Two Night Pre-Inaugural Cruise December 11-13, 1996
If you can imagine this to be a televised sports event, just think of me as the commentator who adds color, rather than the one who does the play-by-play. I took no notes on tonnage, cabin layouts, names and locations of the many public areas, or the number of whirlpools at poolside or in the domed solarium. Nor did I carry aboard a particular fond memory of a past Royal Caribbean cruising experience. Yet, my two night, pre-innaugural cruise on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's new Grandeur of the Seas, has placed this ship on my "sure would like to sail her again" list.
I began my adventure aboard the Grandeur with a non-supervised ship's tour. I found her easy to navigate and knew my way around in a very short period of time. The Grandeur is a beautiful and comfortable ship, well laid out with plenty of public areas, and some of the best artwork I've seen aboard any vessel. There was no neon glitz, but just the right amount of elegance and informality that best suits my taste. A special plus on my list was that the promenade went completely around the ship. The cabins, both standard and deluxe, were larger than one would historically find with RCCL, were well appointed with more than adequate closet and shelf space for a seven-day cruise. Best of all, the twin beds (which could be pushed together to make a queen) were equipped with firm mattresses (I suffer from back problems exaerbated by a bad bed). We were fortunate to be assigned a deluxe room with a verandah, a luxury in which I'll almost always indulge.
Of course, one of my favorite things to do when cruising is eat. I was pleasantly surprised by the ambiance in the two-deck Great Gatsby Dining Room. Tables would accommodate as few as two and as many as 10 diners. And, the tables were well spaced and the noise level so low that, unlike other ships on which I've sailed, I never got the feeling I was also dining with those at the next table and eavesdropping on their conversations. I never ate lunch in the dining room, but the two dinner menus forced me to make difficult, but delicious, choices. Included on the menus were special choices for the more health conscious cruiser. I was, however, quite disappointed with my breakfast selections. I would not recommend the Eggs Benedict, and be sure you tell them you'd like lots of refills when they serve you that first cup of coffee! Of course, there's almost always food being served somewhere . . . either at the Windjammer Cafe, or pizza in the solarium area, or 24-hour cabin service. There are "please deliver breakfast" cards in your cabin, and they include the standard continental fare as well as eggs and omelet choices. Again, if you're like me, order extra coffee. There was a small refrigerator in our cabin, so we would order juice or fruit to snack on later (as if there wasn't plenty to eat outside our cabin).
While I'm still on the subject of food, our only port of call for the two day cruise was RCCL's private island in the Bahamas, CocoCay. The buffet lunch served on the island was outstanding . . . definitely the best of all the lunch buffets I've had on any cruise. While I'm not necessarily a "sand in my shorts" kind of person, I actually liked CocoCay. Unlike other private islands I've visited, this one offered several beach areas offering both sun and shade, more than ample beach chairs, beach sports and for-a-fee water sports, and a small, but ample straw market. There were also clean restrooms!
After a long, hard day of relaxing at the beach, I decided to check out the spa area upon my return to the ship. The Grandeur offers a well equipped gym, fitness center, and steam bath and sauna facilities. For a fee, you can also get truly pampered . . . message, mud bath, facials, manicure and pedicure, and full service beauty salon. I was sorely tempted to try a facial, but opted instead for a free steam bath, followed by a cold shower, followed by the sauna, followed by another shower. Heaven!
Now I was ready for an evening of "party hearty"! I prefer late seating for meals, as this allows me to get in an hour or so at the gaming tables before drowning my losses in dinner. The Casino Royale has a full complement of gaming tables, including two roulette tables (the brochures I've seen say there's only one, but I played at two . . . honest!), a craps tables, several blackjack and Caribbean stud poker tables, and gads of slot machines of all varieties. I got wound around the slots a few times searching for the exit, but I did appreciate that the one armed bandits were not too close to the tables. The Casino boasts a glitzy raised glass floor at its entrance which reveals a "sunken treasure" of jewels and gold coins. There's also a bar right in the Casino if you need to drink a little courage before making that big bet.
With the little money I made at the Casino (before I lost it all again), I ventured over to the Boutiques of Centrum shopping area on Deck 6. There you will find stores featuring jewelry, gifts, perfume, liquor, fashion, souveniers and sundries. If you're a Lladro collector, you'll find one of the largest collections I've seen on any cruise ship. The prices are less than you'd find in the States, but perhaps not as good a bargain as you might find in other Caribbean ports. I always recommend that you do a little window shopping at home first, so you can compare. The photo gallery is also located near the boutiques. As with most cruise lines, there are photographers everywhere ready to snap your picture, especially on formal night.
Boutiques of Centrum
After dinner, it was off to the Palladium Theater, the Grandeur of the Seas's smoke-free showroom. I'm sure they could stage a full Broadway play, complete with state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and a hydraulic orchestra pit. The theater encompasses two decks, but there are some obstructed seats on the upper level. Both shows that I saw were excellent. The first was a tongue-in-cheek song and dance revue of popular music from the 60's, 70's and 80's. The special celebrity night starred Marvin Hamlisch. As part of Mr. Hamlisch's act, he turns the house lights up and asks the audience to create new song titles to which he composes music and lyrics. Much to the embarassment of my travel companion, I can now say that I collaborated with Marvin Hamlisch on a new song. I sincerely doubt that any of you will ever hear "Tender on the Seas".
If you crave even more entertainment, there's always the steel band at poolside and at CocoCay, a piano bar, and the Viking Crown Lounge Disco. There is also a second showroom on the Grandeur which hosts a late night comedy show, but I opted instead for the midnight buffet followed by a few more hands of blackjack.
As I wrote when I started this piece, the Grandeur of the Seas is surely one ship I'd not hestitate to sail again. Did I fail to mention that (as is their reputation) the RCCL service aboard was excellent? Now, if you just can't find it within you to take that much needed vacation, consider that the Grandeur has a fully-equipped conference center with complete audio/visual capability and several breakout rooms. Just host your next business meeting aboard and take advantage of this ship's hospitality.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please