite good, especially the singers and the comedy sketches.
On-board services were great, the ship justly deserves it's reputation as friendliest ship in the fleet. Grandeur is also well-maintained; we saw it's sister Enchantment alongside in Nassau and Grandeur's exterior appearance was far better.
Onboard entertainment is great, and as dancers, particularly the ship's band, Real Time Band, and the singer/piano player in the Schooner Bar. RT is going to be on GoS a bit longer before going to one of the bigger ships. They've expanded their play list (as we also noticed in December) which we appreciate - after a while, just doing rumbas and chachas gets old. We especially liked the night the ships band did a big band (and more) dance concert in South Pacific - it is a much better and larger dance floor, appreciated by the serious dancers. (If you were on the trip with us, we were one of the couples up dancing a lot, and the young lady is one of the friends travelling with us (and an accomplished dancer herself), not our daughter :) !
We pretty much did things on our own on-board and in port. There were no enrichment lectures (miss them) and one dance lesson taught by the show team dancers. There were also some line dance classes which were well taught and a friend really liked the Thriller class and performance.
Ports: Charleston, we walked around with another couple, shopped the market area (if you go, look for the woman selling "hurricane art" - painted slates and bricks, about 2/3 back on the north side, and a glass shop that makes clever serving trays and wedding gifts from liquor and wine bottles!) Interesting museums include an Arsenal from the colonial period and the Slavery museum. Several architecturally interesting churches on Church street.
Port Canaveral: Friends who've retired to the area met us and we went to KSC for the space center tour. You can literally spend all day there. In spite of the day-long downpour, we took the bus back to the Apollo museum. You'll see the re-assembled Saturn V firing room, a complete Saturn V (FLIGHT-qualified hardware that could have launched another moon mission), the Apollo 11 landing exhibit (which was having problems with the main projection screen during our show) and the Apollo 1 fire memorial. [We were there on the anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire and day before anniversary of the Challenger disaster, but other than seeing flags at half staff, there was no mention which was VERY disappointing to me.] We also visited the Atlantis Space Shuttle exhibit. You could spend many hours there and it is very well done. If you have ANY interest in the US history of space exploration, remember the "space race", GO. I'm hoping in a few years they have some exhibits on what we are doing in space TODAY, vs. long ago.
Miami: FINALLY a (sort of) NICE DAY. We took the on/off shuttle from the pier to Biscayne Blvd, walked over to the Bayside mall and took an 90 minute harbor tour. This may be the best deal in Miami to see the area on a nice day. Very nice and there are some incredible yachts and mansions in Miami harbor. Shopped a bit in the mall and easy walk via the causeway bridge back to the ship for a very late lunch.
Freeport. Meh. Almost a beach day - took taxi to Port Lacaya market area and walked over to the beach, walked it a bit until it started raining. Back to the market and my wife did some shopping, then we grabbed a snack and drinks at one of the bars. I think I'd have just as happy with going to CocoCay instead. There is a cluster of shops and markets at the port, selection felt same stuff as in every other straw market. A former Carnival ship was also in port, and we could see several ships in dry dock or maintenance pier across the harbor (at least 2 RCL, 1 NCL, and 1 Princess). While at Port L, we were told the casino is going to reopen "soon" and the hotel may reopen later. Nice location and a decent beach.
Nassau: Walked over to the water taxi and took it ($8 r/t per person) to Paradise Island. Then wandered about following a group from the water taxi into the shops near the marina and into the Atlantis complex. A helpful staff member walked us through to the correct exit to the to the public beach. YES, FINALLY A BEACH DAY! Bargained for 2 chairs and an umbrella ($25, many vendors asking more) and then got some drinks from another vendor. They're definitely hustling. Water was very rough, so almost no one was going into or past the surf line. Afterwards, we walked down the beach to the Atlantis property and in where we could see the lagoon, "Water Adventure", walked through the casino (big and except for windows looks like every other casino I've walked through), got redirected by Atlantis security back through the casino, and finally found our way out via the marina area and the shops. Glad we saw a bit of Atlantis and that we didn't pay what they want for a day pass (overpriced in my opinion). Took the water taxi back and did some shopping in town. We've been to Nassau before, saw NO indications of any security issues but we also stuck to the main shopping area.
There were several ships in port, including Enchantment (the previous Baltimore ship) and the Anthem. Also an NCL ship. Noted that the Grandeur is in much better exterior shape vs. the Enchantment.
We did not take any of the ship excursions, but the shore excursion, activities, and guest services staffs were quite helpful with suggestions.
Sea Days: Generally cold for outside activities except the day after Nassau. Had 2 semi-rough days around Port Canaveral and Miami, return trip was exceptionally smooth for those waters this time of year. Ship ran a bunch of activities on the last 2 sea days, including the egg drop competition, Thriller performance, Grandeur Carnival, paper airplane contest (mine flew well but decided to make a right turn into the crowd). Disappointed they didn't have a lecturer on board this trip, but the few sea days vs the 12 night cruises may be a factor.
One thing we like about Baltimore is the easy on and off. Check in was straight forward, a few minutes delay while some higher priority guests got checked in. Getting off was ridiculously easy, and I was pleased there was just a little dry snow on my car and I didn't need the boots or shovel!
We achieved diamond status (in terms of nights needed) during the trip, but can't take advantage of it until the NEXT trip. We think RCL could do something (not the full diamond benefits) to encourage folks and welcome us to the next level without waiting for the next trip.
Overall a great trip and we're looking forward to our next GoS and RCL vacations. Read Less