Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cruise Day 1: Embarkation

On Labor Day, we were up pretty early. Our bodies are accustomed to waking at 5:45am so while we slept in a little, it wasn't anywhere near as late as we had time for. The hotel had a restaurant but the breakfast was pretty pricey. We walked to a nearby European bakery/deli. Then we left because we didn't know how or where to order. Lame, right? Luckily, Starbucks came to our rescue!! If you're looking for breakfast and you find yourself wondering what might be a healthier option than their deliciously fatty pastries, you're in luck! John and I shared the Dark Cherry Yogurt Parfait. I think it has 300 cals which is a lot but, we were splitting it so, not so bad. We also at the Turkey Sausage and Egg White English Muffin Sandwich. I don't know how many calories were in that but they had less healthy options and for this 'lite' fare, it was really tasty. Typically on vacation I try not to eat anywhere I can eat at home but, we made this Starbucks exception. My vacation, my rules. We walked back over to the hotel and got a cab to the port!!!

This was our second cruise and second with Royal Caribbean. There are other lines that sail out of Port Everglades as well though. We drove through the gate and up to our terminal where we found our ship, the Grandeur of the Seas. Grandeur is in RCI's Vision Class, which is one level up from their smallest ships. We had previously sailed on a Voyager Class ship and were slightly apprehensive about the size of this one. Grandeur is older, smaller and doesn't have as many amenities but she's a fine ship....more on her in a bit. We gave our bags to a porter and headed to the line to check in. There were cookies and lemonade that we bypassed, plenty of food for the next week. It's a marathon of eating, not a sprint. The line wasn't long at all in the terminal. Our Set Sail Pass said boarding was at 2:00 pm. Not so little known secret, you can board as early as 11:00 am, though you can't get into your room until after 1:00 pm. Thank you, Cruise Critic.
In less than 20 minutes, we were all checked in and stepping foot on board. YEA!

First things first, explore the ship. Because we were on board so early, there were very few passengers around. Many areas of the ship were totally deserted. It was neat, and a little strange. But, it allowed us to take pictures and really explore.

Here are the Centrum shops. We didn't buy anything, not a single thing. That's unusual for me. But, they were fun to walk through. Jewelry, watches, perfume, liquor, RCI gear, etc.

Looking down from the balcony in the Palladium Theatre.

We never made it to either RC Singers & Dancers production but we really enjoyed a few comedians, welcome and farewell shows, game shows, etc. We also had the good sense to show up early to most shows. I'm not sure how many seats there are but the ship carries 2,200 passengers (give or take). For some of the more popular events, it was standing room only.

Casino! We only made a small donation here. It was pretty smoky.

This is the South Pacific Lounge. We came to a few things in here. It's a nice space and seats about 500 people, I heard. However, it's not the best spot to have your room above, which is where ours was located. Music played late here most nights. Although one night, we knew there was no music there and we could still hear bass thumping. Not sure where it was coming from.

And here's me Vanna White-ing it for you by a model of Grandeur.

We had lunch at the Windjammer Cafe, which is buffet style. By then, our room was open so we went to check it out. We had originally booked an Oceanview room on the 3rd deck because it was cheap. Our last cruise we had an oceanview on a low deck as well and it worked out fine for us. As luck would have it, about 10 days before the cruise, a friendly RC worker called and asked if we'd like a free upgrade. Would we?! We were moved to stateroom #7144, a D1 (or D2?), aft cabin, with a balcony!! We were slightly concerned that the higher deck and position of the stateroom might have more motion. We were right but it wasn't bothersome to either of us. The seas were calm and we've got good sea legs, I guess.

This is our balcony while we were still docked in port. I meant to post a picture of the whole room but, who'd a thunk, we didn't take one! Actually, we did a lousy job on the pictures this whole trip. I thought we'd take way more than we did. In our defense, with 2 days at sea, you can only take so many pictures of the ocean around you.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the balcony. I used it more than John did because I often sat out there to read. We had a couple breakfasts and one night a cheese plate and cocktails during an overcast sunset. I think a balcony is definitely worth it on a 7+ day cruise. On this 5 day jaunt, I'm glad we got it for free. You don't have as much time to enjoy it and it's probably not worth the extra money on a shorter cruise.

The room had a queen bed and a pull out couch. The TV was small and there was a shower curtain (gross) in the tiny bathroom instead of the tube-like door. It was nice, as far as staterooms go, but we had some loud neighbors who thought it perfectly acceptable to host gatherings in their room until late at night and also hang out in the hall drinking. Luckily, this didn't happen every night. They were probably in their late teens and had clearly smuggled alcohol on board. As a whole though, there were very few kids on this cruise which was great. One of the reasons we chose this week was because most kids would have just started school.

We put on our swimsuits then and headed up to the pool where hardly anyone was yet. I even got in the hot tub! It was really hot.

Solarium -- the adults only pool where we spent most of our time. Much quieter, padded lounge chairs and, duh, NO KIDS (most of the time).

After a couple hours at the pool, I really can't remember the exact order of things. We set sail, we showered and took naps, we probably explored a little more. By the time dinner rolled around, we were STARVING! This was the first time trying second seating. Eating at 8:30 has merits and drawbacks. It's good because you don't feel rushed in the afternoon to get to dinner especially on port days. It's bad because it's VERY late and causes you to eat double breakfast and usually double lunch so you can make it until then. Next time, we're trying My Time Dining. I would like to eat around 7:00 - 7:30. That would be ideal. Our tablemates were kind of duds. We had requested a table for 2 and were seated at a table for 8. Figures. One couple never showed the whole week, another couple that seemed normal came the first night and then never again. So for the next 4 nights we were left with a couple from Chile, whose English wasn't great. They were nice people but we had nothing in common and the language barrier was annoying. Our waiters were great though and the food was decent so at least that made up for it.

Later on we tried to see the late night comedian but there were no seats left by the time we got there. Instead, because we were tired, we just went to bed. Well, we tried, but this is where the location of our room competed with the noise below. In the upgrade, we didn't really have a cabin choice. Typically I'd spend a long time selecting location and looking at the deck plans above and below, as I did with our original room.

All in all, a good first day....... (boy this took a long time to write). The other days will not be as detailed, I promise you that.

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