Cruise on the RC Grandeur of the Seas, December 2-9, 2000, Southern Caribbean
My wife and I had been on two previous cruises booked through a lovely elderly couple (Cy and Eileen) of Cruises Inc. Both of these cruises had been through Carnival--the first in May of 1995 on the Inspiration (Eastern Caribbean)--the second in June of 1997 on the Destiny (Western Caribbean). I convinced my wife to leave our baby girl with her mother and embark on another cruise, this time with Royal Caribbean on the Grandeur of the Seas (Southern Caribbean). We convinced my sister in law and her husband to join us. FYI, the cost of the cruise was $1,300 including air. Email me with recommendations if I paid too much! : ) Because this was our first vacation three and half years, I decided to conduct extensive research on the Ship and Islands we would be visiting. In search of information I combed the Internet using Google search engine and discovered not only interesting and informative cruise reviews, but also incredible Chatrooms and websites which supplied me with a wealth of information. Traveltalk Online was incredible, as was Lonely Planet, and other websites to numerous to name here. This information was invaluable and enhanced this cruise tenfold compared to our previous vacations. A warm and sincere thank you to all of you who helped me out!!
Heading out on US Air at 6 AM, we discovered that the flight was overbooked. We waited a tense 30 minutes before the attendant was able to persuade volunteers to relinquish their seats. The flight was 45 minutes late in departing. On this airline, the food was bad, the seats cramped, and the service terrible. I will avoid US Air in the future. We arrived on San Juan at approximately 3:50 PM, forty-five minutes late, and were met by a RC Representative who directed us to an air-conditioned van. RC takes care of all luggage, so we did not have to worry about transporting our baggage from the airport to the cruise bus. The driver of the van provided us with a pleasant tour en route to the embarkation pier. The weather was sunny and the green Puerto Rican mountains loomed majestically in the distant skyline. RC has erected a large pink building on its debarkation pier. This building also contains duty-free shops-convenient for stocking up the cabin with various assortments of libations.
Embarkation went quickly and there were no lines at check-in. We walked in expecting the usual long wait in line which we experienced with our Carnival Cruises. There was only a small line and there seemed to be plenty of RCI representatives in the terminal to accommodate boarding passengers quickly. Getting the boarding pass/ship card took only a few minutes, and after a small wait (during which we were treated to free shots of rum), we were on the ship!
3. The Ship:
Facts and Figures:
916 feet long
105.6 feet wide
25 feet draft
22 knots cruising speed
2,446 passengers, double occupancy
760 crew, Entered service on December 14, 1996.
After we stepped across the gangway into the ship, immediately there were helpful staff to assist us in locating our cabin (Second deck, midship). We first walked through the Centrum of the ship and we were impressed by the elegance of design. It was lavishly decorated with etched glass, marble, brass, crystal, and light wood, with a peaches and cream color scheme. The railings surrounding each telescopic level were adorned with fir boughs, red ribbons, and poinsettias. A tall Christmas tree stood in the center with a string quartet playing a lovely Christmas medley. Having come from snow and a minus 20-degree wind-chill, the experience was surreal.
Our cabin was on the second deck and contained two large windows. I never cease being amazed at how small those showers are! The décor was quite nice and bright, with mirrors everywhere. The cabin contained pastel window treatments, and one tasteful, impressionist tropical painting. The bathroom had full, fresh-smelling peach colored towels. The two beds were already pushed together into one, and I jokingly told the room steward that it was my aunt who would be sharing the cabin. The room was a tad smaller than those cabins on the Destiny and Inspiration, but not inconveniently so. Throughout the cruise there was a small, sewery smell that seeped from the toilet-more noticeable when in port, but not so bad as to warrant a complaint.
The entire ship was tastefully decorated in a mix of modern and classical art pieces. There were Shakespearean paintings hanging behind the information desk to the full wall "Showboat-like" oil on the stairway near the Great Gatsby Dining Room. The shopping area was equipped with black and white marble flooring and wood and glass "store fronts." The Windjammer Café was ornamented with wood, brass with large windows, and the wood flooring and nautical lamps in the Schooner Bar. Rather inconspicuously, a careful observer could note a diligent maintenance crew, polishing brass and glass, re-varnishing railings, and there were even crew members with little pieces of sandpaper that kept any spot of anything from being on the wooden decks for long. This was a clean and well maintained ship.
4. Detailed Description of the Ship:
The Grandeur's Centrum, designed by Njal Eide of Oslo, Norway, is the largest of all Royal Caribbean atria and ascends seven decks by way of two glass elevators to the base of the Viking Crown Lounge on Deck 11. The lower three levels of the Centrum are connected via twin marble and brass staircases which curve upwards from the marble floor and raised marble piano platform. Forward of the Centrum is the Champagne Bar, an intimate bar decorated in pearwood, etched glass and inlaid wood panels. To the port side of the Centrum is the Champagne Terrace which flows from the bar into the Centrum with chairs and lounges upholstered in muted greens. This entire area is accented with potted palm trees, marble sculpture, a large water cascade and smaller water fountains. While the carpets through out the ship were stained and worn, it was adorned with tasteful and festive Christmas decorations.
Forward of the Champagne Bar on Deck 4 are the Category F Outside Staterooms, and the Categories L & N Inside Staterooms. Aft of the Centrum is the lower level of the 2-story Great Gatsby Dining Room which is actually "midship" with the galley further aft. This dining room is elegant, decorated in an "art deco" style with warm light wood complemented by deep green, mauve and pink upholstery and window treatments on the 20' high windows, many small and large tables all spaced further apart than most other cruise ship dining rooms, a "Gone With The Wind" sweeping staircase which descends to a marble piano platform with a waterfall as its backdrop. The second story of the Great Gatsby is of mezzanine proportions leaving the center of the dining room uncovered which gives this whole room a feeling of spaciousness. You will find water fountains, marble planters and lots of greenery here, too. The Great Gatsby Dining Room is entirely non-smoking.
The Gatsby's staircase is right out of "Gone with the Wind" and leads to the upper level of the dining room. As we proceed forward on Deck 5, Promenade Deck, we come to the second level of the Centrum, surrounded by more comfortable seating where you can have a drink or a rest while you gaze through floor-to-ceiling windows, past the outside promenade to the sea. The promenade itself is wide, wood-decked and goes all the way around the ship - another big plus in my book. On the forward side of the Centrum you will find the Information (Purser's) and Shore Excursion Desks. Proceed forward on the starboard side of the ship and you will enter Casino Royale. Look down and you will find yourself standing on an inlaid glass floor gazing at tons of pirate booty beneath your feet! Glass pillars and a neon chandelier highlight the center of the room where you will find the gaming tables, and a Pharaoh sculpture at one entrance.
As we continue forward of the casino, we walk between more marble sculptures, over inlaid marble floors, through a wood-walled, vaulted ceiling grand entrance into the main floor of the Palladium Theatre. This room is also ornated in "art deco" with beige, gold and ruby-red color schemes, mahogany and back-lit crystal pilasters, and seating in "rows" rather than in banquettes or table and chair arrangements. Each individual "seat" has armrests and a drink holder. The theater has all the technical equipment it needs to stage full musical production shows. From an illuminated cast glass floor featuring theatrical masks of Tragedy and Comedy we can make our way up the winding stairway to the balcony which brings us to Deck 6, Mariner Deck. Traveling aft past the forward set of elevators, we enter the Boutiques of Centrum, a collection of 7 shops all surrounding a central "Market Stall" designed by SMC Design of London. The flooring in this area is of black and white marble and the shop exteriors give one the feeling of being in an upscale boutique mall. Surrounding the central elliptical display (which is a cabinet made of folding panels which fold out during business hours to create the "market stall" from which an assortment of jewelry and cosmetics is sold), we find Aromatique, the perfume shop, Facets, the jewelry shop, Marco Polo, china and gift shop, Regalia for formal and fashion wear, the Harbour Shop which sports liquor and sundries and Cruisin', the logo souvenir shop. Continuing through on the port side, we enter the Photo Shop and Photo Gallery as we proceed back to the Centrum itself.
Aft of the Centrum on the port side we enter the Singing in the Rain Lounge which adjoins the Conference Center midship. This area can be opened up to become one large conference area and was set up for the Trade Show in this fashion during my cruise. Floor to ceiling windows line the port side and the decor again is comprised of mahogany and pearwood walls. Seating is in small groups of upholstered chairs surrounding cocktail tables - another great place to sit and have a drink and gaze out at the sea.
Directly across from the Singing in the Rain Lounge on the other side of the Conference Center, we find one of my favorite places - the Schooner Bar. This is an informal pub, nautical in decor with hardwood floors, sculptured and authentic maritime art and rigging, ship models and integrated sofa/bench seating. The entertainment area features a piano, and this room corresponds to "piano bars" on many other vessels. The starboard wall is again faced with large windows decorated with draperies that look like sails.
Moving aft from either the Schooner Bar on the starboard side or the Singing in the Rain Lounge on the port side, we enter the South Pacific Lounge. There is a small stage for a entertainment and a dance floor. The Captain's Cocktail parties are held in this lounge which seats 575 and spans the entire width of the ship. Although only one deck high, the seating, upholstered in greens, blues, turquoise and beige tones is tiered, and the room is again flanked by large windows giving this area a open and roomy feel. Art and decor are much "South Pacific" with outrigger boat models hanging from the ceiling. The room is divided in the middle between smoking and non-smoking sections.
Proceeding forward again through the Schooner Bar we come to the Centrum again and central bank of elevators and stairway. Up one deck to Deck 7, Commodore Deck, and we find the Library on the starboard side of the Centrum and the Card Room on the port side. These two rooms are mirror images of each other and similarly decorated in brown and beige hues with floor to ceiling windows and sliding glass doors opening out to private terraces. Seating in the Library is on couches, armchairs and settees upholstered in leather, while the Card Room is furnished with attractive and weighty card tables and chairs. Both areas appeal to those looking for solitude, quiet, and relaxation!
From the Centrum on Deck 7, we will now proceed up one deck to Deck 8, Bridge Deck. On the starboard side we find the Crown & Anchor Study, and the Explorers Club is directly across the Centrum on the port side. These rooms are similar to the library, decorated again in a nautical theme and private areas to relax in comfortable seating and gaze out of floor-to-ceiling windowed walls. All of the suites, Category C through Royal Suites, along with more Category K larger inside staterooms fill the rest of Deck 8.
Now, up to Deck 9, Sun Deck, from the forward stairway and enter the Windjammer Cafe, the casual dining and buffet area which, unlike the ships in my Carnival experience, is in the bow rather than stern. The Cafe is tiered up from the semi-circular glass walls to a raised marble platform in the center containing a piano and dance floor for late afternoon/early evening dancing. This room again is decorated with wood, brass and glass, and has magnificent views from all of the large windows.
All the floor-to-ceiling windows which line this ship on public decks are simply superb. As compared with several Carnival ships, on the Grandeur of the Seas, the window and railing design makes for maximum exposure to seascapes, and you know you are at sea. I prefer to hear the ocean, see the ocean and feel the glorious fresh salty winds in my face. I prefer to see the moon and stars at night and the sun glimmering on the horizon at sunset. I am critical of Carnival's mega-liners that skimp on exterior deck space and design skinny little promenade decks with cement for decking and solid metal railings painted solid white. In contrast, the Grandeur has real wooden handrails. She has real wood decking on a wide promenade deck that completely circles the ship, and on all of her upper exterior decks. She has vast arrays of huge windows in the public rooms as well as along all the balconies of the Centrum. All of the exterior facing cabins have either a large picture window facing directly to the sea (no cabins look out on the Promenade Deck) or a private veranda. This is not a ship for those who fear the sea, but it is a ship for those of us with salt water running in our veins!
Traveling aft from the Windjammer Cafe we come to the main pool and outdoor lounge and seating area. Most of the decking is wood. The main pool area on Grandeur, unlike her Royal Caribbean siblings designed especially for Caribbean cruising, consists of only a single pool, not the twin pools on the other, older ships. The pool, filled with salt water is divided into three areas: the wading area, the water to which is contained by a surrounding dike; a shallow area with a fence separating it from the third, deep area. Four of the ship's six whirlpools are located at this main pool area. The pool is fantastic, and I spent the majority of my 'sea days' lounging in the pool, sporting nothing but swimming trunks accompanied by a ice bucket of Corona's stuffed with neon green tangy limes. The pool has a waterfilled, shallow lounge area, so one can recline in the salt water. Here I spent many hours worshipping Ra, soaking up her rays, and surrendering myself to total and complete relaxation and contentment.
Continuing aft, we once again pass the Centrum and enter the Solarium. The Solarium is equipped with soaring pillars reminiscent of a Roman bathhouse, and a glass canopy overhead which, due to its two-piece construction rather than the "stacked" configuration of most retractable domes, allows much more light into this area. The first thing that struck me about this area was the "stone floor" which consisted of Spanish paver-like tiles in a light beige color with highlights of pink. Royal Caribbean describes this area as a "North African Moorish-themed indoor/outdoor public room…" It was thoroughly beautiful with several fountains, lovely landscaping and two elevated whirlpools covered with domes, surrounded by more fountains and plants. There is a buffet area for snacks, alcoholic beverages, sodas and juices when the Windjammer Café and Great Gatsby Dining Room are closed. I can heartily recommend the Pizza and hotdogs only to those with nonfunctioning tastebuds….
Moving on through the Solarium, we enter the Shipshape Spa - the Grandeur's two deck high health club, aerobics area and beauty salon. On the lower level, we find the Beauty Salon, His-and-Hers changing rooms, saunas and steam rooms, along with a varied assortment of private rooms - most with large floor to ceiling windows - where one can get just about any type of massage or "treatment" you can imagine - for a steep price, of course. We can now climb the interior stairs here to the Aerobics center and weight and exercise room located on Deck 10, Compass Deck. The exercise area has state-of-the-art computerized equipment including six cycles, four step machines, four treadmills, two incline benches for free weights and 10 strength equipment stations. The treadmills, however, were out of order or barely functioning. The room, while adequately equipped, was small and cramped. The Shipshape Spa is run by Steiner, which holds this concession on many other cruise ships.
As we move forward on Deck 10, we once again arrive at the Centrum. Forward of the Centrum, there is the central "opening" above the Main Pool area. The jogging track runs around the edge of this entire deck and there is much "lounging deck space" up here, too. I am also an avid runner, and a word of advice is to get the run over with before 10:00 AM, at that time, it is difficult to maneuver around the lounging sunbathers. The forward part of this deck contains the Video Games room, Fanta-SEAS Teen Center, Club Ocean Children's Room and a forward Observatory lined with windows for a fabulous view from two decks above the bridge.
Back to the Centrum. Lets hop on one of the two glass elevators and journey up to the top of the Centrum - Deck 11, Viking Crown Deck, to the Viking Crown Lounge. This is a two story lounge with tiered seating areas in the forward section which is "serviced" by a disc jockey on the deck above and turns into the adult Disco at night. A quieter section aft contains a piano bar. The central part of the Viking Crown Lounge provides breathtaking 360 degree views from the upper level. This is another lovely room with furniture and carpeting in shades of blue against walls and dividers of light and dark wood, chrome and brass. All this set against the magnificent windows makes for one of the loveliest adult night clubs on the seas.
We have hit all of the Decks now except Deck 2, B Deck, and Deck 3, A Deck, which contain staterooms only.
A Category I outside stateroom on Monarch of the Seas measures 122 square feet and has a porthole rather than a window. The smallest inside stateroom on Grandeur of the Seas measures 145 square feet and has a sitting area with at least an armchair, a large mirrored desk, safe, television and a large mirror. Standard inside staterooms are categories Q through M, a total of 249 in all and can be found on Decks 2, 3 & 4. Categories K & L, larger inside staterooms measure in at 158 square feet and can be found on Decks 4, 7 & 8.
The bathrooms in all the above staterooms are typically "small" with a round shower with curtain, nice-sized medicine cabinet and a storage shelf underneath the sink. There are 4 standard inside, 4 larger outside and 4 deluxe outside cabins designed for the physically challenged. These measure from 251 to 312 square feet and provide wide doors, level access and large handicap-equipped bathrooms with grab rails. The 4 category D Deluxe Outside physically-challenged cabins even have wide, private verandas. All of the decor of the staterooms and suites is similar - beige, peach, blue, green, light wood - all tasteful and "classy". Even the bathroom towels and washcloths are peach - none of that standard issue "hotel white".
a. Cabin Steward:
Our cabin stewardess introduced herself to us immediately. Her name was Desire'. She was always pleasant and we always had fresh ice, towels and our bed was always turned down with mints with the itinerary for the following day. Although she made sure that our cabin was in good order, we missed some of the little extras that we experienced on Carnival, and heard that our table companions received from their cabin stewards.
b. Service in the dining room:
We never missed dinner in the dining room! This was absolutely the highlight of each night. The food was varied and just superb, and the service was better than excellent. The lobster was succulent and the filet mignon tender. The food always arrived hot and well prepared. Our headwaiter, Tony Webley, is from Jamaica, was knowledgeable about the ports of call and was just a super nice person. He came over to our table at least two or three times each night to make sure everything was to our liking, to discuss how we spent our day, and what we were planning for the next day. But the best came from our waiter Belgacem Oudouba from Tunisia--he made dinner a pleasure each night. Our assistant waiter, Imre Ferencze, hailed from Hungary. He was also fantastic and always remembered what drinks we preferred. They were both funny and good sneaking us more food. They made every one that the table feel special. I'm am writing a letter to RCI to commend our waiters on the work and service they provided. They made the trip memorable. There were nights that some of us had two to three desserts! We became friends with two other tablemates. The other two tablemates that we began with were a Spanish speaking couple from San Juan and they did not return until the last night. This enabled us to have a more intimate setting each night and become close to our tablemates who we continue to keep in contact with.
d. The Crew:
All in all, these were a happy bunch of people. They constantly greeted us and always had an answer if you had a question. The people at the shore excursion desk were helpful as were the pursers desk. The Cruise Director, Kyle, was an absolute idiot. His act seemed scripted and a poorly imitated copy of our previous two cruise directors. Last but not least, the Captain was exactly the way I have always envisioned a Captain should be, a man with a strong, confident presence.
e. The Bar Staff:
Some of the bar waiters were good, while, the bar waiters near the pool were extremely pushy in pawning off those nasty syrupy tropical drinks, served in fancy containers made to look large, but holding less than 10 ounces of actual liquid, and absent the ice, about two ounces of drink. I settled for the reasonably priced tappers of Heineken and bottles of Corona.
6. Ports of Call
a. First Day:
We actually entered the Ship about 5:00 PM, and after dropping our carry-on luggage in the cabin, immediately made our way to the dining room. Seating was random the first night, and we had a nice dinner with an English waiter. We showered, watched the show, and went to the disco for a little bit of dancing, then off to bed.
b. Second Day-At Sea:
Our 2nd day was a sea day we just relaxed and enjoyed the ship. I am an avid workout-aholic, and had both the time or energy to workout. First I jogged a few laps on Deck ten, and reveled in the beautiful blue sky, warm morning sun, and blue-green oceans waves. From there I moved on to the small fitness center, and pumped the weights. Surprisingly, the Ship had an excellent selection of free weights. Then onto the Windjammer for a small bowl of melons and cheese. The rest of the glorious day was spent lounging in the pool, soaking in the brilliant sun (heavily coated in 45 sun block), and supporting the Mexican Beer economy. There was a Calypso Band which played only infrequently much to my chagrin. The taped music consisted of top forty and an annoying repetition of Ricky Martin's La Vida Loca about four times an hour. Kyle the Cruise Director did his best to disrupt my tranquility with some pool games. The tension and stress which had been bottling up inside me over the past few years were dissolved away by the sun, salt water, and realization that I had a whole entire week to unwind, relax, and let go. This evening was the Captains formal dinner evening. We had our picture taken in Centrum or with the Captain at the Welcome aboard Party. The Captains cocktail party was at 5:15 PM for main seating in the South Seas Lounge, and I enjoyed a few glasses of champagne to round off the Corona. This was our first formal night of the trip. The Grandeur orchestra played for dancing and a variety of cocktails were served. We had a fun and delicious meal and after dinner went to enjoy the show-which was unremarkable. After the show we caught up with some of our new found friends and went dancing in the Viking Crown Lounge. It was disco night. The lounge was hopping--then off to my pillow.
c. Day 3-Orenjestad, Aruba:
Aruba is an island lying southwest of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, some 50 miles northwest of Curaçao and 18 miles north of the Venezuelan peninsula of Paraguaná. It is 19.6 miles long and 6 miles across at its widest point. We slept in late and enjoyed a quick breakfast at the Windjammer before catching a cab to Manchebo Resort on Eagle Beach. I was anxious to try some of the Island beer (Ribanu) which had been recommended in the various chatrooms. Manchebo was also the most widely recommended place on the island for swimming and beaching it. Next time, we plan on renting a jeep and joining an expedition that tours the rugged terrain of the Island exploring coves, cliffs, caves, and crannies. The weather was perfect and the water was a gorgeous jade-blue. I brought a nerf football along, and had fun playing a few scratch games in the frothy surf. For lunch we went to Carlos and Charlie's, and I had an excellent skillet of Steak Fajitas, and a very tasty margarita. The place was fun and the waiters were wild men running around giving away free shots of Sex on the Beach and tequila. After lunch, we explored Palm Beach which was similar to Eagle-a little farther down the coast. Both of these beaches were topless, and those offended by this European type phenomenon should probably avoid them. We had another marvelous dinner on the Ship, and went back to Carlos and Charlie's for a night on the town. There was loud music, lots of people, dancing on tables, and even a few female patrons who chose to dance on the table topless. Our waiter Belgacem and a few other crew members stopped in. It was fun for a younger crowd-but I am getting a little too old for that kind of roughhousing. I narrowly escaped a hangover!
d. Day 4-Willemstad, Curacao:
Curaçao is also part of the Netherlands Antilles (an autonomous part of the Netherlands). Some of our tablemates were "beached out" from the previous day and decided to explore some Island caves. Since I am part aquatic beast, it was "destination beach" once again for us. A recommended beach was Mambo Beach, near the Seaquarium. We travelled through Willemstad, which was filled with brightly colored buildings in Dutch design. The water here was even more brilliant blue than Aruba, and had excellent breakers for snorkeling. I spent the day under water exploring underwater ravines. I observed fish in every shape and color imaginable, as well as a few giant lobsters. The snorkeling was exceptional.
e. Day 5-At Sea:
Ditto second day at sea but add more Coronas! Evening was the other formal night and they were taking formal pictures again before dinner. This was the evening many of the women wore beautiful evening gowns and quite a few of the men donned tuxes. Everyone looked nice. This was also the evening of the Gala Buffet. Even though you may not be hungry it is worth seeing the food made up as art. Picture taking is from 11:30 - 12:15, then at 12:30 for consumption.
f. Day 6-Philipsburg, Sint Maarten:
We made plans the previous day with our waiter to head to Orient Beach. We had been to this beach in 1995, and loved it. This is a "clothing optional" beach, and while we chose to keep our suits on, neither my wife and I have any hang ups on this issue, and restrain ourselves from gawking. Upon recommendation, we parked ourselves near Pedro's, a beach bar with live music, and the men (including our waiter) took it upon ourselves to walk the beach to assure that it was safe for our womenfolk. Here I tried Carib Beer, quite similar to Corona, but IMO, has much better flavor. There were a few clouds, but the day was another glorious day, and the beach, long, beautiful, and exceptional for people watching. Upon determining the beach safe and fit for use, we returned to our better halves (minus our waiter who met a nice lady), and had delicious sword fish steaks with Calypso Picante Sauce. Also, more bottles of Carib! As the weather clouded up, we returned to the tender pier, and perused the shops. I bought a bottle of the Calypso Sauce which is very hot and tasty. We returned to the Ship for another great dinner, nice show, and early to bed.
g. Day 7-St. Thomas/St. John:
We had toured St. Thomas on a previous cruise and found the beaches dirty and much of the island poverty-striken. We had heard so many good things about St. John, so we took a taxi to Red Hook, and a ferry to St. John. St. John, the smallest and least populated of the three major U.S. Caribbean, is an unspoiled wilderness, boasting on of the world's finest examples of nature's beauty. It's a paradise. Two-thirds of St. John (11,560-acres) is protected by the National Park Service--which means that visitors will be able to enjoy the untouched beauty of this Caribbean jewel as Mother Nature
The U.S. Virgin Islands lead the world in the development of "sustainable tourism," which protects the beautiful natural environment while allowing visitors to enjoy it in its pristine wonder. Laurence Rockefeller deeded the land to the National Park Service in the 1950's. Centuries-old sugar plantations offering a glimpse into St. John's past may be found along the island's coastline. We did some hiking in the wooded hillsides where Cliffside views were easy to find. St. John has some of the world's most beautiful beaches and the right of access to most beaches is protected by law. Of all our travels through the Caribbean, St. John took the cake. It was awesome: particularly Hawksnest Beach and Trunk Bay. Our next trip will be back to St. John for the entire week, and we hear that Caneel Bay is the place to be. If anyone reading this can make any vacation suggestions about St. John, please email me-I think this is where I will retire!
h. Day 8-San Juan:
Debarkation and customs went quick-we were off the Ship by 8:20 AM (it's a little trick-email me and I'll share it with you!). At the pier in San Juan we hired a taxi and took a tour of old and new San Juan for a few hours. We had done this once before and saw nothing new or exciting.
Throughout the week, we had breakfast (and an occasional lunch) in the Windjammer and never had difficulty finding a table. The food here was poor to fair; however, there were delicious late afternoon snacks and ice cream (tacos and chili). Hot dogs, fries and pizza of dubious quality and tepid taste are available most of the day and into the wee hours in the solarium. There are no more daily midnight buffets. One night there is a buffet by the pool and on the second formal night they have the Captain's Gala Buffet in the dining room. On the other nights, the waiters walk around the ship with trays of hors d'ouvres and canapés. Personally, I missed the sinful indulgence of the midnight buffets... Food from room service was edible, but barely so…
8. Activities and Entertainment:
There is so much to choose from, i.e., shipshape activities, daily bingo, art auctions, and the usual assortment of pool games, and horseracing. The belly flop competition was held just prior to the horseracing, I was asked to be a contender, but determined that the 'flopping' would interfere with my consumption of Coronas, and thus, humbly declined…. The Ship had an organized excursion desk, and it seemed that many of the excursions were reasonably priced. It had always been my experience that these excursions were twice what it would cost you to do on your own, but not with Royal Caribbean.
9. Nightlife on the ship:
My wife and I made all the shows after dinner in the Palladium Theater, but one. Half the shows were good, the other half, dismal. We both thought that the quality of entertainment on our previous cruises with Carnival were superior. Each night in the Centrum, there's a singer who performs nightclub songs. The disco in the Crown Lounge was great, and played dance songs and Latin tunes. It was always fairly full and a generally fun time to be had for all.
The chaos I expected never happened. We retrieved our luggage with no problems, and since we had booked our air through RCCL, we were able to check our luggage right there at the pier. We then boarded a bus with only our carry on bags for a quick ride to the airport. The debarkation routine was normal as with any other cruise. It's the waiting around for other cruise passengers to settle their accounts that's irritating. This is the worst part of any cruise - getting off the ship. Not so much as the waiting around, but the fact that you know your cruise is over and you would rather just get off the ship as you can't use it's facilities anymore!
11. What's not so good:
First, the sewery smell in the room was disappointing, but I think inevitable with these new plumbing systems. There are too many announcements by Kyle the Cruise Director. The traffic flow in the Windjammer was poor. The only way out of the Windjammer is to pass the beginning of the buffet lines, which can be difficult. There are several circular areas around which it is difficult to move when there is more than a few people there, and there is no place to set your tray while you are getting food from the chaffing dishes. Food at the Windjammer was, in my opinion, poor to fair. I would also prefer that the Ship spent more time on each Island. The typical port day docked at 8 AM and departed at 5 PM. To get the full flavor of each Island I would prefer a later departure time.
I was very impressed with this Ship, and this trip was my best vacation to date. I enjoyed the sun and salt water each day, as weather and temperature were absolutely perfect. On the Grandeur, we experienced consistent good and friendly service, fair entertainment. The three areas which were far superior to Carnival were the ship layout and décor, and the food selection and quality at dinner (the lobster, filets, soups, salads, and deserts were a delicacy), and the dining service. We did not have one disappointing meal in the dining area. The Windjammer was typical and I would rate the quality of the food there as poor to fair at best. I actually found Carnival superior in this aspect. If I had to choose between Carnival and the Royal Caribbean, I would choose the latter based upon the fine quality of the food and dining service. The lunches and entertainment are of lesser concern to me. In conclusion, I would like to extend a "thank you" to all of you who are reading this, who took time to email me with information that proved to invaluably enhance this vacation experience for me. I wish you and your families a joyous holiday season!
Have a wonderful Holiday Season!!
Edited by Administrator on 12/16/00 06:48 PM.