Cruise Details

7-Night Bermuda

Baltimore Round-Trip

Ship: Grandeur of the Seas

Prices starting from:

Pricing Info
Inside Oceanview Balcony Suite

$506

$72 per night

$610

$87 per night

$1,126

$161 per night

$1,252

$179 per night

Grandeur of the Seas - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic


Ship Review | Cruise Line Review

Overview

The 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the Seas, launched in early 1996, is one of Royal Caribbean's oldest (and smallest) vessels, but you'd never know it from the ship's sleek public spaces: a grand Art Deco-inspired dining room, the glitzy Palladium Theater and a sweeping six-story atrium.

You can thank a 2012 refurb for the ship's new lease on life. Royal Caribbean has spent millions of dollars to add favorite Oasis-class features to ships lacking in dining variety, balconies and all the latest bells and whistles. Post-makeover, the ship now sports updated cabins, including flat-screen TV's and shipwide Wi-Fi. Specialty dining venues (including steak, Italian and Asian restaurants), an outdoor movie screen and a redesigned atrium all give passengers more ways to enjoy their time onboard. Digital "Wayfinder" signage, large touch-screens posted by the elevators, let you browse daily activity schedules and restaurant menus, and find directions from here to there (or to the nearest bathroom) -- all in multiple languages. They're fun to play with and incredibly helpful when you can't remember whether you're forward or aft on the ship.

As for the ship itself, passenger flow is excellent. The hub of the ship is the Centrum, the six-deck atrium, with a bar and dance floor at the bottom and balcony-like walkways flanking its upper levels. Its main level is used for everything from art auctions and song-and-dance-and-aerial-acrobatics performances to cooking classes and silly games. The genius of this area is that you have to pass it to get anywhere on the ship, so even if you don't mean to stop, you get sucked into the action below and find yourself watching or joining in the fun.

Grandeur's size will never be the main draw, as it's too big to be truly intimate, but too small to compete with even Voyager-class attractions. But, with the new additions, it is a good choice for Royal Caribbean fans who simply can't stomach a 6,000-passenger vessel, but want at least some level of choice.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for suite guests). Gratuities can be prepaid or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the guest services desk while onboard. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean recommends $3.75 per person, per day, to the dining room waiter; $5 per person, per day, to the cabin steward (or $7.25 if you're in a suite); $0.75 per person, per day, to the headwaiter; and $2.15 per person, per day, to the assistant waiter. This totals $11.65 for those in standard cabins and $13.90 for those in suites. Gratuities can be prepaid in advance (and must be if you opt for flexible dining), added to your onboard bill or paid in cash at the end of the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs and spa/salon services, including fitness classes.

Effective March 1, Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for suite guests). Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean recommends $3.75 per person, per day, to the dining room waiter; $5 per person, per day, to the cabin steward (or $7.25 if you're in a suite); $0.75 per person, per day, to the headwaiter; and $2.15 per person, per day, to the assistant waiter. This totals $11.65 for those in standard cabins and $13.90 for those in suites. Gratuities can be prepaid in advance (and must be if you opt for flexible dining), added to your onboard bill or paid in cash at the end of the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs and spa/salon services, including fitness classes.

Dress Code

A weeklong cruise will have two formal nights, one smart-casual night and four casual nights. Even the longest cruises won't have more than three smart-casual and three formal nights (with the remainder all casual).

When it comes to dinners, it's best to pack for a bit of everything, As defined by Royal Caribbean, that amounts to "casual," meaning sundresses or slacks and blouses for women and collared shirts and trousers for men; "smart casual," meaning dresses or pantsuits for women and jackets for men; and "formal," which means cocktail dresses for women and suits and ties or tuxedos for men.

Days onboard are casual. Shorts are permitted in the Great Gatsby dining room at breakfast and lunch.

There is no self-service laundry on Grandeur of the Seas, nor are irons permitted in cabins.

Fellow Passengers

When Grandeur is homeporting in Columbia, expect a Latin American immersion cruise with passengers predominantly coming from South America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Starting in spring 2013, the ship will sail year-round from Baltimore, with most passengers hailing from the Northeast, especially the Mid-Atlantic States. Because the ship is so family-friendly, it is not unusual for Grandeur to attract many kids during summers. Royal Caribbean typically appeals to people in their 30's to 50's, though you will certainly find many older than that onboard.

Family

Grandeur has an extensive children's program called "Adventure Ocean," for kids from ages 3 to 17. (Kids must be toilet trained; they will not be allowed in if still wearing diapers or Pull-Ups.) The children are broken up into five age groups: Aquanauts (3 to 5), Explorers (6 to 8), Voyagers (9 to 11) and two groups of Teens (12 to 14 and 15 to 17). Eighteen-year-olds are not allowed into Adventure Ocean, with no exceptions. In addition, the Royal Babies and Tots program is geared toward the littlest cruisers, ages 6 to 36 months. The three youth lounges -- Nursery, Adventure Ocean and teen disco -- are located on Deck 10.

Adventure Ocean activities, for kids ages 3 to 11, are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 10 p.m. On port days, the center will open a half hour prior to the first excursion. Age-appropriate activities may include finger-painting, talent shows, pajama parties, karaoke, sports tournaments and scavenger hunts. Royal Caribbean also offers special kids' programs in science, art, theater and storytelling. Certain events are designated as family activities for parents and kids to do together.

Teen activity hours vary during the day and run from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. for younger teens and from 9 p.m. 'til late for older teens. Think dances and pool parties, video game play, casino nights and sports. The teen disco has a "mocktail" bar, dance floor and video game area. It's located off the all-ages arcade.

Royal Babies and Tots Programming is geared to little kids, ages 6 to 36 months, and it take place in the Nursery. The Nursery's main playroom is outfitted with all sorts of Fisher-Price toys, soft climbing structures and interactive play stations lining the walls. A huge flat-screen TV shows Sesame Street, the Wiggles and Thomas the Tank Engine videos nearly nonstop. A back room has several cribs and a changing station. Typically, the Nursery is open from 8 a.m. on port days and 9:30 a.m. on sea days through midnight.

The babies program works differently than Adventure Ocean. Most of its open hours are reserved for drop-off group baby-sitting, day or night, at a rate of $8 per hour, per child. Staff will change diapers, but you're expected to provide supplies (diapers, milk, bottles, sippy cups, etc.). Parents will receive pagers to be buzzed if there's a problem.

During late afternoon open-play sessions -- Fisher-Price playgroups and Crayola Beginnings art time -- kids can come for free, but they must be supervised by a parent. The room is a wonderful place for little ones to play, and we discovered that if no tots have been dropped off, the staff will allow parents and kids to come in for additional open play time. Families can also borrow bags of toys for the duration of the cruise -- a neat idea so you don't have to pack your toybox.

In-cabin sitting, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 a.m., is available through the purser's desk and must be booked at least 24 hours in advance. It's based on availability with no guarantee that a sitter will be found. Minimum age is 1 year; the charge is $19 per hour (for two hours or more) for up to three children within the same family.

Group baby-sitting for ages 3 to 11 is available from the youth staff from 10 p.m. through 2 a.m. nightly. The rate is $6 per hour, per child. (Kids must be at least 3 years old and potty-trained.)

Royal Caribbean provides Pack 'n Play porta-cribs on advance request, but standard cabins do not have curtains to divide the rooms or bathtubs. High chairs with trays are available in both the Windjammer and main dining room, as is whole milk. Royal Caribbean's Babies to Go program allows parents to preorder jarred Gerber baby food, Huggies diapers and Cotonelle wipes to be delivered to their cabins for exorbitant prices.

The main dining room does offer a kids' menu with appetizers, entrees, desserts and even virgin cocktails and frozen drinks. (Specialty drinks cost extra). The waitstaff is extremely accommodating of children and will have a fruit salad ready for them on arrival or entertain them with animals made out of napkins.

Several family-friendly dining options are also available. Lunch & Play is offered on sea days from noon to 2 p.m., when Adventure Ocean is typically closed. Counselors will supervise a boxed lunch, movie- or cartoon-watching and playtime for a charge of $7.95 per kid. My Family Time Dining is a free service for families with early seating in the dining room. Kids will receive an expedited dinner service so they can be in and out in 45 minutes, when counselors will pick them up and bring them back to Adventure Ocean for evening activities while parents enjoy the rest of their dinner at leisure. And, Adventure Ocean Dining is a program on select nights to allow kids to have dinner in the ship's restaurants with their peers and youth program staff.

Royal Caribbean will not accept pregnant passengers who have entered their 24th week of pregnancy before or during the cruise. Pregnant women in their first and second trimesters technically need a "fit to travel" note from their physicians.

Fitness and Recreation

There's no reason not to stick to an exercise regimen on this ship -- not with two pools, one indoor, one not; a rock-climbing wall and jogging track on the top deck; and an oceanview fitness center.

There's also a very pleasant promenade deck on Deck 5 that's great for walking. Jogging, however, is discouraged.

The main, open, central outdoor area on Deck 9 has a pool surrounded by four shaded hot tubs. The pool is divided, with a shallower area on one end and a depth of five feet at the other. An outdoor movie screen shows films on select evenings. Lounge chairs are your basic plastic and metal affairs. A couple of Ping-Pong tables are hidden away by the entrance to the Solarium.

Toward the stern is the Solarium, with the secondary pool and another two hot tubs. This area is covered by a retractable glass dome, and it's a warm hideaway when the weather is chilly outside. It's also adults-only (minimum age 16). You'll find nicer lounge chairs, tables and chairs for playing cards or eating snacks from the adjacent Park Cafe.

The Fitness Center, on Deck 9 next to the Solarium, is fully loaded with treadmills, elliptical machines, free weights and exercise machines. Open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., the gym offers complimentary stretching and firming classes. Spinning, boot camp and yoga classes cost $12. You'll also find many of the free seminars widely offered on ships today: "Burn Fat Faster," "Eat More to Weigh Less," "Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days," "Detox for Weight Loss" and "How to Increase Your Metabolism."

The physical layout of the Vitality Day Spa, just above the gym on Deck 10 is a bit bare bones, although the menu of services is robust. There are nine treatment rooms, along with a beauty salon and a fairly austere steam room and sauna. The refreshment bar consists of a bowl of fruit, hot water for tea and cold water. However, there's all manner of services: teeth-whitening; stone therapy; a hydralift facial; seaweed, Swedish and deep tissue massages; cellulite reduction; and a lime and ginger salt glow. There are also special offerings for couples, men, teens and kids. Treatments are somewhat pricey –massages from $119 to $265, pedicures for $70 -- but the spa tends to offer special deals during port days.

Entertainment

The hub of the ship -- and its entertainment options -- is the Centrum, which got a full-on makeover in 2012. Its lowest level is Deck 4, where the R Bar serves up classic martinis in a setting that's supposed to be 1960's mod decor. The bar and additional comfy seating surround a small dance floor and bandstand. That's where all the action takes place, including art auctions, cooking demos, ballroom-dance classes and late-night themed dance parties. The Centrum space soars up to Deck 8 with a windowed ceiling on the pool deck above, and the upper reaches have been outfitted with stage lighting and rigging for aerial acrobatic performances (think high-flying bungee swings). The performances, some of which are publicized in the daily programs and some of which are serendipitous, vary in quality; if you go to only one, make it the farewell spectacular.

The ship has a few main lounges. The Palladium Theatre has excellent sightlines, seating on fixed banquettes and drink holders on armrests. Expect several performances by the ship's singers and dancers, as well as specialty acts. (Think Beatles tribute band, comedian, magic show and performances by aging celebrities.)

The clubby yet whimsical Schooner Bar has floor-to-ceiling glass windows that look onto the outdoor promenade one deck below. There, the floor by the bar is actual teak decking, varnished and polished to a rich, glossy mahogany sheen. Several tables feature ersatz bits of masts and rigging sprouting from them like transformed umbrellas. A piano with singalong seating is there for evening entertainment and trivia game purposes.

The South Pacific Lounge, located at the stern, is the ship's secondary performance venue, but it's strangely off-the-beaten-track, as you must walk through the Schooner Bar to get to it. It plays host to art auctions, bingo games, dance lessons and dancing to live bands, karaoke and various presentations, from future cruise sales to shopping talks.

The most recognizable public room on Grandeur of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's signature Viking Crown Lounge. With the addition of Izumi and the Concierge Lounge in the same space, the area feels less open and more chopped up than before. It's still a lovely spot to watch sailaway from indoors, and it's also the late-night disco venue.

Casino Royale on Deck 5 has slot machines and all the requisite card tables (poker, blackjack, craps, etc.).

On warm-weather itineraries, the pool deck is the place to go for belly-flop competitions, ice-carving demos and a men's sexy legs contest.

On port days, Royal Caribbean offers a vast array of shore excursions. We booked two of them online in advance of our cruise -- a seamless process. On a Bermuda cruise, we did a three-hour bike ride on a hiker-biker trail and a "famous homes & hideaways cruise," both well worth it.

Cabins

The 2012 refurbishment saw a refresh of all furniture, carpet, upholstery and linens in the Grandeur of the Seas' 975 cabins. Two categories of inside cabins range in size from 137 to 145 square feet, while standard outside cabins measure 152 square feet. Standard balcony cabins (called "superior oceanviews") are 192 square feet with 39-square-foot balconies. Balconies are each furnished with two chairs and a small table.

Standard cabins are comfortable and practical, and even the smallest feature a tiny sitting areas with sofas and coffee tables. Storage space is generous, with hanging racks and shelving in the closets, drawers and more shelves in the desks/vanities, and nightstands. Cabins feature flat-screen televisions, phones, safes and hair dryers. In-cabin TV's have a fairly expansive listing that includes CNN, Fox News, CNN Headline News, ESPN, TNT, Cartoon Network, Travel Channel, Turner Classic Movies and three movie channels.

Bathrooms have decent storage, though the showers only have one shelf and a clingy curtain. Toiletries are limited to hand soap and a mystery substance (shampoo? body wash?) in an unmarked dispenser in the shower.

Cabin service was exceptional, unobtrusive and thorough. Cabin stewards create imaginative towel-people and creatures as part of turn-down service.

Grandeur offers six types of suites. The Junior Suite (at 248 square feet with a 62-square-foot balcony) is essentially an expanded balcony cabin with a larger sitting area (sofa plus comfy chair) and a bathroom with a bathtub. Grand Suites (353 square feet, 108-square-foot balcony) are even bigger, with more distinction between the sleeping and sitting areas and a larger foyer area. The Owner's Suite (518 square feet, 112-square-foot balcony) has a separate living area with a queen-size sofa bed and several lounge chairs. The Royal Suite (1,087 square feet, 162-square-foot balcony) has a king-size bed in a separate bedroom, a large living room with a queen-size sofa bed, a baby grand piano, and a whirlpool bathtub.

Two suite categories are intended for families. The Family Junior Suite (470 square feet with 75-square-foot balcony) sleeps six with two sets of twin beds (one set in a separate room, and others, which convert to queens) and a double sofa bed in the living room. The Royal Family Suite (487 square feet with a 58-square-foot balcony) features two bedrooms, two bathrooms (one with a shower, the other with a tub), and a double sofa bed and a Pullman bed in the living room. It can accommodate up to eight people.

A Concierge Lounge, carved out of the Viking Crown Lounge in 2012, is open to all suite passengers and Diamond-Plus Crown & Anchor loyalty program members. Amenities include continental breakfast (served daily from 8 to 10 a.m.), hors d'oeuvres and petit fours served in the evening, a self-service bar (no fee), movies and CD's to borrow, and business services (faxing and copying for a fee). A concierge can assist passengers in making reservations for specialty dining and shore excursions, spa and salon appointments; pre-ordering wine at dinner; and arranging private parties. Diamond Crown & Anchor members have their own lounge in the back corner of the South Pacific Lounge, with similar services.

Wheelchair-accessible cabins come in several categories: insides (258 square feet), outsides (262 square feet); balconies (350 square feet with 39-square-foot balconies); and suites (347 square feet with 74-square-foot balconies). These cabins features open bed frames, wider entry doors, space to turn, lowered vanities and closet rods, and bathrooms with wider doors, roll-in showers with fold-down benches, grab bars, raised toilets and lowered sinks.

Public Rooms

The guest services and shore excursion desks can be found on Deck 5 in the Centrum. Right above on Deck 6 is the photo gallery, where you can view and purchase pictures taken by the ship's photographers. Thumbs up to the machines that show you all photos of you when you insert your cruise card; thumbs down to the costumed crewmembers hounding you every day to take photos with them. Around the corner are the art auction desk and a mini-gallery and the Pets at Sea station (where, for a fee, you can stuff and accessorize a plush animal toy).

On Deck 4, adjacent to the R Bar, is the "Royal Caribbean Online" Internet lounge, which offers real-time access to the Web, 24/7. The ship is now outfitted for Wi-Fi, bow to stern, but some spots onboard may get better reception than others. You can pay for Internet as you go for 65 cents a minute, or purchase a package: $35 for 60 minutes, $55 for 100 minutes, $75 for 150 minutes, $100 for 250 minutes or $150 for 500 minutes. To use Wi-Fi on your own laptop, you must first sign up for an account at the Internet cafe. A library is also located on Deck 4's starboard side.

Conference rooms are located near the dining room on Deck 4 with a medical facility on Deck 1.

Dining

In Grandeur of the Seas' two-level Great Gatsby dining room, passengers can choose from traditional dining (set seatings at 6 and 8:30 p.m.) or opt for RCI's My Time Dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m.). You can change your reservations on a daily basis or simply walk in when you're hungry. (Note: Those opting for My Time Dining will need to prepay gratuities.) The menu offers some spectacular choices -- particularly, I thought, in the area of seafood. In fact, that's what I selected just about every night: pan-seared sea bass, broiled lobster tail and shrimp with garlic, mahi mahi tempura, and herb-crusted fillet of Atlantic cod.

The dinner menu also includes a sampling of vegetarian meals, such as chilled watermelon gazpacho, ziti with marinara sauce, and eggplant with plum tomato sauce and balsamic glaze. Even more impressive is the abundance of "Vitality" dishes focusing on lighter, more nutritionally conscious fare. This even extends to desserts -- low-fat double strawberry cheesecake, sugar-free coconut vanilla layer cake and sugar-free red berry tart, as examples. Gluten-free and lactose-free items are also marked. Always-available items include pasta with marinara sauce, chicken breast and steak. Each menu features a Chef's Signature Entree.

If you want what's touted as specialty-restaurant-quality fare in the main dining room, you can order a lobster from Portofino ($29.95) and filet mignon ($14.95) or surf and turf ($37.50) from Chops Grille. A 15 percent gratuity will be added to the entree prices.

Breakfast and lunch are also served in the formal dining room.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets are served in the Windjammer cafe on Deck 9. Much of the food had that "sitting on the warmer for a while" quality, and pizza was particularly unappetizing. Gluten-free items were marked; oddly, vegetarian dishes were not. Though set up in stations, the buffet area is relatively small, and the venue gets packed on certain days and at certain times (such as breakfast before an early-morning port debarkation), making it difficult to find a table.

Windjammer serves breakfast from 6:30 to 11 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 6:30 to 9 p.m. It's physically closed off in between meals. We found this frustrating -- either if we wanted a quick snack before a late dinner or hoped to feed the littlest cruisers early.

At breakfast, you can choose to wait in the made-to-order omelet line or grab the steam-table versions of scrambled eggs, pancakes, French toast, breakfast meats, etc. in the center raised section of the venue. Along the sides, cold items like fruit, cereal and pastries are on display. At lunch, there's always a carving station and pizza, as well as steam table burgers and dogs and an Asian section that features Indian or Chinese fare. (Usually the gluten-free and vegetarian items were represented there.) At dinner, the Windjammer serves buffet versions of the items on the main dining room menu. Waiters push carts through the buffet offering beer, wine and cocktails. Sometimes servers brought us beverages like juice or coffee, but on other days we had to find our own drinks.

Across the deck, in the adults-only Solarium, is the Park Cafe -- an Oasis of the Seas original added to Grandeur in 2012. It serves breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m., premade sandwiches, salads and pastries from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and late-night snacks from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. It's a hidden gem on embarkation day -- while the hoards take over the Windjammer with their carry-on luggage, we found no line and empty tables by the Park Cafe.

The 2012 refurb saw several for-fee specialty dining restaurants added to Grandeur. Despite how you may feel about paying more for cruise food, the additional venues do add a nice variety to the onboard dining options. All are open for dinner between 6 and 9:30 p.m., and reservations are recommended. We saw plenty of empty tables, especially early in the cruise, so don't hesitate to try your luck with a walk-in. If you do make a reservation and need to cancel, do so 24 hours in advance to avoid a $10 fee ($25 for Chef's Table). Children from ages 3 to 13 can dine in specialty venues prior to 7 p.m.

Chops Grille is Royal Caribbean's signature option for grilled meats and seafood. It's open for dinners only, at a cost of $30 per person. It's the special-event, date-night venue, where the steak -- from the popular New York strip and filet mignon to 18-ounce Porterhouse -- takes center stage, but the appetizers (like the forest mushroom soup) and desserts (huge portions of rich chocolate pie and red velvet cake) certainly hold their own. Fish and chicken are also available, and you can tuck into some veggies with an array of sides -- asparagus, potatoes, green beans and onion rings -- served family-style.

Giovanni's Table is an Italian restaurant that serves family-style dishes at lunch ($15 per person, sea days only, noon to 1:30 p.m.) and dinner ($20). It's pretty easy to go overboard on the ordering, so reign yourself in. The food there isn't light -- every one of our appetizers, from eggplant parmigiana and antipasti to caprese salad, involved cheese on or in the dish. (Oh, and the ritual of offering olive oil topped with parmesan cheese as a bread dip is a winner.) Don't confuse the appetizer course with either the soup or pasta/risotto courses, which are finally followed by entrees and dessert. By the time we made it through the appetizers, mushroom risotto and gnocchi, we could barely choke down our lamb chops and veal tenderloin entrees.

Izumi is the pan-Asian -- but mostly Japanese food and sushi -- restaurant, set in an airy space at the top of the ship by the Viking Crown Lounge. The fee structure is a bit more "European cruise line" with a service charge ($3 for lunch on sea days from noon to 1:30 p.m., $5 for dinner) in addition to a la carte fees for menu items. You can choose from sushi and sashimi (combo platters from $6.50 to $12), hot-rock grilling ($6.50 to $10), hot pot dishes ($6 to $12) and appetizers like vegetable tempura and tuna carpaccio ($4 to $6.50). The menu is huge, so feel free to cheat and order one of the set combination meals ($15 to $23). The mochis are a must for dessert.

One flight down, the Viking Crown Lounge now serves tapas-style small bites. The munchies, ranging from Caesar salad and kobe beef sliders to flatbreads and red velvet cake, are a great idea for between-meal snacks or as a complement to your drinks. Tapas cost between $3.50 and $8.75.

If you're a serious foodie, consider the exclusive Chef's Table experience, a $95 five-course, wine-paired dinner hosted by the executive chef and sommelier. It takes place at 7:30 p.m., and diners must be 21 or older. Locations and dates vary by itinerary, so check your Cruise Compass for information.

Latte-tudes is the all-in-one coffee and snack shop, which includes a Ben & Jerry's ice cream counter. Specialty coffees, teas and ice cream cost extra, but the cookies and pastries are free. The chocolate chip scones should not be overlooked. It's open from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Ben & Jerry's doesn't open until 11 a.m.)

Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Passengers in Grand Suites or higher-category cabins can order items off the main dining room menu for room service. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.

Adults and children can buy unlimited soda cards for $6.50 and $4.50 per day, respectively (plus 15 percent tip). There are also water, juice, wine and wine & dine packages available at different costs. Two specialty restaurant dining packages are available. The first, for a $120 fee, includes one meal each at Chef's Table, Giovanni's Table, Chops Grille and Izumi. The second, for $50 per person, eliminates the Chef's Table and features one dinner each at Giovanni's Table, Chops Grille and Izumi.

Overview

Grandeur of the Seas, launched in early 1996, is one of Royal Caribbean's older vessels, but you'd never know it from the ship's sleek public spaces: a grand Art Deco-inspired dining room, the glitzy Palladium Theater and a sweeping six-story atrium.

Some of the cabins, however, are showing signs of wear and tear. Our dresser, for example, was nicked in spots. The stopper in the bathroom sink had corroded, and the mirror was beginning to lose its finish. There was an abandoned towel rack attached to the wall that, oddly enough, had never been dismantled. And the TV screen, about a foot wide, was smaller than a lot of laptops you see today.

None of this is a deal breaker, of course. But I guess I was also struck by what Grandeur of the Seas does not have. As an example, our oceanview stateroom did not have a fridge. And unless you book a suite, there are no toiletries. That's right: toiletries. I asked for a shower cap and lotion and was told those "amenities" did not come with our cabin class. For today's traveler, that's just not good enough. (For the record, there was a shampoo/conditioner dispenser in the shower but a piece of it came apart the one time I used it. In addition, the in-room intercom did not work, meaning you had to go into the hall to hear shipboard announcements.)

There's also no enrichment program (unless you count napkin folding and dollar origami), though that is fairly customary for Royal Caribbean in general. More unusually there are no alternative restaurants, as are found on today's newer ships. Fortunately, the meals in the dining room were wonderful overall and the buffet is as good as it gets.

As for service, our experience was a mixed bag. Our dining room waiters were exemplary. The two times we dropped in at the Schooner Bar, the bartenders were slow, slow, slow. And while our cabin steward was attentive, our stateroom failed to pass my white glove inspection when we first boarded. There was a hairclip on the rug, a Neutrogena makeup lid in the trash bin, a wadded up piece of paper in the closet and toothpaste smudges on the glass shelves in the bathroom cabinet.

During our five-night Baltimore-to-Bermuda cruise, Grandeur of the Seas was approaching capacity with nearly 2,000 passengers. The ship is one of the smallest in the fleet -- hence the inability to accommodate alternative restaurants. And that's fine -- no quarrel there. But with a little more attention to the fundamentals, Grandeur of the Seas might live up to her name.

Dining

When it comes to dining, Grandeur of the Seas rightly deserves high marks. The two-level Great Gatsby dining room, with dinner seatings at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., offers some spectacular choices -- particularly, I thought, in the area of seafood. In fact, that's what I selected just about every night: pan-seared sea bass, broiled lobster tail and shrimp with garlic, mahi mahi tempura, and herb-crusted fillet of Atlantic cod.

The dinner menu also includes a sampling of vegetarian meals such as the chilled watermelon gazpacho, ziti with marinara sauce, and eggplant with plum tomato sauce and balsamic glaze. Even more impressive are the abundance of "Royal Lifestyle" dishes focusing on lighter, more nutritionally conscious fare. Remarkably, this even extends to desserts -- low-fat double strawberry cheesecake, sugar-free coconut vanilla layer cake and a sugar-free red berry tart, as examples.

At our 6 p.m. seating, my husband and I shared a table with five others, and except for a tasteless Thai barbequed chicken breast, inexplicably billed one night as the chef's signature entree, we all agreed that the meals were top rate. Breakfast and lunch are also served in the formal dining room.

The only other dining options are the Windjammer Cafe, the all-you-can-eat buffet, open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner; round-the-clock room service; and a poolside grill that serves pizza, hot dogs and burgers from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Windjammer, which opens out onto the pool deck, is as well designed -- in terms of selection and traffic flow -- as any buffet I've seen. First, it's constructed in a semi-circular fashion which helps move people along efficiently. And, to my eye, the seating isn't as institutional as a lot of buffets since there were plenty of opportunities to sit together as a couple or in smaller groups.

Not surprisingly, the breakfasts, including a made-to-order egg station, don't change much from day to day: scrambled eggs, cheeses, smoked salmon and cold cuts, waffles, pancakes, French toast, fruit, yogurt, bacon, sausage, hash browns and freshly roasted ham.

But the chefs really mix it up with lunch and dinner. How's this for a lunch selection? Roast leg of pork with potato salad; pasta with andouille sausage; deep fried flounder; Caribbean coconut chicken curry; broccoli and snap peas in toasted sesame sauce; fried rice with pepper beef curry; Thai beef satay and, if that weren't enough, a sandwich bar. The dinner buffet is equally abundant -- and creative. One night, for example, there was a Southern station that had barbequed pork ribs, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and fried chicken; an Asian station featuring fried tofu, Vietnamese fried rice, stir-fried beef, sushi and a create-your-own stir fry dish; and a "Griddlicious" station offering freshly carved roast beef, baked sea bream, braised veal, Thai barbequed chicken breast and an antipasto and cheese tray.

As for room service, don't be fooled by the official in-cabin menu, a basic listing of salads, sandwiches, soup of the day and entrees mysteriously (to me anyway) defined as a hamburger, hot dog, cheeseburger and pizza. I was onboard a couple of days before I realized that the ship's in-house TV channel lists a room service menu that changes daily and includes some of the same selections offered in the Great Gatsby dining room. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee. There's also a breakfast menu that includes juices, continental breakfast, pastries, scrambled eggs or Egg Beaters, bacon, sausage and hash browns.

Finally, on Deck 6, there's a counter called Cafe Latte-tudes, which sells Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Seattle's Best coffee.

Public Rooms

The public space on Grandeur of the Seas absolutely stands up to scrutiny. The atrium, or "centrum" as it's called onboard, is stunning and its sweep includes a handsome library and card room, conference center rooms, boutiques, photo gallery and Cafe Latte-tudes. There's also cozy seating in strategic spots around the atrium, which is good for people watching or just staring out at the sea.

Near the guest services desk on Deck 5 is a "news stand" with all manner of news digests, available each morning at 10:30 a.m. Among them: The International, America Latina Hoy, U.S. Sportline, The Canadian, Britain Today and the New York Times Digest. On Deck 8 is an Internet cafe that consists of private desks with 16 computers. It costs 50 cents a minute to go online or you can buy a wireless card that costs $10 a day.

My only quibble with the public space was the presence, on our cruise at least, of so much cigarette smoke. The ship has been "primarily designated as a non-smoking ship," as the literature puts it. But in the bars, the counters themselves, as well as the seating closest to them, are designated for smokers. In the case of the Schooner Bar, which also functions as a hallway, there was no way to avoid the smoke.

Cabins

With 975 staterooms in total, Grandeur of the Seas has 399 interior cabins and 576 oceanview cabins. Of those with an ocean view, 212 also have balconies.

The ship has 403 staterooms that can accommodate third and fourth berths. Additionally, there are 14 wheelchair-accessible cabins.

On ships, square footage comes at a premium. Here's how the staterooms break down: interior stateroom, 140 square ft.; large interior, 146; large oceanview, 154; oceanview with balcony, 190; Junior Suite, 245; Grand Suite, 349; Owner's Suite, 511; and Royal Suite, 1,119. All of the suites have balconies, ranging from 53 square ft. to, in the case of the Royal Suite, 148 square ft. At the least, a balcony will have two chairs and a table. At the upper end, a chaise lounge is added to the mix.

Our oceanview stateroom, with its blue and gold palette, had a sizable window behind a queen-size bed. That along with strategically placed mirrors and blonde-colored wood makes the room look bigger than it actually is. There's also a closet and a lot of shelves and drawers. The settee even has two large drawers built in under its seat cushions, something I didn't discover until the end of the voyage. Royal Caribbean's "Fast Facts" for the ship says each stateroom has a mini-bar. I take that to mean a small fridge. As it turns out, only the staterooms with balconies have a refrigerator. All staterooms do have hair dryers, individually controlled air conditioning and a safe. We thought it was odd, though, that instead of a numeric code, you must use a credit card to open and lock the safe -- which means you have to carry your card with you all the time.

In-cabin TV's have a fairly expansive listing that includes CNN, Fox News, CNN Headline News, ESPN, TNT, Cartoon Network, Travel Channel, Turner Classic Movies and three movie channels.

As for the bathrooms, they are efficiently designed at the interior and oceanview levels and quite grand at the suite level. The former are shower-only. The Grand and Junior Suites have tubs and the Royal and Owner's Suites have Jacuzzi tubs and showers.

Perks for the suites include canapes on two evenings, toiletries, a coffee and tea maker, upgraded towels, terrycloth robes and slippers, priority check-in, and expedited departure. The TV's are also larger. Passengers who book the Royal Suite -- and there is only one, with a player piano, no less -- also receive a bottle of champagne when they board.

Entertainment

On our cruise, perhaps because there was just a single port of call, Grandeur of the Seas functioned as something of a party ship. Among the daytime activities were towel and napkin folding, a belly flop competition and a men's sexy legs contest. At one point, next to the pool, 43 people touched the same beach towel all at once to win a competition.

There were also cooking and ice carving demonstrations, a backstage tour of the Palladium Theater, and trivia and sudoku challenges.

The art auctions and bingo, held daily, tended to be hugely popular, as was the casino. The Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers, an in-house production company that rotates every six months, put on a couple of well-received Vegas-style shows. There was also a standup comedian, a magic show and an acrobatic performance featuring Olympic gymnast Lance Ringnald. (If you miss the shows, held in the attractive Palladium Theater, you can catch them on TV in your stateroom.)

There's also plenty of music onboard. On the quieter side, you'll find a piano player in the Schooner Bar. (Think Frank Sinatra and Cole Porter.) At the base of the atrium, throughout much of the evening, there's ballroom dancing and easy listening music. The Viking Crown Lounge, with its 360-degree view on Deck 11, offers recorded tunes and dancing well into the night.

Editor's note: If you're looking for company, check the community bulletin board next to the guest services desk. You'll find invitations for everything from veterans' and Red Hat Society (women over 50) meet and greets to bridge and dominoes get-togethers.

As for shore excursions, we booked two of them online in advance of our cruise -- a seamless process. With a day and a half in port, there were 25 options. We did a three-hour bike ride on a hiker-biker trail and a "famous homes & hideaways cruise," both well worth it.

Fitness and Recreation

There's no reason not to stick to an exercise regimen on this ship -- not with two pools, one indoor, one not; a rock-climbing wall and jogging track on the top deck; and an oceanview fitness center.

There's also a very pleasant promenade deck on Deck 5 that's great for walking. Jogging, however, is discouraged.

The ShipShape Fitness Center, next to the day spa and pools, is fully loaded with seven treadmills, elliptical machines, free weights and exercise machines. Open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., the gym offers complimentary stretching and firming classes. Spinning, Pilates and yoga classes cost $10, or you can get an unlimited fitness class pass for $50. You'll also find many of the free seminars widely offered on ships today: "Burn Fat Faster," "Eat More to Weigh Less," "Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days," "Detox for Weight Loss" and "How to Increase Your Metabolism." Additionally, there's one-on-one personal training, $75 for a 50-minute session.

The physical layout of Grandeur Day Spa, located next to a beauty salon, is a bit bare bones, although the menu of services is robust. There are nine treatment rooms along with a fairly austere steam room and sauna. The refreshment bar consists of a bowl of fruit, hot water for tea and cold water. However, there's all manner of services: teeth whitening; stone therapy; a hydralift facial; seaweed, Swedish and deep tissue massage; cellulite reduction; and a lime and ginger salt glow. Treatments are somewhat pricey: an 85-minute, half-body seaweed massage, $195; a 50-minute deep tissue massage, $129; and a 50-minute anti-cellulite treatment, $159. The spa tends to offer special deals during port days.

Family

There were only 57 children on our cruise -- and that's too bad because the programming for kids is terrific.

I mean how cute is this? Aquababies (6 to 18 months) and Aquatots (19 to 36 months) sit with their parents on a rubber mat in the Singin' in the Rain Lounge while youth counselor Greg De Courval talks to them about numbers, letters, shapes and animal noises using toys from sponsor Fisher-Price. Notably, all of the youth counselors onboard have college degrees and many, like the enthusiastic De Courval, majored in education.

Programs are offered by age group: Aquanauts, 3 to 5; Explorers, 6 to 8; Voyagers, 9 to 11; Navigators, 12 to 14; and Guests, 15 to 17. Activities are supervised and hours extensive at both the Fantaseas Teen Center and Adventure Ocean Kids' Center, located on Deck 10.

Sample activities for Aquanauts include Sail into Story Time, Unbirthday Party and Pin the Nose on the Youth Staff; for Explorers, Pirate Night, Autograph Hunts and Adventure Art by Crayola; for Voyagers, Backstage Tour, Adventure Science and Scary Stories; for Navigators, Teen Dinner, Breakdancing and Open Mic; and for Guests, Dance Dance Revolution Challenge, Teen Rock Climbing Competition and Mardi Gras Party.

Group sitting, $5 per child, is offered daily from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Children must be at least three and toilet trained. In-stateroom baby sitting is available from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., with a two-hour minimum. The service, available only to children one and older, must be booked through the guest relations desk 24 hours in advance. The cost is $8 per hour for up to two children within the same family and $10 per hour for a maximum of three children.

Fellow Passengers

Because of our departure point, Baltimore, most passengers were from the Mid-Atlantic states. That is not the case when Grandeur of the Seas is headquartered in Tampa, its homeport when it sails the Caribbean. Because it is so family friendly, it is not unusual for the ship to attract as many as 600 kids during summers. Royal Caribbean typically appeals to people in their 30's to 50's, though there were certainly many older than that on our cruise.

Dress Code

When it comes to dinners, it's best to pack for a bit of everything, As defined by Royal Caribbean, that amounts to "casual," meaning sundresses or slacks and blouses for women and polo shirts and trousers for men; "smart casual," dresses or pantsuits for women and jackets for men; and "formal," cocktail dresses for women and suits and ties or tuxedos for men.

Cruises of up to five nights, like ours, have one formal night and the rest are casual. Longer cruises have smart casual evenings. Voyages lasting 6 to 12 nights have two formal nights, and those spanning 13 to 15 nights have three.

Days onboard are casual. Shorts are permitted in the Great Gatsby dining room at breakfast and lunch.

There is no self-service laundry on Grandeur of the Seas, nor are irons permitted in staterooms.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean suggests a tipping guideline of $3.50 a day per guest for your dining room waiter; $3.50 for your stateroom attendant, unless you are in a suite, in which case $5.75 a day is suggested; $2 a day for your assistant waiter; and 75 cents a day for your headwaiter. The tips are automatically added to passengers' accounts though a passenger may request that they be adjusted up or down. Envelopes are provided at the end of a cruise if a passenger wishes to tip extra.

A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills and wine checks at meals. A gratuity is not included with room service -- unless it involves an alcoholic beverage. In that case, a 15 percent tip is added.

--by Ellen Uzelac, a finance and travel writer from Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Dining

When it comes to dining, Grandeur of the Seas rightly deserves high marks. During dinner in the two-level Great Gatsby dining room, passengers can choose from traditional dining (set seatings at 6 and 8:30 p.m.) or opt for RCI's My Time Dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis or simply walk in when you're hungry. (Note: Those opting for My Time Dining will need to pre-pay gratuities.) The menu offers some spectacular choices -- particularly, I thought, in the area of seafood. In fact, that's what I selected just about every night: pan-seared sea bass, broiled lobster tail and shrimp with garlic, mahi mahi tempura, and herb-crusted fillet of Atlantic cod.

The dinner menu also includes a sampling of vegetarian meals such as the chilled watermelon gazpacho, ziti with marinara sauce, and eggplant with plum tomato sauce and balsamic glaze. Even more impressive are the abundance of "Royal Lifestyle" dishes focusing on lighter, more nutritionally conscious fare. Remarkably, this even extends to desserts -- low-fat double strawberry cheesecake, sugar-free coconut vanilla layer cake and a sugar-free red berry tart, as examples.

At our 6 p.m. seating, my husband and I shared a table with five others, and except for a tasteless Thai barbequed chicken breast, inexplicably billed one night as the chef's signature entree, we all agreed that the meals were top rate. Breakfast and lunch are also served in the formal dining room.

The only other dining options are the Windjammer Cafe, the all-you-can-eat buffet, open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner; round-the-clock room service; and a poolside grill that serves pizza, hot dogs and burgers from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Windjammer, which opens out onto the pool deck, is as well designed -- in terms of selection and traffic flow -- as any buffet I've seen. First, it's constructed in a semi-circular fashion which helps move people along efficiently. And, to my eye, the seating isn't as institutional as a lot of buffets since there were plenty of opportunities to sit together as a couple or in smaller groups.

Not surprisingly, the breakfasts, including a made-to-order egg station, don't change much from day to day: scrambled eggs, cheeses, smoked salmon and cold cuts, waffles, pancakes, French toast, fruit, yogurt, bacon, sausage, hash browns and freshly roasted ham.

But the chefs really mix it up with lunch and dinner. How's this for a lunch selection? Roast leg of pork with potato salad; pasta with andouille sausage; deep fried flounder; Caribbean coconut chicken curry; broccoli and snap peas in toasted sesame sauce; fried rice with pepper beef curry; Thai beef satay and, if that weren't enough, a sandwich bar. The dinner buffet is equally abundant -- and creative. One night, for example, there was a Southern station that had barbequed pork ribs, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and fried chicken; an Asian station featuring fried tofu, Vietnamese fried rice, stir-fried beef, sushi and a create-your-own stir fry dish; and a "Griddlicious" station offering freshly carved roast beef, baked sea bream, braised veal, Thai barbequed chicken breast and an antipasto and cheese tray.

As for room service, don't be fooled by the official in-cabin menu, a basic listing of salads, sandwiches, soup of the day and entrees mysteriously (to me anyway) defined as a hamburger, hot dog, cheeseburger and pizza. I was onboard a couple of days before I realized that the ship's in-house TV channel lists a room service menu that changes daily and includes some of the same selections offered in the Great Gatsby dining room. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee. There's also a breakfast menu that includes juices, continental breakfast, pastries, scrambled eggs or Egg Beaters, bacon, sausage and hash browns.

Finally, on Deck 6, there's a counter called Cafe Latte-tudes, which sells Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Seattle's Best coffee.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean suggests a tipping guideline of $3.50 a day per guest for your dining room waiter; $3.50 for your stateroom attendant, unless you are in a suite, in which case $5.75 a day is suggested; $2 a day for your assistant waiter; and 75 cents a day for your headwaiter. Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance (and must be if you opt for flexible dining), added to your onboard bill or paid in cash at the end of the cruise.

A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills and wine checks at meals. A gratuity is not included with room service -- unless it involves an alcoholic beverage. In that case, a 15 percent tip is added.

--by Ellen Uzelac, a finance and travel writer from Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Dining

When it comes to dining, Grandeur of the Seas rightly deserves high marks. The two-level Great Gatsby dining room, with dinner seatings at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., offers some spectacular choices -- particularly, I thought, in the area of seafood. In fact, that's what I selected just about every night: pan-seared sea bass, broiled lobster tail and shrimp with garlic, mahi mahi tempura, and herb-crusted fillet of Atlantic cod.

The dinner menu also includes a sampling of vegetarian meals such as the chilled watermelon gazpacho, ziti with marinara sauce, and eggplant with plum tomato sauce and balsamic glaze. Even more impressive are the abundance of "Royal Lifestyle" dishes focusing on lighter, more nutritionally conscious fare. Remarkably, this even extends to desserts -- low-fat double strawberry cheesecake, sugar-free coconut vanilla layer cake and a sugar-free red berry tart, as examples.

At our 6 p.m. seating, my husband and I shared a table with five others, and except for a tasteless Thai barbequed chicken breast, inexplicably billed one night as the chef's signature entree, we all agreed that the meals were top rate. Breakfast and lunch are also served in the formal dining room.

The only other dining options are the Windjammer Cafe, the all-you-can-eat buffet, open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner; round-the-clock room service; and a poolside grill that serves pizza, hot dogs and burgers from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Windjammer, which opens out onto the pool deck, is as well designed -- in terms of selection and traffic flow -- as any buffet I've seen. First, it's constructed in a semi-circular fashion which helps move people along efficiently. And, to my eye, the seating isn't as institutional as a lot of buffets since there were plenty of opportunities to sit together as a couple or in smaller groups.

Not surprisingly, the breakfasts, including a made-to-order egg station, don't change much from day to day: scrambled eggs, cheeses, smoked salmon and cold cuts, waffles, pancakes, French toast, fruit, yogurt, bacon, sausage, hash browns and freshly roasted ham.

But the chefs really mix it up with lunch and dinner. How's this for a lunch selection? Roast leg of pork with potato salad; pasta with andouille sausage; deep fried flounder; Caribbean coconut chicken curry; broccoli and snap peas in toasted sesame sauce; fried rice with pepper beef curry; Thai beef satay and, if that weren't enough, a sandwich bar. The dinner buffet is equally abundant -- and creative. One night, for example, there was a Southern station that had barbequed pork ribs, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and fried chicken; an Asian station featuring fried tofu, Vietnamese fried rice, stir-fried beef, sushi and a create-your-own stir fry dish; and a "Griddlicious" station offering freshly carved roast beef, baked sea bream, braised veal, Thai barbequed chicken breast and an antipasto and cheese tray.

As for room service, don't be fooled by the official in-cabin menu, a basic listing of salads, sandwiches, soup of the day and entrees mysteriously (to me anyway) defined as a hamburger, hot dog, cheeseburger and pizza. I was onboard a couple of days before I realized that the ship's in-house TV channel lists a room service menu that changes daily and includes some of the same selections offered in the Great Gatsby dining room. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee. There's also a breakfast menu that includes juices, continental breakfast, pastries, scrambled eggs or Egg Beaters, bacon, sausage and hash browns.

Finally, on Deck 6, there's a counter called Cafe Latte-tudes, which sells Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Seattle's Best coffee.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean suggests a tipping guideline of $3.50 a day per guest for your dining room waiter; $3.50 for your stateroom attendant, unless you are in a suite, in which case $5.75 a day is suggested; $2 a day for your assistant waiter; and 75 cents a day for your headwaiter. The tips are automatically added to passengers' accounts though a passenger may request that they be adjusted up or down. Envelopes are provided at the end of a cruise if a passenger wishes to tip extra.

A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills and wine checks at meals. A gratuity is not included with room service -- unless it involves an alcoholic beverage. In that case, a 15 percent tip is added.

--by Ellen Uzelac, a finance and travel writer from Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Overview

Grandeur of the Seas, launched in early 1996, is one of Royal Caribbean's older vessels, but you'd never know it from the ship's sleek public spaces: a grand Art Deco-inspired dining room, the glitzy Palladium Theater and a sweeping six-story atrium.

Some of the cabins, however, are showing signs of wear and tear. Our dresser, for example, was nicked in spots. The stopper in the bathroom sink had corroded, and the mirror was beginning to lose its finish. There was an abandoned towel rack attached to the wall that, oddly enough, had never been dismantled. And the TV screen, about a foot wide, was smaller than a lot of laptops you see today.

None of this is a deal breaker, of course. But I guess I was also struck by what Grandeur of the Seas does not have. As an example, our oceanview stateroom did not have a fridge. And unless you book a suite, there are no toiletries. That's right: toiletries. I asked for a shower cap and lotion and was told those "amenities" did not come with our cabin class. For today's traveler, that's just not good enough. (For the record, there was a shampoo/conditioner dispenser in the shower but a piece of it came apart the one time I used it. In addition, the in-room intercom did not work, meaning you had to go into the hall to hear shipboard announcements.)

There's also no enrichment program (unless you count napkin folding and dollar origami), though that is fairly customary for Royal Caribbean in general. More unusually there are no alternative restaurants, as are found on today's newer ships. Fortunately, the meals in the dining room were wonderful overall and the buffet is as good as it gets.

As for service, our experience was a mixed bag. Our dining room waiters were exemplary. The two times we dropped in at the Schooner Bar, the bartenders were slow, slow, slow. And while our cabin steward was attentive, our stateroom failed to pass my white glove inspection when we first boarded. There was a hairclip on the rug, a Neutrogena makeup lid in the trash bin, a wadded up piece of paper in the closet and toothpaste smudges on the glass shelves in the bathroom cabinet.

During our five-night Baltimore-to-Bermuda cruise, Grandeur of the Seas was approaching capacity with nearly 2,000 passengers. The ship is one of the smallest in the fleet -- hence the inability to accommodate alternative restaurants. And that's fine -- no quarrel there. But with a little more attention to the fundamentals, Grandeur of the Seas might live up to her name.

Dining

When it comes to dining, Grandeur of the Seas rightly deserves high marks. During dinner in the two-level Great Gatsby dining room, passengers can choose from traditional dining (set seatings at 6 and 8:30 p.m.) or opt for RCI's My Time Dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis or simply walk in when you're hungry. (Note: Those opting for My Time Dining will need to pre-pay gratuities.) The menu offers some spectacular choices -- particularly, I thought, in the area of seafood. In fact, that's what I selected just about every night: pan-seared sea bass, broiled lobster tail and shrimp with garlic, mahi mahi tempura, and herb-crusted fillet of Atlantic cod.

The dinner menu also includes a sampling of vegetarian meals such as the chilled watermelon gazpacho, ziti with marinara sauce, and eggplant with plum tomato sauce and balsamic glaze. Even more impressive are the abundance of "Royal Lifestyle" dishes focusing on lighter, more nutritionally conscious fare. Remarkably, this even extends to desserts -- low-fat double strawberry cheesecake, sugar-free coconut vanilla layer cake and a sugar-free red berry tart, as examples.

At our 6 p.m. seating, my husband and I shared a table with five others, and except for a tasteless Thai barbequed chicken breast, inexplicably billed one night as the chef's signature entree, we all agreed that the meals were top rate. Breakfast and lunch are also served in the formal dining room.

The only other dining options are the Windjammer Cafe, the all-you-can-eat buffet, open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner; round-the-clock room service; and a poolside grill that serves pizza, hot dogs and burgers from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Windjammer, which opens out onto the pool deck, is as well designed -- in terms of selection and traffic flow -- as any buffet I've seen. First, it's constructed in a semi-circular fashion which helps move people along efficiently. And, to my eye, the seating isn't as institutional as a lot of buffets since there were plenty of opportunities to sit together as a couple or in smaller groups.

Not surprisingly, the breakfasts, including a made-to-order egg station, don't change much from day to day: scrambled eggs, cheeses, smoked salmon and cold cuts, waffles, pancakes, French toast, fruit, yogurt, bacon, sausage, hash browns and freshly roasted ham.

But the chefs really mix it up with lunch and dinner. How's this for a lunch selection? Roast leg of pork with potato salad; pasta with andouille sausage; deep fried flounder; Caribbean coconut chicken curry; broccoli and snap peas in toasted sesame sauce; fried rice with pepper beef curry; Thai beef satay and, if that weren't enough, a sandwich bar. The dinner buffet is equally abundant -- and creative. One night, for example, there was a Southern station that had barbequed pork ribs, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and fried chicken; an Asian station featuring fried tofu, Vietnamese fried rice, stir-fried beef, sushi and a create-your-own stir fry dish; and a "Griddlicious" station offering freshly carved roast beef, baked sea bream, braised veal, Thai barbequed chicken breast and an antipasto and cheese tray.

As for room service, don't be fooled by the official in-cabin menu, a basic listing of salads, sandwiches, soup of the day and entrees mysteriously (to me anyway) defined as a hamburger, hot dog, cheeseburger and pizza. I was onboard a couple of days before I realized that the ship's in-house TV channel lists a room service menu that changes daily and includes some of the same selections offered in the Great Gatsby dining room. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee. There's also a breakfast menu that includes juices, continental breakfast, pastries, scrambled eggs or Egg Beaters, bacon, sausage and hash browns.

Finally, on Deck 6, there's a counter called Cafe Latte-tudes, which sells Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Seattle's Best coffee.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean recommends $3.75 per person, per day to the dining room waiter; $5 per person, per day to the cabin steward (or $7.25 if you're in a suite); $0.75 per person, per day to the headwaiter; and $2.15 per person, per day to the assistant waiter. This totals $11.65 for those in standard cabins and $13.90 for those in suites. Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance (and must be if you opt for flexible dining), added to your onboard bill or paid in cash at the end of the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.

Cruise Critic

Cruise reviews are provided by CruiseCritic.com, an award-winning cruise community and online resource for objective cruise information, published by The Independent Traveler. Copyright 1995-2009, The Independent Traveler, Inc. All rights reserved. Travelocity.com LP neither assumes any liability nor makes any representations with respect to cruise reviews and other content provided by CruiseCritic.com. Before relying on any information in a cruise review, we recommend that passengers confirm the information with the cruise line.


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Cruise Details

Included: Shipboard Accommodations, Meals, Some Beverages, Onboard Entertainment and Daily Activities, Port Charges, 24-Hour Room Service
Not Included: Shore Excursions, Personal Expenses, Gratuities, Alcoholic Beverages, Specialty Restaurants, Spa Treatments, Some Taxes
Optional Add-Ons: Flights, Hotels, Transfers, Insurance


N/A: This stateroom type does not exist on this ship.

*All itineraries are subject to change without notice.

**Prices are per person/double occupancy. Additional Taxes and Fees - opens in a new window will apply.

***Some Cruise Offers are dependent on the type of stateroom purchased.

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Cruise ID:

72450