I'd first like to say to anyone reading this review that you're welcome to send me e-mail, asking about further details of anything I comment about.
Second, for the negative comments (and I've got plenty of 'em!), keep in mind that I'm a fairly positive, easy-going person, always willing to give someone or something the benefit of the doubt....so for me to ding something, it must've really made a bad impression.
Some more background info - This review is for the trip we took on 10/19/02, sailing from New Orleans, on the Grandeur of the Seas. This was our first cruise; my wife and I are in our early 30's.
There's a quick summary at the very end, if you want to skip the details.
So here we go...
THE GOOD - For the most part, the ports of call. Grand Cayman and Cozumel (beach areas) are beautiful. Progreso itself was fairly unimpressive (not counting its huge port area, of course), but this is really just a stopping point to get to all the Mayan ruins that are in the area anyhow, so you're not really there just to visit Progreso.
Progreso was still recovering from the recent hurricanes (Lili, Isidore), but the tour buses (which were very nice, and air-conditioned) are right there to wisk you to your tour, and we didn't have any problems getting to our destination (Dzibilchaltun). Dzibilchaltun is a nice alternative, if you don't feel like spending 2.25 hours (each way) on a bus to get to the more popular Chichenn-Itza or Xumal sites. And if you didn't know it already, it's HOT there. Dang hot. Folks who live in Phoenix all year even say it's hot.
You've GOT to swim with the stingrays in Grand Cayman. Be warned, however, that the group that runs that outfit gets pretty overwhelmed, so it'll take you a good while just to get to the boats to take you to the 'rays. Be prepared for 1-2 hours of standing around, just to catch the shuttles that take you around the island to the boats that take you out. Once you've done it, though, you'll practically forget how long it took you to get there. Until you write your cruise review anyhow.
For Cozumel, we did the 4x4 tour thing; had GREAT guides for this. If you've never taken a small jeep over REALLY rough roads, but you'd like to, this is for you. Since we've done that sort of thing plenty of times, we probably should have chosen to swim with the Dolphins, but live and learn. It was still fun. The beach you get to see is beautiful, the Mexican buffet they give you for lunch is awesome, and the fact that you get to visit the Pee Pee Station (seriously) makes it worth it.
As far as the ship is concerned, our cabin steward was very good, though she did have a couple of misses (which could probably be attributed to a communication breakdown between us and her). The room was always tidied up nicely, and the bed neatly made.
Our lead waitress (Patronia) was very gracious and attentive every evening, and did a great job.
The bartenders made awesome drinks (especially in the casino), and the pool areas were always bustling, but kept very tidy.
The shows were pretty entertaining, too.
THE BAD - Not enough time in port, at least in Cozumel and Grand Cayman. Would've been nice to have as much time at those two ports as at Progreso.
And how 'bout some snorkeling lessons on the ship, for cryin' out loud? If you're a newbie/novice to snorkeling, don't take any outings that require that; would've been nice to have some intro to that, for us rookies. It's assumed you know how to snorkel, if you choose an outing that does that. NOTE - you DO NOT need to know how to snorkel to do the stingray thing; you're in waist-deep water for that.
Don't get a deck 8 cabin (at least not one with a balcony) in the center of the ship; it's right below the pool deck, and the noise from the band(s) or metal-on-metal screeching from sliding deck chairs REALLY gets annoying....especially if you're pooped from an outing and wanting to crash early, but the band is still playing at 11 PM by the pool....or want to sleep in a bit, but those 8 AM sunbathers are finding primo positioning of their chairs. For that deck, the front or rear of the ship would probably be a better choice.
If you get a cabin with a balcony, naturally you're going to pay more...but that doesn't get you any extra pampering. You get the same treatment rather you get an inside cabin on deck 3 or the luxury suite on deck 8. But at least you get to experience some great sights.
Here's a biggie, though - yes, the bed got made nicely, but the sheets DO NOT get changed every night. Seriously. My wife caught this one.
We had two twin mattresses that got pressed together to make a 'queen', and it has to be one of the most uncomfortable beds we've ever slept on. The mattresses were very worn, and each sagged terribly in the middle (they really needed to be replaced); the huge seam/rift that they created when pressed together was not very conducive to being able to sleep with one's spouse. Sadly, this is what you get when you ask for a queen size bed.
Also, the carpeting was very worn, and really needs to be replaced. The cabin really shows its wear and depreciation.
The ship shimmies and shakes pretty good when moving along, even on really calm seas, especially when going faster than 15 knots (about 17 mph). Don't know if this is normal, but figured I'd mention it, since it was rather irritating, as we experienced it a lot.
The head waiter was a figurehead, and the assistant waiter dropped the ball many times, and could've been much more attentive. He lost a bottle of our wine at dinner one night, and tried to replace it with a cheaper variety to compensate. Totally classless. And they ran out of sour cream on prime rib/baked potato night! So after finishing my prime rib, suddenly the head waiter shows up with sour cream he managed to scrounge from somewhere; when I told him it was too late, I was already done, he insisted on putting sour cream on my potato, even though I told him I had nothing to go with it now, and wasn't going to eat it! Again, classless.
THE UGLY - Prepare yourself.....the food on this ship is, for the most part, AWFUL. Unbelievable you say? I'm serious as can be on this one. No, we weren't sea sick, nor drunk off our ass (maybe that was the problem?); it was just plain old BAD.
With rare exceptions (lobster, prime rib, shrimp scampi, hamburgers, and for some odd reason, eggs - but only when you ordered room service for breakfast), the food was flavorless and redundant. The same type of rice side dish showed up at least 3 different nights with different dishes. Since when do collard greens go with shrimp scampi, too? And who the hell uses a gelatin base for Tiramisu, by the way?!
Stay away from the buffets in the Windjammer; lots of choices that look great, and not a one has any flavor.
Tons more misses than hits with this; and absolutely the worst coffee to be found anywhere.
Ah, but there's more: $1.50 Coca-Cola, $5 beer, $6 mixed drink, PLUS 15% gratuity on EVERY drink order. Yes, even the Coke. And you can't just give 'em your card, and have 'em put it on your tab...they don't have anything that sophisticated and easy to use. No, they write out a receipt, which you have to sign of course, every time you get a drink. Pay $39 and get a drink card (for 12 drinks) if you go; it won't get you every kind of drink, but it'll get most, and save you some hassle. Oh, and make 'em put a date on the receipt! Otherwise they don't...more on this in a second.
Last but not least, the purser's desk wasn't as friendly and helpful as they claim to be. God forbid you have a discrepancy on your bill! We had an overcharge of one bottle of wine on our bill, and the lady at the Pursers desk refused to take care of it; when asked to produce the receipt for this charge, she simply pulled a receipt that matched the charge....and there's no way to prove it's not the one, as it doesn't have the date on it! So we said pull all the receipts with those kind of charges, and she would see that she would have one less than we were charged for, thus proving our case. She refused, and instead blew us off to the RC 800 number, and told us to call it to take care of it. That's quality customer service? Puh-lease.
OVERALL SUMMARY - The excursions were good, the service mediocre, and the food terrible. If we'd been treated a little better, even that would've made a big difference. Our experience was less-than-stellar, so it's pretty much turned us against cruising again; at the very least, cruising with RC. We'll never go back to them.