Grandeur of the Seas Tampa, Florida - At Sea - Costa Maya, Mexico - Cozumel, Mexico - At Sea - Tampa, Florida February 6 through February 11, 2010
EMBARKATION AND GENERAL IMPRESSIONS
My wife, Kim, and I did a Next Cruise booking on the Monarch in November 2009 where we simply said we would go in the future, but did not pick a particular cruise. We saw the pricing on this cruise in early January and it seemed to be quite a bit less expensive than the same itinerary in the weeks before or after.
Not certain, but thought perhaps the Super Bowl lowered demand for this time period. In any event, we decided to take advantage of the attractive pricing and splurge on a cruise. We had been looking at the Grandeur out of Tampa for a couple of reasons - ability to drive in less than 9 hours and thought the chance to see the Mayan ruins near Costa Maya was a great opportunity.
We arrived at the port at 11:21 AM, the porter unloaded our bags, the valet took our car and we walked into terminal and headed straight for the check in counter. There was no waiting and we simply walked up to the first available agent. Apparently, where you check in does make a slight difference and if they had been busy perhaps we would have caused a difficulty. As it was, another worker behind the counter ran to the other counter and returned with our sea passes. When I say ran, I mean he ran.
Check in was absolutely painless as we were through security, across the gangplank and on the ship at 11:32 AM. A total of 11 minutes from turning from the street into the terminal to walking onboard the Grandeur.
I like this time to explore the ship and we were impressed by the Grandeur. It is very clean and well laid out. The Centrum is larger and taller than the Monarch (I think - the experts can correct me.) and more attractive.
Almost immediately we went to the main dining room (The Great Gatsby) which is a true two level room with a two story open center and a balcony running the perimeter of the room. We found our table and it was an eight top way in the back. My wife and I chose the main seating and a large table as we enjoy the "Forced Camaraderie" of having selected tablemates. Even though our table location seemed to be less than ideal, our thoughts are let everything fall as they may. Why second guess an unknown?
We then walked around the Centrum and then up through the Schooner Bar and into the Palladium Theater, before eventually wandering toward the pool deck, Solarium and Viking Lounge.
By this time 1:15 PM rolled around and we were ready for lunch. Off to the Windjammer.
I eat a lot of fresh fruit and my lunches through the week were heavy on the fruit, bread and basics more than the actual menu selections. I can give nice reviews of the main dining room food, but I will not be much help on the lunch. For me we had a nice selection of melons, bananas, apples and oranges all week. I also enjoyed the smoked salmon, tomatoes, capers and cheese readily available.
The honey stung chicken was on the buffet the first day. I tried that as I hear so many references on Cruise Critic and found it more tender and fresh than when we were on the Monarch in November. My wife enjoys Indian food and I do not. She said the majority of the Indian food presented in the Windjammer was fresh, well seasoned and tasty. There were some exceptions, but we always were fairly late in the servings for lunch - we were never there before 1:30 after the first day.
After we ate our cabin was ready and our bags were delivered. So we explored the room (exploring as one could in such a space) and found it remarkable how much space they can create in so small a footprint. I am continually saying our home is 500 square feet too small; after cruising I think our house simply does not have every thing in its right spot! We were in a "Superior Ocean View" cabin on the Monarch so it was interesting to see the differences.
Our cabin was in the middle of the starboard fore section between the Centrum overlook/Crown & Anchor study and the main forward elevator group. It was very quiet and we rarely heard anything. The Royal Family Suite was right by us with a large group using that as their base. They held several gatherings of fairly large groups and they never disturbed us through the cruise. Walking down the hall and seeing their door open and people spilling out was worrisome at first, but in reality there was never a problem.
Through the course of the cruise we spent very little time in the cabin.
We unpacked and met our room steward. She was very attentive, friendly and professional. We really did not have any needs through the week outside of the normal expectations. Our room was clean, the linens were fresh, we never lacked for towels, the ice bucket was always full. She replaced the little packaged soaps daily. We forgot our soap from home so this was useful - not premium quality, but comparable to most normal hotels; we used our own shampoo etc. She gave us her business card and telephone number. Regrettably, I misplaced it somehow and can not remember her name.
One example of her prompt attention - we left the room without seeing her in the hall and went up to the pool deck after waking one day. I realized I forgot my watch and returned to the cabin about 15 or 20 minutes later: our room was completely ready, bed made. I don't know where the exit signals come from but the stewards are certainly efficient.
It was readily apparent the Grandeur attracted an older crowd for this cruise. I don't know if that is across the board with Tampa and the Grandeur or specific to this cruise because of timing, lower costs or whatever. Seeing the many scooters, walkers and canes lined up became a running joke. We knew we were in the right quadrant of the ship for our cabin because of the red scooter blocking the hallway. We did find out that Ron was celebrating his 75th birthday on the cruise and many of his friends were onboard as a surprise. Later in the week we heard a funny story about how all of Ron's friends were waiting for him in the Centrum holding Happy Birthday Ron posters when he and his wife boarded. Unfortunately, Ron didn't notice his friends and scooted on past them.
We attended our muster drill at 4:30 per requirements and had the first encounter of several that was amusing if a little weird. While we were standing in our neat, orderly rows for muster the older man (mid-70s as an estimate and wearing a Happy Birthday Ron button) next to me was very impatient. He was using his combo walker/seat and kept huffing about hurrying up. There was a little lag time and our muster leader started to talk about the ship and herself. She was from Canada and was one of the dancers - she had just graduated from a performing arts high school and this was her first professional contract. My new muster friend called out asking if she knew Madame Venus - apparently the name of a local strip club.
It seemed to work to his advantage because shortly she dismissed him and his wife while the rest of us had to wait a few more minutes.
Our Cruise Critic unofficial meet and mingle was scheduled at the pool deck immediately after muster. It took us a few minutes to get there and did not arrive until right at 5 PM and did not see anyone obviously with Cruise Critic. There was some talk of wearing beads so we could easily recognize each other. I didn't see any beads, but I can't complain as I did not wear beads either. So we did not have a Meet and Mingle, or I failed to recognize it or I was just late.....
We really wanted to see sail away so we headed up from the pool deck to deck 10 and then to the bow of the ship. It was chilly and very windy so not a lot of people stood there but saw enough to know something fun was happening!
Can't say Tampa is the most beautiful sail away as it is rather industrial with an iron recycling center, a cement plant and the like along the shore.
However, it really is addicting to feel your cares and concerns drift away as the ship pulls out from the terminal. The little shudder as the engines power up. The flags flapping in the breeze. The satisfying beep as your cell phone turns off. What fun!
FIRST NIGHT DINING IN MDR Soon it was time to get ready for our first dinner. It was chilly and windy and I knew my wife would want to go on deck after dinner so I dressed in a pair of slacks, black sweater and shirt and tie. The Compass said casual, but I had worn a jacket and tie every night on the Monarch. I was over dressed for this first night of the cruise. I am quite certain I was the only passenger wearing a tie that night! Oh well, I was warm while strolling the outside decks later.
My wife has an innate ability to use the most basic clothes and accessorize upward or downward with jewelry, scarves, shoes. I am jealous!
We met our tablemates. It was an eight top table in the rear of the deck four main dining room. All week only six of us showed up for dinner - we didn't know if Number 7 and Number 8 just chose to forgo the MDR, missed the cruise due to the weather or saw the table location and requested a change. When we arrived at the table Larry and Peg from outside Cincinnati were already seated. Shortly after we sat down, Jon and Tracy from Indianapolis arrived. Both couples were a lot of fun. Larry and Peg were a little a bit older than us - in their mid-60s - and Jon and Tracy were similar ages to us. Both couples have cruised a fair amount - about 20 per couple on various lines. J & T had done Alaska, Mexican Riviera and a lot of Caribbean cruises. L & P had done those plus several in Europe especially one in the North Sea across to St Petersburg, a TA and several in the Mediterranean. I have travelled a lot, but this was only our second cruise.
Jon was our "social director". He is naturally funny and easy going and really helped break the ice. It was a very natural, relaxed table after just a few minutes and we all stayed late over coffee chatting and laughing every night. We even attended some of the shows as a group, and had a fun time with Jon and Tracy on the Mayan excursion Monday.
Our waiter was Beatrix from Hungary and our assistant was Roque. Both were very attentive and professional. The service was prompt and Roque kept our plates full of savory bites. I found those small poppy seeded breads very delicious all week. I can almost see why opium is so addicting. The actual service was better on the Grandeur than on the Monarch. While our wait staff was very attentive on the Monarch, little things like reaching in front of you to get your neighbor's glass or the inability to fill a glass of champagne on Formal Night without foaming were distracting. (How obnoxious that seems when written down!) We had a very professional wait staff on the Grandeur and those distractions were not present.
Our headwaiter was always present and attentive. He would stop by our table several times during each meal. For whatever reason, we would run into him at other locations on the ship and it was always "Mr. William..." so I believe he was really interested and involved with his tables to remember my name without crib notes.
I never met the Maitre d'.
WELCOME ABOARD SHOW The Welcome Aboard show was held at 7:45 for both seatings. The Palladium Theater was very crowded and we had a hard time finding a place to sit. The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers performed and we were introduced to the cruise director, Clodagh O'Connor - Hello Clo!
The singers and dancers had a brief performance that was OK - nothing particularly special. The most fun for me was picking out our muster leader. The comedian was a man named Rob Magnotti who specialized in voices and impressions. This show did not do much for me and he seemed to lose the crowd sometimes as well. There was not a lot of interaction from what I heard although he did seem to loosen up with a few poop jokes mid-act. My wife says he was funny and I was just tired and being a grump because we had cruddy seats.
Since he was funnier the next night at his late night comedy show, I suppose I can agree with her.
THE CASINO The casino opened after the show (during the show?) and we walked through. It seemed like a nice casino with a lot of slots, several table games including roulette, Caribbean stud poker, blackjack, craps. They also had a video game that was blackjack for five or six people with a digital dealer that seemed to be popular. We always saw a lot of people around the game. This was the smokiest place on the ship (the second smokiest was the Schooner Bar).
The first night there was a special -- $20 to the cashier gave you $30 dollars in unique pink chips to use at the table games. There were some restrictions - you had to bet in $5 increments, only good on even odds bets, etc. We are not big gamblers and do not budget much for the casino so this was a way to play with a little extra. We played roulette and won the first six times with the special chips - and eventually we ended up with real chips that we can cash in. We used the ships money all cruise long - we left with $80 more than the $20 we started with and played at least some every day. I played roulette in my tuxedo for about two hours on Formal Night - give some, get some all night. For those two hours I could have been James Bond in Monte Carlo - haha!
We each put $20 in to the 25 cent slot machines - we lost both our 20 dollars without ever winning a single time. I would have thought at least we would have got one quarter back or something, but we never won once.
There was a slot tournament on Day 2 my wife entered. It cost $25 per entry and the goal was to get 70 players and the winner would receive a free five night cruise on Navigator of the Seas. We had never been in a slot tournament before and it sounded like fun.
She was Slot Five in Round One. For whatever reason she just racked up the points - more than triple anyone else in her round. We were thinking, ok this is easy! She was still leading through the third round.
I had signed up the second day to go to the wine tasting so I had to leave after the fourth round where she slipped to third place. Eventually, the last rounds were run and she was in eighth place so she got to go to the semi-finals.
Mrs. Consistency came in eighth place in the semi-final rounds too! While she didn't get to compete in the finals (only the top three move up) she viewed it as a success because she got to play twice. There were not enough players to compete for a cruise, so there were cash prizes for first second and third. If I remember correctly from what she told me, the winner won $326 in onboard credit.
Our net result in the casino - cashed in $100 in chips the last night, but we spent $20 to buy in, spent $25 for the slot tournament and wasted $40 in the regular slots. So we netted $15 bucks! WINE TASTING While my wife was pounding the slot machines, I attended the wine tasting they held in the main dining room on the second day. They served three white and three red wines with a nice assortment of fruit and cheese. The Cellar Master gave some history about wines onboard Royal Caribbean and gave some background on his interests and wine education. He also explained the difference between a cellar master and a sommelier onboard the ships. He told one story that may or may not be well known:
When RC started the Vintages wine bars there was a fleet wide attempt to upgrade the selection of wines with rarer and older vintages. They brought on board some Lafite Rothschild and Margaux bottles from the 1960s that were costing in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars per bottle. The Cellar Master stated quite simply "It was a disaster". The changes in humidity and temperature going from location to location, not to mention the constant movement of the ship destroyed entire cases of rare wine. That is why no wines onboard are older than the late 1990s and are relatively young and inexpensive.
The wines I tasted were nice, it was a fun time and for $9.95 I got the equivalent of three (maybe two and a half) glasses of wine!
LUNCH IN THE MAIN DINING ROOM We only went to lunch in the main dining room once - the first sea day. It was nice and my food was tasty. Having had tremendous luck with our dinner tablemates on both of our cruises, the forced companionship for lunch was an eye-opening event. No one was terrible, but 4 of the other 6 people at our table were loud, obnoxious and rude. One man proved the axiom "If someone prefaces a statement with 'This is interesting...' 99 out of 100 times the statement will not be." multiple times during our lunch.
The salad bar was very nice with custom made salads and a wide selection of greens and vegetables. I had the Singapore noodles with chicken and shrimp and the noodles were just the right texture with a nice spicy coating. My wife had an Indian curry dish that I paid no attention to at all. Our headwaiter for dinner was working the lunch area we were in.
I did look at the menu for the MDR lunch on the second sea day and it was exactly the same.
COOKING DEMONSTRATION I have a thing for cooking and enjoy learning new things and seeing how food is prepared and enjoyed. I wanted to see the cooking demonstration. The one on the Monarch had a head waiter and a baker showing how to decorate a cake. It was actually not presented very well, the attempts at humor were off and it was kind of boring.
The Grandeur had the same premise, but what a different outcome and production. The demo was hosted by the Cruise Director Clo O'Connor and was attended by the Executive Sous Chef Norman, The Captain Rune Johnsen and the Hotel Director Sanjay Kumar.
This brings up another difference between the Monarch and the Grandeur - onboard the Grandeur you saw and met and interacted with the executive officers of the ship. Chef Norman was everywhere and very friendly, we saw the Captain and Staff Captain numerous times. I ran into Sanjay by the elevators and he reached out and wanted to make sure everything was fine with our cabin, was there anything he could do, was there anything I needed.
I did hear some complaining that the Captain did not attend the Captain's Reception and sent the Staff Captain in his stead. I guess I am neutral on that - we were late for the reception and missed the picture opportunity anyway. I regret that - its my favorite photo from the Monarch.
Of course, the cooking demonstration is staged and the same every cruise, but it was a lot of fun. The Captain kept joking around and put more and more Kirshwasser liquor in the cake (at the end his bottle was 2/3 empty!). He pretended to have more and more trouble icing the cake until he finally just started smearing it with his hands. Then he and Sanjay started throwing cherries at each other culminating in squirting frosting through the air.
Clo was right there in the middle of it with Chef Norman looking across like a mild disapproving school marm who really just wanted to join in.
I will say the cooking demo was very well attended by the Scooter Crowd and let me warn you - do not get in between them and a piece of the captain's cake.
SUPER BOWL The first sea day was also Super Bowl Sunday! Traditionally, the second night is also Formal Night, but Formal was moved to the third night to accommodate the Super Bowl. I know this was a topic on Cruise Critic if they would or would not move Formal Night. Well, they did.
As un-American as it sounds I don't really care about football or the Super Bowl. We were eating in the main dining room at kickoff time anyway.
After dinner, we went - our new friends Jon and Tracy are from Indianapolis after all. The Super Bowl was being presented on a large main central screen and the two smaller flanking screens in the Palladium Theater. There was a large crowd, but not as large as at the Welcome Aboard production the day before. It was a subdued crowd I think - maybe having to sit in rows and aisles took some of the spontaneity out of the party.
The game was direct feed from the satellite and did not include commercials. We arrived in the Palladium with about three minutes left in the first half. When they cut to commercial, Daughtry and Steve Winwood were playing music instead of seeing commercials.
We did arrive just in time to see the half time show. I can not comment on whether the Who were appropriate or the right choice for half time, but the presentation was hard to watch onboard. The video and the audio did not sync up - there was about a six second delay. It may seem minor, but it made it almost unwatchable.
My wife, Kim, stayed with Jon and Tracy for most of the second half. I wandered off and talked with the future cruise consultant and hung out on the pool deck and relaxed. I met back up with them just before the Saints intercepted that final play.
LATE NIGHT COMEDY We wandered around after the Super Bowl, relaxed, browsed through the Centrum shops, looked at our boarding photos and generally wasted time until it was time for the late night adult comedian at 10:15. It was a funnier show than the night before, but very similar. Nothing adult about it - I think the strongest word was poop.
In general, the comedian we saw on the Monarch was hilarious and his adult show was adult. There really is no comparison.
The act was not my favorite on the Grandeur, but others seemed to really like him.
We saw Rob sitting in the Windjammer the following day and several ladies were with him telling him he was the best thing they had ever heard.
So to each his own.
WINDJAMMER BREAKFAST We ate in the Windjammer for every breakfast during the cruise. No particular reason why we did not go to the Main Dining Room other than convenience. On our Costa Maya day we had an early excursion planned; the other days we were lazy and rolled out of the cabin when we wanted and it was so much easier to simply walk up one flight of stairs on our own schedule than to go to the MDR and adapt.
The food met my expectations. Like I said earlier, I eat a lot of fruit and bread. The Windjammer had plenty of both.
I enjoyed the smoked salmon combined with capers, cheese and tomatoes.
There were two disappointments in the Windjammer. I truly disliked the scrambled eggs and detested the scrambled eggs mixed with smoked salmon. I don't know why I thought it would taste good, but to me it didn't at all. I guess the cruise line is experiencing limited demand for eggs and salmon because the platter with that was much smaller and looked largely untouched.
The other disappointment was the made to order omelet station. The cooks were actually preparing frittatas not omelets. I prefer thin omelets. I did not eat a frittata so I can't say yea or nay, but the line was long and people seemed to enjoy them. I will say they always had a nice selection of ingredients for custom orders in addition to the "Omelet of the Day".
The first sea day I did have the cook prepare me two over medium fried eggs. It was kind of funny; he was cooking the eggs and tried to flip using his wrist. Unfortunately, the eggs folded and both yolks broke. The cook was discouraged and went to discard the food and start over. I stopped him and said they would be fine - made me feel at home as I usually break my yolks trying to flip them as well.
My wife ate the oatmeal a couple of days and said it was good and filling. She also ate some of the breakfast meats and said they were buffet good. We attend meetings at hotels occasionally and breakfast is often served before the meetings - the prepared foods and breakfast meets were comparable to hotel banquet room style breakfasts.
COSTA MAYA, MEXICO One of the main reasons we found this cruise was an interest in visiting the Mayan ruins near Costa Maya. Having read a little about the Temple of the Masks, selecting our excursion for Costa Maya was easy - the double trip to both Kohunlich and Dzibanche.
We did book through Royal Caribbean before we left - thinking that we were safer and more protected by sticking with the "official" excursion. I know a lot of people can book on their own, but I could not find substantial savings and any excursion that included both sites seemed to really cut it close on time. As it turned out I had good reason to be worried about cutting the all aboard time too close.
And in all honesty, I preferred Royal Caribbean having my credit card number instead of someone in Mexico who simply put together a neat looking website.
The excursion was scheduled to meet at the end of the pier at 8:15 am
We were about the last people to join the line. Since we did not have much time we did not see much of Costa Maya except for what we saw through the bus windows.
Our tour guide, Jesus Rivero, greeted us and led us to a large bus. The bus was clean, had no odors, air conditioned and as comfortable as a 56 seat upright bus could be on very bumpy roads.
The excursion operators handed out a box lunch as we boarded the bus and they were very determinably making certain we knew the lunch came from the ship not the tour operators. With good reason. Our lunch was a package of tuna, 6 crackers, a small packet of mayonnaise, a small packet of relish, a chocolate chip cookie and potato chips. Again one of those circumstance where nothing is really wrong, but....
Our trip to the ruins took a little over two hours and we saw some absolutely desolate areas with a few small settlements. Many of the small towns, maybe villages would be more apt, seemed beset by poverty and had a generally run down, littered appearance. Then out of nowhere there would be a nice home, freshly painted with a lady sweeping the front porch with a neatly maintained yard. This contrasted with the cinder block construction with simple openings for the windows doors and the only furnishings would be hammocks hanging from the walls.
There were lots of chickens and goats hanging around. The people sitting behind us in the bus were from Iowa and apparently knew a lot about chickens. We had a running commentary on the type and quality of the chickens - it was pretty funny to me. My wife didn't find as much humor in it as I did. They were a group of friends and family making the trip and were very friendly - they helped my wife and I get some "together photos" throughout the day.
The landscape for the majority of the trip was similar to Texas - low scrub trees across fairly flat land. We did see a lot of sugar cane fields including some they were burning.
We were told the farmers burn the sugar cane fields prior to harvesting for several reasons - chases snakes from the field, makes the plant more pliable and easier to harvest with a machete, and the burning actually adds to the sweetness of the resulting cane syrup. I don't know.
I did learn that I like Mexican Coke much more than the Coke here in the United States. The recipe in Mexico still uses sugar cane while in the US the recipe uses corn sweeteners. Apparently, I was the only person on the ship (and probably Cruise Critic as well) who did not know that! Oh well, I drink maybe a half dozen Cokes a year.
We passed a couple of militaristic looking checkpoints and on the roads leading to the Federal Highway there were a lot of road bumps to keep vehicles from speeding. The bumps were made with the ropes that the cruise ships tie to the pier with two or three ropes stretched across the road.
DZIBANCHE & KOHUNLICH I have heard through the grapevine that a cruise review is not the place to review excursions. So this will be brief. If the grumpies think even this is too much, tough - there are thousands of other posts you can read!
I really enjoyed the ruins - just as much as I expected. Our cost for the dual trip through Royal Caribbean was $98. I did a brief search to book the trip independently, but could not find anything comparable. There was a Kohunlich single tour for $76 (compared with $82 through Royal Caribbean).
We were able to climb the main pyramid at Dzibanche which was a treat. Our little group marveled at the ability to climb and explore the ruins - in the US the lawyers, insurance companies, environmentalists, etc. have all made it impossible to get close to anything. Hopefully, the access provided to the Mayan sites are not damaging them.
The views were very impressive and we had a lot of fun.
It was nice that we were the only group at the ruins.
Our tour guide, Jesus, knew a lot about the ruins, the Mayan history and you could tell he took a lot of pride in his heritage. He was born and raised a short distance from the ruins and drives the two hours to Costa Maya to give the tours.
The ruins were still partially unexcavated and it was actually very cool to be able to see the way the stone work emerges from the soil. Many of the ruins have trees growing from them and only the major pyramids are completely open.
At Kohunlich we really felt like we were in the jungle. Seeing 50 or 60 or 70 foot palm trees with all the under brush made me really feel like we were on an adventure. I can not imagine what it was like before the roads were cut in and the jungle was kept at bay.
Officially it was called a sub-tropical rain forest, but whenever there are monkeys jumping around wild in the trees... I'm in the jungle baby!
Seeing the ruins was addicting. I really want to study more about the Mayan civilization and in particular these sites so I know more about what I am seeing. The rocks are impressive in and of themselves, but knowing more about the history and evolution of the civilization will make them even more interesting.
TEMPLE OF THE MASKS This temple was everything I imagined it to be - a pyramid, in the jungle and incredible 6 feet tall stucco masks carved into the side of the steps. Very cool.
From the top of this pyramid, you could look across the field and see the tall trees and palms in the distance. As you panned across the horizon sticking out of the top the jungle canopy were the tops of other ruins and pyramids.
This was the quintessential National Geographic moment and was the view we selected this cruise for.
I have a 1 minute 30 second Flip video that I can email you a link to view if anyone is interested.
THE MONKEYS Everyone I told about our cruise before heading out heard about my "need" to see monkeys in the wild. This trip did not disappoint. When we arrived at Kohunlich, we walked a narrow earthen bridge toward the complex.
Apparently, the Mayans built their communities on rises and used the natural slope of the rises to collect runoff and rainwater in huge cisterns. The jungle has filled these slopes and the earth bridge was what gave us access to the site.
As we were walking this loud rumbling, screech roar was coming up out of the tree tops. Its hard to describe the sound as it was not a roar, not a screech. It sounds silly, but the only thing it reminded me of was how I imagine dinosaurs sounded.
This, of course, was the sound of a large male howler monkey trying to attract a female. When we approached the first complex here, we saw the male jumping and roaring. Then we saw two females in an adjacent tree.
My quest was complete!
JESUS RIVERO Jesus was our tour guide and he also had an assistant with him named Manuel. He was a good guide, very proud of his heritage and quite sincere in his desire for us to have a good and informative time. His banter (or as he called it, his "blah, blah, blah") was light hearted. He gave the mile high view of the ruins for the general tour, but if you asked him a specific question he knew the material inside and out.
On the way back to the port after visiting the ruins, he started to show us the coconuts that the natives get coconut oil out of and then adapt for various uses. They are quite small and do not look like a coconut here in the states.
He was very slick in how he started to show a few items of personal jewelry he had carved from the coconut material - three times harder than mahogany he claimed. By the time he finished he had four zip lock bags of little Mayan huts and Mayan masks each carved from a small coconut being passed down both aisles of the bus. Then out came the three ring binders of key chains, money clips, swizel sticks, page markers and the like that were all for sale.
It was harmless fun and I will never fault anyone for taking an opportunity to earn some cash.
There was one moment where I paused to reflect on this as I watched about 3/4 of the passengers buy a trinket ($5 each American). We were seated at the back of the bus and the Mayan masks sold much quicker than the Mayan huts. One of the ladies from Iowa wanted a mask, but by the time the baggies reached us they were sold out. Jesus came toward the back of the bus timed with the baggies.
The lady was disappointed and Jesus kind of shrugged, apologizing that he was out. He then said that he had six hundred of them last week and sold them all. I did a little double take and asked if I heard right - he sold six hundred masks in one week. "Si amigo" came the answer.
The quick math: 600 masks X $5.00 each = $3000.00 a week and that doesn't count the Mayan huts and all the other pieces.
I told my wife I was moving to Mexico with my pocket knife and getting a supply of coconuts.
FORMAL NIGHT I like to dress nicely. Formal night is a fun time for me and I wear a tuxedo. My thought process - I have one so I need to find any opportunity to wear it I can find.
As stated before, Formal Night was moved to the third night to accommodate the Super Bowl.
We had early seating for the main dining room. Our difficulty came as we got back onboard from Costa Maya a little after 5:30. Not quite sure how, but we showered, dressed and were in the dining room only a few minutes late. We did catch a break with the elevator - we boarded on the first deck and after we cleared the minor security (I forgot my cellphone in my pocket) we walked through and an elevator door slid open. There was no one else around, so we jumped on and went straight to Deck 8.
Jon and Tracy were with us on Costa Maya, and they arrived for dinner shortly after we did so we all hoofed it some how!
Dinner was excellent for Formal Night. It was the best all around meal I had onboard the Grandeur.
All of us ordered an assortment of appetizers - I had the shrimp cocktail and the Escargot Bourguignon. My wife had the lobster bisque and escargot. The escargot was delicious - I am embarrassed to admit I used a roll to sop up some of the decadent sauce. The shrimp cocktail was fine - six common shrimp arrayed on a bed of frisee. The assistant waiter then spooned a thinner than normal but still tasty cocktail sauce at the table.
The lobster bisque was much better on the Grandeur than on the Monarch. It may be subjective, but the Monarch bisque had a strong "fishy" odor about that carried over into the taste. The Grandeur bisque was flavorful, rich and buttery.
For my entrEe I selected the roasted duck that came with shredded sweet red cabbage and sauced with a black currant reduction that was delicious in and of itself. The duck was plated with golden potato croquettes.
I could have stuffed myself and ate another one.
Others at our table had the filet with green pepper corn sauce that seems to be a traditional, long-term favorite of many on Royal Caribbean's ships. There were a lot of ohs and yums.
My wife, Kim, chose the shrimp ravioli. It was tasty and standard with a lobster sauce and wilted spinach and garnished with sautEed leeks.
Then we had the best news of the cruise. Reading the boards on Cruise Critic it seemed that some of the ships in the fleet no longer offered the Grand Marnier soufflE for desert. I had prepared myself for it and on the first night there was a Grand Marnier flavored mousse that I assumed was the replacement for the soufflE.
I looked down at the desert menu and there it was.... Grand Marnier soufflE. Once again I came very close to ordering two.
It was as delicious as I remembered it on the Monarch.
CAPTAIN'S RECEPTION Essentially we missed the Captain's Reception. The Captain was unable to attend because of the sail away from Costa Maya and the Staff Captain was there in his stead. We arrived in the South Pacific Lounge about 5 minutes after 8 which technically should have been within the window, but the reception was definitely winding down. There was a nice crowd - maybe 250 people or so in the room. The band was playing, I believe it was the Metroline band (going by memory on this one), and was very talented. Of course at this event the songs were geared toward Big Band and jazz standards. It all felt very cruisy.
Our dining table attended together.
As we walked in the ship photographer was packing away his camera. I was a little disappointed as the photo with the Captain was the photo I was going to purchase. Oh well, $19.95 set aside to save for the next cruise! I looked at the pictures the next morning in the Photo Shop and only saw about 20 photos for sale. This event was again an older crowd and I suppose everyone who attended had enough photos with the Captain.
We did stay for a glass of champagne (OK, I had two, the others had one) and saw the introduction of the staff officers and other crew members. There was not a lot of "oomph" for the introduction and the crowd was thinning through the event.
Our little group dispersed and Kim and I headed to the casino. I played roulette off and on for about two hours and had fun pretending the chips were $100 and $500 instead of $1 and $5. It was secret agent night and a lot of the staff dressed in white dinner jackets.
There were a handful of guests in tuxedos, but many changed out of their formal clothes.
I stayed in mine until the bitter end.
THE DIVAS OF MOTOWN We met back up with Jon and Tracy for the evening production. The show was titled "Supreme Divas Of Motown" performed by The Divas of Motown.
The ushers brought us to some excellent seats for this performance which was very appreciated.
This was really a nice production. There were three singers with excellent voices and were very beautiful in their stage clothes. The performances were what you would expect - singing the female hits of Motown. The songs were heavy on the Supremes of course, but also included Martha and Aretha and Tina. One of the hits of the evening was from Dionne Warwick - that was definitely a crowd pleaser.
The fourth member of the group came out playing the saxophone on a number and absolutely just wailed. I could not believe someone could dance and play the sax like that at the same time. Amazing.
I would not be surprised if some of this show was tracked, but if it was who care? It was a spectacle and we all had a good time. It was my favorite show of the cruise
COZUMEL We did not plan any excursions in Cozumel. We thought we would play it by ear and just see what the town was like. Our tablemates both booked excursions - Jon and Tracy selected the Jungle Buggy Trek across the island. This excursion had side by side Polaris RZR ATV rides across the dunes, along the shore, up over hills and through the jungle. They were the only people who selected this tour so they had a unique experience.
They even had a real adventure! Since usually the tour has a 6 to 10 or more RZR drivers the Mexican police saw just two and became suspicious. They were really in a remote, uninhabited area and the police thought they were either drug smugglers or sea turtle poachers and sent a squad to intercept and see what they were doing.
The police arrived in full body armor with automatic weapons.
That is such a cool story even I had to write about it!
Larry and Peg went to one of the beach clubs along the ocean and relaxed with one of the all-inclusive packages.
Kim and I got up late, had a late breakfast and meandered off the ship. We took a few pictures of ourselves in front of the Grandeur, walked through the pier shops and took a taxi to San Miguel.
We did absolutely nothing except wander around, laugh at the barkers. We wandered into several of the jewelry shops and every store offered us tequila. I thought now this is the way to shop. The malls at home would take on a whole new attraction for me if there was an open bottle of tequila on every counter.
Like a lot of tourists we ate lunch at Palmeras right downtown. We watched the police raise the gigantic Mexican flag that is such a landmark.
After lunch we stopped in a little open air bazaar with vendors selling trinkets and toys and bought some inexpensive souvenirs for our 19 month old son at home. My wife got into the haggling here in Mexico - she was not so confident at the Straw Market in Nassau. She was able to get a marionette puppet, two painted mariachi gourds and one of those painted fish line Cozumel toy guitars for a total of $10. Very proud of her!
BACK TO THE SHIP Conzumel was planned to be our relaxing day in the sun. We really didn't know where to go and the beach front along the main drag was not particularly inviting so we headed back to the Grandeur. Made full use of the pool for several hours and had a good time.
We watched pool games and they were funny. One of the Cruise Director Staff members (Gio) ran the games and he was having a hard time getting people to participate. Then a small group came back onboard still wearing the Carlos and Charlie's balloon hats and they jumped right in. When a group a 20-ish guys who had already had a lot of beer in the sun said what the hell, the games were on.
I found one thing very funny. There was one 18-20 year old girl playing in a white bikini and when it was her turn to take the playing card across the deck without using her hands the crowd around the games stood up, took notice and faded away as soon as she was finished.
We lay in the sun - the weather was beautiful - read our books and truly relaxed until it was time for dinner.
RYTHYM AND RHYME The evening production was called Rhythm and Rhyme presented by the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. Billed as a salute to contemporary musicals it was well received by the crowd and both my wife and I enjoyed the show.
The cast on the Grandeur really are talented. The show was heavy on the Broadway standards - Evita, West Side Story, Cats and was done very nice.
The sets were very basic and consisted largely of scrims and backdrops. There were numerous costume changes - some so quick I wondered how they did it even knowing the principles of Velcro and under-dressing!
As I understand it all the singing in these production numbers is live with only small tracks added - the "stars" are all live. I was impressed. The dancers have the show blocked perfectly and it was a very seamless, well integrated show.
We learned the following day that this cast has been together for about seven months (six weeks in rehearsals and 5 months onboard performing) and that their contracts were ending in March. This explains some of the seamlessness we saw I am sure, but there should be no doubts about their talent and professionalism.
Lighting was very well choreographed, the sound was mixed and even and I personally thought it was a through and through professional production.
THE QUEST Ahh, the famous Quest.
We attended the Quest game show at 10:30 in the South Pacific Lounge. It was packed. We sat on the edge of the risers to watch as there were no seats and we had arrived about 20 minutes early in hopes of finding a chair. I guess the rule to get there early is a good one.
The only complaint I have about the Quest is too many people know what every item will be. No group of several hundred people in the real world will have 15 percent of them pulling out 2 dollar bills from their front pockets. Maybe, just maybe some would have to dig in their wallets for one, but that many people having them..... too many are reading Cruise Critic's cheat sheets!
One lady in her sixties from our section actually pulled a black bra out of her purse.
Now all that being said it was funny.
Now that being said the man who got naked did not need to.
The group in front of ours was led by a man who knew the Quest, had a lot of the props with him and really wanted to win. When the time came for the Quest for a man dressed as a sexy woman, he dropped his shorts, stood there nude and pulled on his bra and panties.
The man who actually won the points was a younger blonde who looked like he would rather be absolutely anywhere than there, but he trooped through it. I guess it goes to show that youth will win out everytime. Read Less