The day by day link is to my daily posts from the ship, the review itself is below that:
Holiday sailings can be expensive but reasonable rates do surface from time to time apparently. About a year ago we were successful in locating this incredible 12 day Southern Caribbean itinerary for less than what we paid for a 7day Oasis of the Seas cruise last fall. This is good news for those looking to escape the conventional holiday routines.
The Grandeur of the Seas is showing some age, but only a little and really only if you look for it. For the most part the relatively small ship holds its own for those of us who just want the sea, great food, good entertainment and beautiful ports of call. I often eschew the traditional, but old fashioned cruising minus the dress codes is exactly what I need a couple times of year. My cruising tastes were formed on Carnival Fantasy class ships and Grandeur fits that mold perfectly.
I was impressed at times with the Windjammer selections. Dinner buffets often mirror some highlights from the main dining room (MDR) and usually had theme of some sort like Italian, Mexican, etc. Breakfast and Lunch selections were more routine but still abundant.
Quality wise the food was very good. I enjoyed nearly everything I had there. The only real disappointment at Windjammer food wise is the desserts. It was a little surprising to see these selections, while attractive, didn’t pack much punch taste wise.
MDR food and service were outstanding as evidenced by our attendance 11 of 12 nights. The only off night being New Years Eve, which was apparently like a formal night on steroids. Our waiter and assistant waiter couldn’t have taken better care of us and anticipated our every need.
Park Cafe was a nice venue in the Solarium that provided great sandwiches and salads during the day with sandwiches and bagels at breakfast time. Its definitely not the equivalent of the Park Cafe on Oasis class but still a perfect place to grab something during a sea day on deck. If you like an Egg McMuffin, Park Cafe can set you up all morning.
It’s also the late night food spot, its actually the only late night food spot, on the ship, which is more than a little puzzling to me, but I don’t make the rules.
So on Royal Caribbean they like to close things and limit availability as much as possible. I don’t get it, but thats how it is. With Windjammer split into two sides you might think that would allow for two during heavy traffic and one during off times. But chunks of time go by where you have one food option on the whole ship, thats all. Windjammer doesn’t open for breakfast until 6:30 even though a lot of folks are out and about by then. The inanimate soft serve machine even has limited hours, along with the ice water at the Park Cafe. Ice water needs limited hours? The biggest head scratcher in this vein to me was New Years Eve. Keep in mind its ultra-formal night and most of the ship is likely up and roaming around until midnight at least. So you might think a thing of the past, a midnight buffet perhaps, would be in order. Or you might think with several parties going on throughout the ship, food would be abundant. Nope. Same selection of late night burgers, hotdogs and pizza at Park Cafe. I guess, the coffee shop snacks were available until 11, but they dwindled quickly.
The most surprising food spot for me was the coffee shop, Latte-tudes. It provides the same sandwiches as a Cafe Promenade on larger ships along with the Starbucks offerings of the Starbucks on larger ships. While its usually a nice variety, food wise, there isn’t much in the way of quantity so things go quickly. You can count on it nearly always being busy though. People want their Starbucks.
Our entertainment this cruise may have been the best yet. Maybe 5 nights were comedy, which was great for me. All comedy would be great, but that’ll probably never happen. And I’m not talking the ridiculous practice Carnival has going, I mean main theatre headliner comedy acts. We saw a comedy/magic show, a few straight stand up comedy acts and also Alfred and Seymour which made me laugh more than I’ve likely ever laughed on a cruise ship. I can’t remember everyone and wish I would have kept notes. I may be mistaken, but it seems only 2 or 3 nights were production shows. Nothing against the talented dancers, but those shows don’t do it for me. The musicians, like the Lionel Richie tribute (sorry, I forget the name) and David Klinkenberg, amazing on the violin are immensely more enjoyable for me. The ship’s orchestra was outstanding all week as well. All in all, Royal Caribbean’s entertainment is far and away the best out there, among the lines I’ve traveled anyway.
Cruising from Baltimore is smooth unless the ship is late, which can happen due to the several hour long trek up the Chesapeake Bay. Our embarkation was perfect. The line at security was long, but we were there at peak time 10:45 or so. Once through security it wasn’t 10 minutes until we were on board (11:15). Cabins aren’t ready until 1pm so the public spaces are a little crowded before then.
We did self assist and carried our own bags so it wasn’t difficult at all. Of course an inexplicable line formed on Deck 4 before we were cleared by customs. By the time we were ready the line had dissipated and we were off in a matter of minutes. If there is an advantage to being on a low deck, 2 for us, it’s disembarkation. We were in the car headed home by 7:40.
I know I’ve neglected some important topics, but I need to wrap this up since it’s time to get back to real life at least for a little while. It was a nearly perfect cruise and I’m sorry for the those who are used to doing it every year since Royal is discontinuing the 12nt holiday sailing. Next year Grandeur sails 7nts for Christmas and 7nts for the New Year. As is the case anywhere, if there is money to be made, rest assured they’ll chase it.
I’m happy to answer any questions. email@example.com or @spridlewv on Twitter.