Royal Caribbean International
Grandeur of the Seas
by Douglas Terhune & Friends
Grandeur of the Seas 7 Day Eastern Caribbean Cruise
While doing my research on the possibility of cruising on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, I read Sharon Jackson's review, http://www.sealetter.com/Jan-97/grsharon.html. It was as detailed as any ship review I have read and certainly sang the praises of the ship and staff. So now that I have sailed the Grandeur, I thought, "What the heck could I add?"
Therefore, I wasn't sure of how to approach my review till the day before the sailing. I went down a few days early to Miami and stayed on South Beach. Since I write often about ships, I wanted to do something a bit out of the ordinary. So, while seated on the beach, I thought it would be kind of neat if I could get the impressions of some other cruisers on the Grandeur. Seeing the ship through their eyes might be fun.
Well, if I did learn anything from this exercise, it was "ask four people the same question and you will get four different answers." These nouveau critics passed along some insight that I might have never experienced - no matter how many ships I was to sail.
Let's meet the passengers. The first two I approached were on the top deck of the ship just as we were about ready to pull away from Dodge Island in Miami (pronounced My-Yam-me by the locals). I did really want to collect first impressions while they were fresh, so Kathy and Marcy from California were nice enough to agree to my idea. They are mother and daughter and live in the San Francisco area.
The other twosome are Jessica and Mike - a nice looking couple in their early 20s from the New York/New Jersey area. They were two of my dining partners and had some cruising experience under their belts already, so I thought their perspectives would be insightful.
I asked each of them some questions the first day about their decision making process to wind up on the Grandeur, what their very first impressions of the ship were, and what were their expectations. On the last evening, I sat with each of them and recapped their week - reviewing highlights and any disappointments they may have incurred.
HOW MANY CRUISES HAVE YOU BEEN ON?
Kathy, 2nd; Marcy, 1st; Mike, 4th; Jessica, 2nd.
WHAT ARE YOUR AGES?
Kathy, early 50s; Marcy, early 30s; Mike, 24; Jessica, 22.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE GRANDEUR OF THE SEAS?
Kathy/Marcy, Recommendation from a friend and Travel Agent plus they received a corporate discount from Marcy's company. Marcy chose the ship. Kathy looked on the Internet for information.
Mike/jessica, Heard it was a nice ship. Too young to travel alone on Carnival.*
*[Publisher's Note: This is a misunderstanding of Carnival's "Minor Guests" policy as of May 1999 which states "Guests under the age of 21 years must be accompanied by a parent, relative or guardian 25 years or older in the same stateroom." As Mike & Jessica were both over the age of 21, they could indeed have cruised together on a Carnival ship.]
HOW LONG AGO DID YOU BOOK THE CRUISE?
Kathy/Marcy, February 1999
Mike/jessica, 5 months ago - booked a Guarantee
WHAT WERE YOUR VERY FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE SHIP?
Kathy: Much larger than her first cruise on Princess 10 years ago
Marcy: First time she laid eyes on a Royal Caribbean sister ship was the day before as they soaked up the rays on South Beach. "Holy ****" were the first words she remembered mumbling. Never saw a ship this big in San Francisco harbor.
Mike: First view was coming over bridge to Dodge Island and thought the ship was very large.
Jessica: She got excited when she first saw it.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF THE INSIDE OF THE SHIP?
Kathy/Marcy: Impressed, very classy, but small inside cabin on Deck 2.
Mike/jessica: "Hard to believe you are on a ship!"
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?
Kathy/Marcy: Shopping in St Thomas and San Juan and Horseback riding.
Mike/jessica: San Juan Horseback riding excursion, R&R and gambling.
The cruise turned out to be a very relaxing week - mainly due to an extra nice group of passengers and perfect weather. It never was below 77 degrees or above 87. Marcy fought off a small cold and found herself as a jockey in one of the horse races by the pool - while Kathy and I won some money on her horse. Mike lost his mind on the second night and asked Jessica to marry him - and she said yes! Only drawback to that is our table of eight had to move to a bigger dining table to accommodate her new engagement ring!!! Yikes Mike!
So, on the last day of the cruise, I tracked down all four of the new ship critics and got some of their final thoughts on the cruise. Funny how busy one can become on a ship and how easy it would have been for all four of my new friends to be selfish and tell me they wanted to just watch the sunset or hit the casino one last time, but they didn't - and I am very grateful.
PLEASE SUMMARIZE THE WHOLE WEEK IN ONE SENTENCE
Kathy: "It was a great trip. The food and service were excellent and I put about as much into a week as I could."
Marcy: "I had a wonderful time. Service in general was top of the line and hey, if you want to be pampered, go on a cruise."
Mike: "I could not have had a more perfect time."
Jessica: "Absolutely perfect week."
As quiet of a cruise this was, I have to add a footnote here. When I was talking with Kathy and Marcy by the pool around 6pm, 3 men in their 50s from Australia removed their bathing suits - to their wives' disbelief. Luckily they remained in one of the four hot tubs and there were only a handful of people on board, but spontaneity does happen on cruises!
What I did next was to ask the four cruise critics to ramble off some positive and negative comments about the cruise. This is where having 8 more eyes on board became beneficial!
- Liked the idea of unpacking once and seeing different islands
- Weather was a perfect 10!
- Had the 'best' dining table. Everyone was totally different, but yet they went to shows together, hung out in ports and played bingo together.
- If Marcy 'did' have kids, she felt they would have had a great time.
- Thought everyone on ships was extremely nice
- Shows were all very good
- The ship was so much larger than the first ship Kathy cruised on 10 years ago
- They did not want a 'party ship', and got what they hoped for
- Ship and staff paid attention to details
- Loved the service and the staff. Staff seemed to remember their names very quickly.
- Really liked the shows and the dancers.
- Their horseback riding in San Juan was great. Hot, but great.
- Thought the pool band "High Seas" was terrific. [So did I!]
- Took advantage of the daily drink specials.
- Really loved CocoCay and Labadee (food, activities, etc)
- Prices of the drinks were too high.
- Prices of the spa services such as massage were way higher than back home in California.
- Cabins were often too warm at night
- Wish ship was non-smoking or, at minimum, one side for smokers and one for non-smokers.
- Would have liked to have seen more 'active' ports versus the two days spent at Labadee and CocoCay.
- Did not like breakfast and lunch buffets in Windjammer lounge
- Gym was a bit small
Before I move forward and add a few comments of my own, I thought both Marcy and Kathy had some good closing thoughts. Kathy said that if you have never cruised before - you must! She really wishes that there weren't so many things to do! And Marcy added that be sure to do all the research you can before selecting a line and a ship.
I very much enjoyed my week on the Grandeur of the Seas. I have traveled on Royal Caribbean before and felt comfortable with the product they offered. The ship is as tastefully decorated as they come. We stuck to our itinerary to the second and the weather could not have been more accommodating. The service was very good and the staff was as friendly as any other ship I have sailed.
If I have one area of feedback for Royal Caribbean, it is the selection of food they serve in their Windjammer Lounge for lunch. Each day I wanted a salad bar and or a burger - but never found either. They had plenty of hot entrees - but I did not want a hot entrée lying out by the pool. I wanted a good old American lunch and it was no where to be found in the Windjammer. In addition, as I eat breakfast around 9:30 am and dinner around 9 pm, I enjoy waiting till 2 pm or so before eating. The Windjammer closes at 2 pm and does not reopen for several hours.
This then means if I want to eat around 2 pm, I have two choices. One is the food offered in the Solarium and the other is Room Service. Now who ever heard of Room Service being sent to your chaise lounge chair by the pool? So the Solarium was the choice by default - and not a good one at that. They have two choices: Hot Dogs or Pizza. The Pizza was made of cardboard and while I like hot dogs, I was just not in the mood for them.
Royal Caribbean can learn from the other lines that fancy 3 Bean Salads and the such are just not that appetizing to all of your audience. The only burger I saw was on the beach days. They offered a Pasta Bar one day - and only for a few hours. This is a shame because the Grandeur had some of the best dinner entrees that I have seen on a ship. The Prime Rib was actually thick and tasty. The Lobster was tender, not chewy. The soups were varied and yummy.
I also liked the idea of the daily $2.95 drink specials - especially because a Red Stripe beer, with tax and gratuity, cost me $4.43 a pop. The Martini Bar in the Crown lounge and Margarita Bar in the Schooner Lounge also offered $2.95 special each afternoon from 5 - 8 PM, along with hors d'oeuvres.
As usual, I did not attend the shows - but did hear they were good. The disco in the Viking Crown Lounge was fun and offered some great views of the ship's pool deck. I never waited in any line all week long more than 5 minutes (I plan my day around the masses) and the ship seemed to be empty most of the time - with of course the exception of the first day by the pool where chairs were, literally, a hot commodity.
Grandeur of the Seas anchored off Labadee.
Royal Caribbean has a very nice and predictable product. Entertaining and feeding 2000 plus guests day-in and day-out is no easy task - so being predictable is a good thing. I thought Labadee was very pretty and that CocoCay (Yes, folks. There is no space between "Coco" and "Cay.") was holding up very well after years and years of cruise traffic. My first time visiting that island was in the mid 80s when Admiral Cruise Lines owned the island.
Like Marcy said, research your ship and you should not have any unpleasant surprises when you board your vacation paradise. You have now seen the Grandeur through five different sets of eyes - I think it is YOUR turn next!
Doug Terhune is quite the experienced "solo cruiser" and is a regular columnist and reviewer for the SeaLetter. His monthly "Ship Tips" columns are very popular with our readers.
Doug's special interest is interviewing various officers on his cruises, including interviews with the Tropicale's head chef, the Inspiration's Chief Engineer, and the Sensation's Captain. To find all of Doug's SeaLetter columns and cruise reviews, use the SeaLetter Search Engine entering "Douglas Terhune" as your search phrase.
Doug can be reached at: Doug@sealetter.com.
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