My wife has been on 17 cruises, 10 on Royal Caribbean, and had sailed the Grandeur once before. Of my 13 cruises, 6 have been on RCI ships. This was my first cruise on the Grandeur. We both love the Vision class of RCI ships. We've also sailed with NCL, Princess and Celebrity. This was our second "Circle the Caribbean" cruise with RCI, having sailed the 11-day itinerary in 1998 on the Splendour.
We flew to Miami a day early, and stayed at the Best Western Marina Park. As far as I'm concerned, it's a dump. Others will disagree with me, but that one's off our list permanently. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant in Bayfront, and it was just OK. Some friends had driven down from the Tampa area and from Fort Lauderdale, and we met for drinks and dinner. The couple we were cruising late had bad airline connections, and missed their flight from Atlanta to Miami. Routed through Jacksonville, they showed up during dinner. At least they made it!
We got out of the rental van at the port in a driving rainstorm. Check-in was a breeze, and we were onboard by 11:00 a.m. We went to our room (aft balcony) and put our carry-ons in the closet, and then set out to explore the ship. RCI gets an A+ for boarding!
Although starting to show some signs of wear in the carpets, we didn't find that the carpeting detracted from the overall beauty of the ship. The ship IS a beauty, and is a very classy lady. Everything was spotlessly clean and shined. There is ample information on the ship itself in other reviews, so I won't go into any detail on that subject. The only problem with the ship that we encountered was a real nuisance, and one that I consider fairly serious. Several times during the cruise, a lot of black soot came out of the stack and fell like black snow upon our balcony. We tried to have a sail-away party on our balcony as we left Miami, and the "black snow" was so bad that we had to go inside. It got all over our clothes, and we tracked it into the cabin and onto the carpet. It was horrible! The cabin stewardess did her best to keep the carpet cleaned up, but couldn't stay ahead of it. It fell not only on our balcony, either. As my wife and I were walking laps each morning on the top deck, we encountered a lot of small puddles of water. Each puddle contained a good amount of that same soot! I don'tknow the cause of the soot, but it looked like the product of incomplete combustion. It was a very greasy soot, and did a very good job of staining clothing. Hope they get it fixed soon. We turned it in several times to the Guest Relations (Pursers)Desk, but it was never fixed. We were able to use our balcony most of the time, but on three different days, we got "snowed on."
We used the internet cafe on a daily basis, with no problems. As Diamond Members of the Crown & Anchor Society, we had several coupons for free time online, and used it. Heck, it's a lot cheaper than a phone call!
Out stateroom was, in a word, wonderful. The only problem we encountered during the entire 1-day cruise was the air conditioner's inability to cool the room down to my wife's comfort level. We asked our cabin stewardess if she could get someone to fix it, and the very next time we returned to the room, there was a note on our bed that maintenance had changed out the thermostat....and the room felt like a meat locker - My wife, of course, was in heaven!
Our room stewardess was, by far, the best we have ever had on any ship. AAA+++ in every respect!
The food in the dining room was excellent. We had an outstanding waiter and a very good assistant waiter.....we should have, for our table for six was adjacent to the Captain's Table, and our waitstaff also served that table. Again, AAA+++
Windjammer food was much better than we had encountered on previous RCI ships. The RCI staff must be paying attention to the comment cards and letters they receive, for things had definitely improved. The food tasted very good, although buffet presentation is pretty limited. Oh, and how we love that RCI iced tea! A- for the Windjammer.
VIKING CROWN LOUNGE:
This is our favorite hangout on an RCI ship, and this one was outstanding. Good drinks, good service, and wondererful sea views. What more could one ask?
The entertainment, overall, was probably a good B+. We enjoyed most of it, and didn't get up and leave even once! For me, that's pretty good!
We won more than we lost. Grade? Probably an A.
We absolutely love this itinerary. We missed Key West, since this was a 10-day cruise, but that was no big deal to us. Basically, this was a typical western Caribbean itinerary, plus Aruba and Curaçao with four sea days. Nice. We'd do it again in a heartbeat! AAA+++
As always, the entire ship's staff was courteous, friendly, and totally professional. They all made us feel very welcome on their ship, and the pride they felt in their ship was obvious. They genuinely liked their jobs, and the acted like we were the most important people in their lives..all of them. This, in my opinion, is what makes RCI rise above its competition. The attitude of the officers, staff, and crew was, without exception, outstanding.
You've probably gathered by now that we had a great time. We did. This was our first cruise with another couple, and I must admit that the entire experience was a lot more fun than just cruising as a couple or with a large group. Oh, my, did we do some "hootin'!" We had the best time.....and yes, we'll cruise with RCI again....as often as time and pocketbook allow. Overall grade? A+