Grandeur of the Seas
Welcome aboard Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas! The Grandeur primarily sails out of Baltimore and was quite convenient for our two-year-old daughter Moorea’s first cruise. The Grandeur has a crew of 760 and can host as many as 2400 passengers. It launched back in 1996 and is registered in the Bahamas. We opted for a spacious midship balcony on the 7th deck. The view was terrific and was nice to be able to step out and feel the weather each morning. A Starbucks coffee shop and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream parlor were a convenient two-minute walk from our cabin. The ship’s Windjammer buffet is available for all three meals on the Lido deck. Finer a la carte options are available at the Great Gatsby restaurant on the 4th deck. They also offer room service and four specialty restaurants (we quite enjoyed Sushi at Izumi!).
The ship offers daily music and entertainment in the lounges. Evenings feature dance and comedy shows in the palladium theatre. Adventure Ocean and the Royal Tots nursery offer activities and play time for the little ones. There is a nice gym and spa onboard. We sailed in December so the ship was all decked out for the holidays. A 30-foot tree, toy trains and gingerbread houses lined the atrium.
Our itinerary was a 12-night cruise featuring stops in St. Croix, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Kitt’s and St. Maarten. The voyage began with four nights at sea. The first two days were a bit chilly on the deck. The third sea day was nice and toasty as we sailed a few hundred miles off the coast of Cuba. Fun and games were offered on the Lido deck including a passengers vs. crew pool volleyball tournament.
In St. Croix we drove about 45 minutes to the coastal town of Christiansted. From there we took a short ferry ride to an island resort called Hotel on the Cay. We enjoyed a nice buffet lunch and savored local rum cocktails to the sounds of steel drum music. The water was clear and we saw hermit crabs in giant conch shells walking along the bottom of the bay. The beach was beautiful and we rented cabanas under a palm tree to keep us out of the sun.
Our next port was Antigua. We took a 25-minute drive from the port of St. John’s to Ffryes beach. This beautiful beach is known for the colorful butterflies that float along the sea. Dennis Restaurant is right on the beach and provided a BBQ buffet lunch and rum drinks. Cruzan Rum is produced right on the island and is particularly tasty with fresh pineapple juice. It’s a great spot for jet skiing as well as building sandcastles in the sun.
Stop number three was St. Lucia. St. Lucia is famous for a pair of volcanoes known as the Pitons. This Unesco World Heritage site is the most photographed attraction on the island. We boarded a catamaran for a three-hour round trip adventure. The music was festive and locally brewed Piton beer was available on board. The crew led the fun and showed everyone how to dance to Caribbean Soca music. It was a wonderful way to see the Pitons and we had plenty of opportunities for brilliant pictures.
The next day we arrived in St. Kitt’s. We had reserved seats on the Scenic Railway – the last remaining railway in the West Indies. The train was constructed in 1912 to deliver sugar from the plantations to the factory in Basseterre. The train takes a slow 30-mile loop through lush green mountains and around gorgeous seaside cliffs. Pina Coladas and fresh baked cookies are offered throughout the journey. You see goats and monkeys along the way. After our wonderful journey, there was plenty of shopping at the cruise port. We had an excellent lunch of Green Curried Conch and Shrimp Macaroni & Cheese at Lemongrass restaurant (you could see the ship from tables overlooking the harbor).
Our last stop was St. Maarten. We landed on the Dutch side (about half the island is French) where a shuttle took us to Maho beach. Maho beach is infamous for its proximity to the airport – the incoming planes literally fly right over your head! The Sunset Beach bar is an amazing place to watch the planes. They have a nice pool and a beach area with umbrella service. We had a blast watching the planes take off and land. You do need to be a bit careful in certain areas as the planes can create significant wind as they back up to the beach prior to takeoff. We weren’t sure at first if it would be child friendly, but Moorea loved it! It was one of the most unique beaches we’ve ever been to. On the way home we stopped at the Greenhouse for a nice lunch of local seafood before returning to the ship.
The ship experience had its ups and downs. It was certainly an old ship and catered to a bit older clientele. We had fun dressing up for the formal nights and our cabin steward, barista and dinner staff were all delightful. Moorea was excited to have her nails painted during first spa day. The convenience of sailing from Baltimore really helped the overall experience. We’re hoping to give Royal Caribbean another try – this time on one of their larger and newer ships. We had a wonderful time and Moorea loved her first voyage at sea. We look forward to setting sail again soon!