Grandeur of the SeasBahamas/Florida Cruise
Aug., 2004
Grandeur of the Seas

By Jack Welsch

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This was our ninth cruise and our third with Royal Caribbean. We'd already booked a cruise for October but Linda decided she couldn't wait that long and she found a great deal so we booked this one. The cruise was from Baltimore so we avoided airline costs and we booked a cabin on deck 4 to keep the cost in line. That last part was a bit tough because, having had balconies, we've become spoiled.

The ship was Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas. It's a sister ship to their Enchantment of the Seas on which we had cruised in 1998. Since the ships are virtually identical, I'll not repeat the descriptions here as you can read them and see some pictures in that diary. However, I'll comment that the Grandeur now has a rock-climbing wall. Located on deck 10 aft, the rock-climbing wall looks like a recent addition so I suspect Enchantment may have one as well.

Freeport, Bahamas

FreeportFrankly, I was pleasantly surprised by Freeport. We'd been to Nassau twice and didn't like it at all. The geography was nice but we didn't like being accosted every few minutes by people who appeared to hate us but love our money. What we'd heard was that Freeport was worse. As we approached the harbor, the area we saw was decidedly unattractive so our prejudices seemed to strengthen. Despite our trepidation, we ventured out and were very glad we did. Whether we had bad information or things changed with time, we found the people to be delightful! The island was very pleasant and , though we drove around quite a bit, we didn't see a lot of obvious poverty. We were never once accosted and, even in the shops, there was absolutely no pressure to buy anything. Quite the contrary, the shopkeepers were almost universally warm and friendly. The folks at the car rental agency were both friendly and helpful. This is definitely a place to be considered for a future vacation!

Key West, Florida

I'd was in Key West a few years ago for a sales meeting and really liked it. I thought Linda would as well but she was unimpressed. Duval Street is THE place to go but, I must admit, it's much more interesting at night. I think of Duval Street as "Bourbon Street, but clean". Even in the daytime, there's a fair bit going on and there are a zillion little shops. Some are quaint; many just have tacky t-shirts and the like. Since sailing is in my blood, IMHO, the nicest area is down at the yacht harbor. One can only lust at the beautiful boats there. The bottom line of the trip, though, was that Lin says she's not terribly interested in going back.

Coco Cay, Bahamas

This is a "private island" owned, or at least used exclusively by Royal Caribbean. It's a great place to relax and enjoy sand, sea and sun. RCCL also provides a lot of extra activities including parasailing, etc.

Port Canaveral, FL

This is obviously a great port for those wishing to spend a day at Disney World or one of the other attractions near Orlando. It's also a key port for RCCL and I think it's where they do most of their provisioning. Beyond that, I don't see a lot to recommend it. The port itself is far from everything and I didn't see taxies so it appears you're pretty dependant on the cruise line if you want to do something something other than loaf on the ship.

Day 1 - Sunday, Aug. 15 - Departure from Baltimore

We left home about 8:00, got to Baltimore at about noon, and then had to drop the bags, park the car & take a shuttle to the ship. Since we’re going on another cruise in October, we decided to get a less-expensive cabin and were assigned cabin 4554 but when we checked in, we learned we'd been upgraded to a junior suite, cabin 8050. Better location, lots more room, and a balcony; nice!

They were running late so at first they said we'd start boarding @ 12:30 but it was close to 1:30 by the time we did. It was frustrating to have to sit in a crowded and not-too-nice terminal for so long but, in fairness, they had said we shouldn’t show up until 2:00. It’s just that, in past experiences, we’d always been able to board early so we thought we’d try to beat the crowd. I think those who came at the appointed time probably walked right on.

Dropped the carry-on in the room & had lunch in the Windjammer then Lin took a nap while I swam & read by the pool. The day was overcast but warm & humid.

One concern was that the bags delivered to our cabin were not ours & there was a bottle on the desk with someone else's name on it. These people had apparently been upgraded as well. We were assured it would get straightened out.

Bay BridgeAfter the muster drill, we went to the Viking Crown for the sailing. After sitting there for a while, we returned to the room, ordered a cheese plate & a bottle of wine from room service, & enjoyed it on the balcony while steaming down the bay. I’d brought along my GPS from the airplane so I fired it up to track our progress. In the meantime, the bags showed up at about 6:30.

We were at table 15 on deck 5 for dinner. Located on the upper level of the dining room, it's a table for 8. Others were Mike & Diana from near Baltimore, and Lee & Jennifer from near DC. The other two seats remained empty. Our waiter is Lemon from Philippines and his assistant is Francesco from Chile. The head waiter is Kirk from Jamaica. There is no wine steward. Lin & I both had cod for dinner. It was only OK. As in most of our previous cruises, our table was among the last out.

Lin & I had a drink in the Schooner Bar, then moved to deck 5 over the Champagne Terrace. Both venues had good combos. The one in the Schooner played some great jazz. I learned later it was made up of musicians from the show band.

Got to bed about 11:30.

Day 2 - Monday, Aug. 16 - At sea

Main PoolLin slept well but i didn't. Got up at 7:00, checked e-mail, staked out a place @ the pool & had breakfast in the Windjammer. We alternated a bit between the main pool & the Solarium pool but settled on the latter because the main pool was a zoo.

Lin left for a while but I hung in until about 12:30 when we got changed & had lunch in the dining room. I had Cajun catfish & it was pretty good. We decided to go for the crème bruleé but it had apparently only been under the flame for a millisecond. Too bad! Ate with Joel and Tammy from Marlton, NJ & Opal from NY.

After lunch, I sat by the pool & Lin took a nap in the cabin. (It occurs to me that I seem to write that sentence a LOT in these diaries. There seems to be a pattern there!) Eventually I returned to the cabin but Lin was still sleeping so I read on the balcony. Woke Lin about 6:30, we got dressed, had formal portraits taken & had a drink in the Schooner. They had a pianist there who was fantastic! Who should show up to fill the empty seats at the table but Opal and her daughter, Yasmin.

I had beef tenderloin & it was only mediocre so Lenin brought me some duck. That was delicious! The head waiter found me some Roquefort so I had that for desert.

The show was a Broadway review & it was quite good. We also went to an adults-only comedy show at 12:15. Finally got to bed a bit after 1:00.

Day 3 - Tuesday, Aug. 17 - Freeport, Bahamas

Woke just before 10 & found the Internet connection down so couldn't check e-mail. We had some great omelets in the Windjammer but the place was an absolute zoo! Unlike other cruises (except Disney, of course) there are zillions of kids on this cruise.

We sat up on the Sun Deck for a while but Lin left to walk around & I moved to the Solarium pool where I alternated between sun & shade. I met Lin @ 1:00 & we had lunch in the dining room. At our table was a guy on his 80th cruise!! All were on RCCL. Yikes!

We were scheduled to dock @ 1:00 but the captain said the Gulf Stream was particularly strong so we wouldn't dock until close to 2:00. While we were eating, we docked. After lunch we packed a bag & headed for shore.

Port LucayaThe ship was docked far from any town. We considered taking a bus or taxi but a zillion people had the same idea so we rented a Nissan "Bluebird" for $65. On a suggestion, we headed for Port Lucaya & looked around the shops for a very short time, then walked across the street to the Westin & swam at the beach. The water was very warm. We walked around a bit more & headed back to the ship where we had some wine & cheese on the balcony before dressing for the Caribbean dinner. Had marguerites in the Schooner. There was supposed to be "Romantic Dance Music" in the Viking Crown at 10:00 but there was not. We had one drink in the Champagne Terrace but the music was not our cup of tea so we left. I tried to check e-mail. It was very slow but I got a message from Charlene about the deaths of both Alex Sherinski & Marge Cross.

Day 4 - Wednesday, Aug. 18, Key West, FL

Key WestOne of the disadvantages of deck 8 is that it's right under the pool deck. Our cabin was under the Solarium pool area but there must have been people partying up there because I heard noises over our heads all night.

Because of new post-911 security laws, we had to go through a security check before anyone could leave the ship. As a consequence, we were up @ 7:00, had breakfast in the Windjammer, and were in line at 8:10. They started clearing people @ 8:15 and we were through in a few minutes. Unfortunately, a few people failed to show so everyone was delayed until about 10:00. For us, the delay was inconsequential but I'm sure to others with specific plans for the day, it was infuriating. Why some people feel they have the right to delay literally thousands of others is beyond my ability to comprehend!

We just walked up & down Duval St. & then had lunch at Turtle Kraal's on the waterfront. I had conch fritters & Jamaican Jerk Hogfish. Lin had a Cuban pork dish. As we were leaving, the reproduction of the yacht America docked. What a beautiful ship!

We returned to the ship and, as usual, I sat by the pool & Lin took a nap. About 5, we dressed & headed for the Viking Crown for the sailing. While we were there, we met 2 delightful ladies, a woman of about our age and her mother. The mother, Delores, "warned" us she might get arrested at Coco Cay! She said she'd traveled extensively but really wanted to swim naked in the ocean! She was a rip!

We went to the Crown & Anchor party, then to dinner. Only Opal & Yasmin were there. Afterwards, we went to a "50's & 60's" party in the South Pacific & listened to piano music in the Schooner. This pianist, Fred Potvin, is phenomenal! We got to bed about 1:00.

Day 5 - Thursday, August 19 - Coco Cay, Bahamas - Linda's birthday

Coco CayWoke at 8:20, had breakfast in the Windjammer & took the tender to the cay. From our previous visit, I'd remembered it as small & crowded but I was mistaken; it was delightful. There were many beaches & each had LOTS of lounges. I'd say there were 2 or 3 for every person. There were also quite a few hammocks & some of each in groves of trees as well. They had lots of watercraft available but we just loafed. They had a buffet lunch that was pretty good. At about 3:00, Lin had had enough heat & sun so we returned to the ship. Lin stayed in the room & I went up to the pool deck, had a taco salad & read, this time in the shade. About 5, I went down, we got dressed in our formal duds & went to a Beach Boys thing in the Viking Crown. From there, we moved on to the Schooner, then to dinner. This was Linda's birthday so we had a couple of bottles of Piper-Heidsieck. The fact that dinner was black-tie made it extra-special. We listened to Fred in the Schooner for a while, then went to bed.

Day 6 - Friday, August 20 - Port Canaveral, FL

Air BoatOnce again, we had to clear immigration at 7:30 so were up at 7:00. There was a long line but it moved quickly. (For some reason, this time, once a person cleared the screening he/she was free to leave the ship.) Afterwards, we had breakfast in the Windjammer, checked e-mail, & returned to the room to check VM & make some calls. I went back up on deck to take some pictures & call Charlene while Lin took a nap. Charlene told me of the death of the wife of a good friend so I spend some time on the phone with him. At about 10:00, we got ready for our side-trip & grabbed a snack in the Windjammer. We'd signed up for an airboat tour of the swamps. After navigating the maze of the cruise terminal, we boarded the bus for a 1/2 hour trip to "Lone Cabbage", and then boarded the air boats for a pretty nifty ride. Our captain was pretty entertaining. Sure would be fun to drive one of those puppies! Had snacks of deep-fried alligator on the deck before re-boarding the bus.

Back on the ship, we grabbed lunch in the Windjammer, and then I sat on the Sun Deck in the shadow of the stack while Lin took a nap. At one point, I went down to take a nap as well but there was too much noise so I went back up. Eventually Lin joined me & we read for a while, and then dressed for dinner. I'd wanted to sit in the Viking Crown for the sailing but didn't like the music there so we went to the Windjammer to hear Fred. Man, can this guy play! I got his card so I could make this LINK.

For dinner, I had shrimp scampi & it was delicious. Lin had what was supposed to be chicken Marsala. She said it was good but very different. After dinner, we went to the show in the Palladium. It was good but we were both falling asleep so we left. Got to bed around 11:30.

Day 7 - Saturday, Aug 21 - At Sea

I'm definitely getting a cold or something so I slept poorly. We finally dragged ourselves out of bed around 9:00 & had breakfast in the Windjammer. After breakfast, we did a little shopping, then went back to the room. I did some editing of my diary, and then tried to take a nap while Linda read on the deck. Eventually Lin went down to finish the shopping & “invest” in the casino. Because of the noise, I eventually gave up on the nap & was headed topside in my bathing suit when Lin retuned. I threw on some clothes & we had lunch in the Windjammer. By the time we were ready to sit on deck, deck chairs were pretty scarce. We tried for a spot at the Solarium pool but they were all taken so we settled down in shadow of the stack on 10. One thing that continues to bug me on cruises is that people stake out chairs & leave them unoccupied for hours at a time.

Fred and LindaEventually, we bowed to the inevitable, packed the bags & dressed, then went to the final show. Just before we went down, I ran on deck with the GPS. We were 24 miles East of Hatteras. It was 6:30. After the show, we went to the Schooner for Fred's last show. After dinner, we returned to the Schooner where the jazz band was playing. This was a group made up from the ship's orchestra & they were absolutely fantastic! Fred sat in with them for a couple of numbers, and then sat with Lin & me. It was tough to do but we gave up & headed for bed when the band took a break at 12. When we looked from our balcony, we could see a very well-lit shoreline not far away. I ran up again with the GPS & found we were less than 5 miles from Virginia Beach.

Day 8 - Sunday, Aug 21 – Debarkation and home

Slept horribly. Woke a tad after 7, grabbed breakfast in the Windjammer, retrieved the carry-on bags from the room & settled in the Solarium. We got docked in Baltimore by a little after 9 & found the sun pounding in on us through the window so we moved to near the pool. It's always frustrating to be stuck for hours while Customs clears the ship but this was actually quite pleasant. They said we'd probably start debarking at 11:00 & it started about 10:50. Though our color was not even first, we were off the ship, had retrieved the bags, cleared Customs, got on the shuttle to the long-term lot & were driving away by 11:10!

We stopped in York to have lunch with the kids & got home at 4:05. I finished the day & my second book of the trip by my own pool. No noise & no trouble finding a chair! As the final event, I jumped into beautiful COLD, FRESH water. It's great to be home.

his was a rather nice, relaxing trip. The itinerary wasn't particularly exciting so we felt no pressure to "see everything". There were really only two negatives. First, as sailing date approached, there was a fair bit of anxiety about the four hurricanes milling about down there. We were fortunate enough to miss them all but people on other cruises this season had some very different experiences. Second, the ship was mobbed with kids, some of whom, primarily teens, were not particularly well behaved. I know this makes me an old codger but we've raised our kids and I really don't want or need to deal with mobs of them on vacation any more. As a result of those two factors, this was our last summer cruise, at least from the US. Still, I'm glad we went.