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Cruise Review: Grandeur of the Seas

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I wrote this review for Cruise Critic, but I figured it makes sense to share it here as well even though it’s written for that audience…

It’s for our first cruise as parents. We took Roey to Bermuda on the Grandeur of the seas. It was a weeklong cruise that went to Bermuda and docked there for 2 and a half days. Overall, it was AWESOME!

PRECRUISE
We drove down to Baltimore from Jersey City and stayed at the La Quinta that we found via stay123 dot com. They offer free wifi, free full breakfast, 24/7 gym, a comfy room, and most importantly 14 days of free (safe) parking for during your cruise.

Check in was very easy, and the room was clean, well maintained and honestly a lot better than I expected. I wasn’t expecting a dump, but I didn’t expect the room size (a bit larger than standard) or …freshness. Service was excellent, quick and friendly, and the beds were comfy. The room had a fridge and microwave, and the location was convenient to several places to eat….and shop.

EMBARKING

The boarding process took a total of 2 hours from stepping foot out of the hotel’s shuttle van to stepping foot into the Centrum of the Grandeur. (That does include about 10 minutes with the dining staff that was set up outside of the ship to sign up for the dining package)

The port of Baltimore was huge and looked chaotic at first glance but was organized enough. The lines moved slowly though we made it through.

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SHIP

Grandeur was pretty!! It was the smallest ship we’ve sailed, felt tiny but chock full of goodies!! I noticed the wear in some areas, but it’s an old ship despite it’s refurbishment. It’s not a cruise ruiner. A common complaint among the reviews I read before my sailing was a sewage smell throughout the ship. I smelled it only one day, and it was in our bathroom, nowhere else on the ship. Everything was generally clean looking and well maintained. I will say that our stateroom looked clean but (neurotic mom that I am) I wiped the place down with clorox wipes before letting my son loose in there, and it proved to be a bit dirtier than expected. (sidebar: I wiped down our hotel room at la quinta and there was no visible dirt on my wipes! But lots of dust on the crib we ordered for Ro.)

The ship’s layout was easy to navigate and I liked the adults-only solarium (they allowed us to stay and eat in there w/ Rohan when he was quiet or sleeping, when he was in a rowdy mood we didn’t attempt to hang out there) I noticed the movement on this ship more than any other we’ve sailed though. (Luckily it didn’t effect the baby at all)

OTHER PASSENGERS

This was the oldest cruise we’ve been on, and we expected and welcomed it. I didn’t want to take our baby on a rowdy drunk young party cruise. For the most part we met lovely, sweet, friendly people. This was actually our friendliest cruise to date. I’m sure it’s partially because everybody loves a smiling baby and partially because my husband can’t get through a room without stopping to talk to everyone he sees. Most of the folks we spoke with were from the north east/south east and seasoned cruisers who’d seen Bermuda a ton of times.

SERVICE

Service on the Grandeur was excellent. This was the first time we needed as much assistance since we had the little one along. The staff in the dining areas, and in all the public spaces really, were just super helpful, friendly and made life easier for us. This was our first sailing that we were given a WOW card to use. I don’t know what the staff gets from receiving them, but we gave ours to a wonderful server in the Windjammer who really knocked our socks off and my son’s too! He surprised us with sliced bananas for the baby, and would stand behind me to get his attention so I could feed him easier, it was unexpected and very appreciated. Our stateroom attendant did a great job with setting up for us and the baby, he “made” a mattress for the pack n play using sheets. The wait staff everywhere were so hard working and so helpful. These folks deserve a raise.

CABIN

I already mentioned the cleanliness…but otherwise the interior cabin wasn’t as suffocating as I expected. I am a chronic overpacker and was able to find a place for all of my and my son’s clothing and toiletries and toys. My husband lived out of his suitcase, but not because he had to, there was space for his items too. Only issue I had is that our luggage didn’t fit under the beds. We had a pack n play set up for the baby and it was able to fit next to the bed and not be obtrusive. I was surprised at how well appointed the cabin was. Lots of nooks, crannies, shelves and drawers to put all the stuff you didn’t need to pack in the first place

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MDR / WINDJAMMER / PARK CAFE

This was the first week of the new menu in the MDR! It was lovely, we missed 2 days though. We ate in the MDR for lunch a couple times and dinner most nights, and we ate breakfasts in Windjammer. The variety in Windjammer was decent, the omlette station was popular, some of the items could have (should have) been kept warmer, and I think a waffle station would be a welcome addition. I noticed they changed out the trays frequently, and were constantly cleaning, wiping up, and maintaining the area well. The Windjammer staff is underrated. They hustle!

Our MDR staff was Peter and assistant Tomislav and it was a rocky start, but they were good overall. I think the baby threw them off their game a bit. We had to let them know just to keep the pace up no matter what the baby was eating and things went smoother after that. We missed a few nights with them because of My Time Dining scheduling/availability and specialty restaurants and Tomislav actually found my husband and asked him if his service was to blame for us not sitting in their station for dinner! Poor thing. We felt terrible. Overall they were good, but things that other servers in the past have done, like, remembering my severe nut allergy and letting me know in advance what items had nuts in them, or remembering that I always order a hot tea with lemon before dinner and having it waiting for me, weren’t done. It’s not a big deal because I’m so used to asking about/for these things anyway, it’s just always special-feeling when the waitstaff remembers before you have to say anything.

Park Cafe was close to our room and we ran up there for snacks often. Also ran up early mornings for oatmeal for the baby. They had a nice variety of light dishes and drinks, plus a great salad station, in the mornings it was a bagel station.

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SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS

Izumi: Underwhelming food, great service. If you’re a foodie or big into sushi, you won’t like it at all. I think NYC sushi has spoiled us too much.

Chops: Slow service, but very friendly. Great food, perfectly cooked steaks! I felt like we had 100 servers since everyone was coming to hang out with us and play with the baby.

Giovannis: Yummy apps, great service, overcooked main courses, but still flavorful. I got a well done steak when I asked for medium….I would’ve sent it back, but our son was in the nursery and I didn’t want to take any longer at dinner. Desserts were not impressive….but I still ate them!

ACTIVITIES

This part disappointed me a bit. There were such ill-timed activities. Also, just few activities that suited our taste. Lots of seminars from the spa, which in my mind equates to “info you can find in any magazine plus a sales pitch thrown in.” Art auctions and bingo. Neither are up my alley. There was some trivia, which we enjoy and attended, and some demonstrations that were OK: cake making, sushi making, napkin folding etc. I think there was only one dance class (I love those and my husband tolerates them for me).
I bested the rock wall, then freaked out when I turned around and saw just how high I was.

We went to bed early with the baby each night so no shows/nightlife for us on this trip.

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SPA / GYM
The gym was small but never crowded. I took one class, a boot camp. It was not intense enough for me as a regular exerciser, but would be great for a beginner or non consistent exerciser. The machines were clean, up to date, and there was a decent variety of free weights. There was not enough floor space though. It felt a little cramped for space, so it’s good that it was never crowded with people.

I did a fire and ice pedicure at the Spa and Victoria did a wonderful job. I can’t speak to other services, but the area is clean, spacious, quiet and relaxing.

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ROYAL BABIES / NURSERY

We went daily to the Royal Babies area so my son could have some play time with all the toys. The staff there were excellent, engaged, patient and just lovely people all around. I noticed them wiping down the toys and the floor a lot, and I appreciated it! There are toys and books to borrow during the cruise, and free play time that my son loved. The nursery/babysitting service was $8/hr and SO worth it!! They give you a beeper in case anything happens, but they will feed/change/play/put to bed if you want them to.
I stay at home with my son and he’s never been watched by anyone other than my mom a few times. This was the first time that we experimented with leaving him in someone else’s care. We left him for 2 hours on 3 days so we could have dinner as a couple, and each time he did really well. He didn’t cry and was playing well with the staff. I think bringing him there to play with them without leaving him helped out a lot for the times we did leave him. (We did notice one family left their crying daughter there, the staff told us she cried the entire time, and they beeped the mother several times. Not cool)

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MY TIME DINING:

We liked it. We were given the same section without asking for it. And never had to wait. Only once were we seated in a different section, and it was only because we had the baby in the nursery and didn’t want to wait for a seat in Peter/Tomislav’s section. That was the only day we shared a table and it was enjoyable. (note: even when we had a table for 2 we still chatted with the tables around us and it felt like we were sharing a table anyway)

DINING PACKAGE:

We did the $55/pp dining package and it really just saved us a small amount. But small amounts add up!
Chops+Giovannis (for dinner) = 50 regularly. Izumi you’re given 20/pp to use, but 5 goes to “cover charge” haha, so you’re given 15 for food only.
The dining package therefore will save you $10. If you use giovannis table for lunch, the dining package will save you only $5.

CC MEET & MINGLE:

We were late to the meet and mingle, waiting for my son to wake up. I should’ve ran up at the beginning because we were 20 minutes late and the official meetup part was already over. There was a raffle or free spin thingy and lil RCCL goodies were given out, but we missed it.
Had a good time talking to the CC folks from our forum though, and bumping into them for the rest of the cruise was nice too.

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BERMUDA:

We had 2.5 days in Bermuda and it just wasn’t long enough. Definitely an island we must return to for a land-vacay. It reminded me of St. Martin and was clean, bright, friendly, and seems the economy is much better than other islands we’ve cruised to. I didn’t get accosted to buy items (but also didn’t get the fun of haggling over a price either).
On the first day our son was sleeping so we got a very late start, we spent about an hour and a half on land just walking around the dockyard.

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The first full day in port we took the ferry to Hamilton, walked a bit, then took a bus over to the Crystal & Fantasy Caves. We had the baby strapped onto us and did the cave tours which were overpriced but interesting. They’re similar to the cenotes of the Yucatan peninsula if you’ve ever visited those. Except in Mexico they let you swim in the caves, they forbid it here in Bermuda. We wanted to go to the aquarium but instead got sucked into the Swizzle Inn and time escaped us. Yummy restaurant!

2nd day we took a bus to Horseshoe bay beach and just enjoyed the sun and the freezing water. It was our son’s first trip to a beach.

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DISEMBARKING

Best disembarking ever. We did the self-assist. We got breakfast and went back to the room, grabbed our bags and walked off. Easy as pie. And we noticed when walking off that the suitcase situation was very orderly and organized with several people waiting as you got off the ship to help you to where your luggage would be. I’ve gotten off ships before to just a sea of bags and no rhyme or reason to where they were placed, so it was nice to see, even if we didn’t make use of that service.

OVERALL
The cruise was great, the Grandeur was great, and the staff was awesome. We loved the food and honestly when I try to think of what was bad about the cruise my mind goes to the weather, and the temperature of the water in Bermuda. Things that are not cruise related. (In fact, the staff handled the rainy weather very well, switching events to inside) We love cruising with Royal Caribbean and willl keep going!

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When’s YOUR next cruise?

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