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Monday, November 25, 2013

Royal Caribbean Grandeur Grand Suite Review

Grand suites on Royal Caribbean cruise ships are considered one of the highest categories.   Many people will write off these rooms based on that and not even consider getting a quote for one.  Granted they are expensive when compared to other staterooms but they also come with some killer perks. 

Often you see a list of pros and cons but it’s often hard to tell what the real impact of those are. In this review I am going to point out benefits of booking a Grand Suite and pull those facts off of paper and into reality.  I’m going to explain what you will use and what you should use if you book one of these staterooms.

Another thing to keep in mind this review is about getting to your room, the room, the rooms benefits, and leaving the ship.  Other details will be covered at a later date.

Getting On the Ship:

Yes I’m going to walk you through from beginning to end starting with getting on the ship.  This is going to be the first area that stands out from the normal when  you book one of these suites.

At most cruise ship terminals you’ll notice a series of lines.  Royal Caribbean breaks them down more than some other lines.  There is the general line, some lines for certain frequent cruisers, and then the line for the top tier frequent cruises and grand suite or higher cruisers.

When you get in your line you’ll notice that it’s not really a line.  When we showed up there were hundreds of people in the general line and no one in the grand suite line.  They reserve a number of people who only check in high tier cruisers and they do not take the normal cruisers when no one is in line.  This allows for extremely fast service for anyone who is accessing these lines.

It appears that Royal Caribbean picks their best people to serve the express lines.  The people checking us in were unlike people who have checked me in on other cruise lines.  They actually seem to have customer service skills.  That is something extremely rare today.

In a matter of minutes we were checked in and led to a roped off area that separated the people who went through the express line and everyone else.   They stick you here to put you on the ship as soon as it’s ready.  Within a few minutes they had us pack up and board the ship.

When you board the ship the sales mentality that all cruise ships have adopted hits you in the face.   Just after you manage to dodge the photo people you have a new obstacle to get beyond.  The restaurant jockeys!  These people are not awful but they do want you to stop and sign up for a dining plan.  I have to admit that Royal Caribbean needs to rethink this. This is a really STUPID time to do this.  Let’s break it down for a minute.  I tell you that you can now board the ship.  What goes through your head?  WOOOOO!! My vacation is starting! Let the running of the bulls begin!  If anything gets in your way until you step onto that ship there is a good chance they are going to get trampled.  NO ONE really wants to stop unless you guilt them into it.  Why not do this on the ship when everyone realizes that they can’t go to their rooms yet?  Hit people when they are bored and you’ll get better results.

The Stateroom:

When you make it inside your stateroom one of the first things you’ll notice are the mirrors.  When you first walk in you’ll see the storage / bar area on your right.  They pack this area with mirrors.  This makes the room look much larger than it really is.  It’s a nice little trick.  In reality the grand suites on the Grandeur are about three times larger than a normal stateroom yet smaller than a standard hotel room (varies a little depending on the ship you are on). 

To your left is your bathroom.  It has a tub and dual vanities.  Normally you have a shower stall and one sink.  The toilet is right in with the rest of the bathroom and is a standard issue toilet.

Beyond the bar area is the sitting area.  You have a TV, media console with a PS3, chair, ottoman, and a pull out sofa sleeper.  There is another thing in this area that ruins the room.  In some of the grand suites there is a door to the adjacent room.  This is nice if you book both suites for a big family cruise.  This is AWFUL in any other situation! This door has NO insulation.  I mean ZERO insulation.  In fact the all metal door might actually act as an amplifier.  You will hear EVERYTHING going on in the other room.  If you talk in a normal volume your neighbors will hear you.  If you speak a little higher than that they will be able to easily make out every word you are saying. 

So how much of an impact does the door really have?  I know more about a toddler named Julian than I ever wanted to know.  I never met Julian but I often heard him and his parents until 1am. The noise was so bad that, after I called the desk to complain, I tried to figure out what I could stack against the door to try and give it some sound proofing.  I honestly thought about pushing the chair against it and then packing my clothes in the gaps.  Sadly that wouldn’t have been enough.

The bed area isn’t bad.  They put a bunch of mirrors here to make it seem larger than it is.  There are two night stands, a coffee maker (not in the bathroom!) and some more storage in this area.  The bed itself total crap.  If you enjoy a hard bed with no support this is the bed for you! I was really surprised by these beds considering the Grandeur recently went through an overhaul.  Carnival , NCL, and Disney have much better beds.  Maybe Royal Caribbean was hoping people would be too intoxicated to care about the beds.  Royal Caribbean was wrong.

The balcony was very nice but odd.  It was quite long with a table and two deck chairs.  The rest of it was empty.  That’s what makes this balcony odd.  There was a lot of open space / wasted space.  They could have put lounger or something else out there to fill in the space.

Now for a comparison, the same stateroom that does not have the “DOOR” in it is very different.  A family we ate dinner with most nights were staying in one of those suites about three doors down from us. 

T. Straub had this to say about that room compared to ours:


The adjoining door really screws with your space. We had a wrap around sofa that
gave the girls a queen space and the spacing between the pieces was
different which made the night stands much more usable. The play station
plugs and coffee maker and center was all together. The vanity area also
looked different from yours. It is a actually amazing how little things ,
like the adjoining door , changes the layout in the same class of suite. I
may never be able to book a Junior Suite Again. For a family with kids, this
is the only way to go.


The Concierge:

The Concierge for grand suite guests on the Grandeur is tucked away on the top deck, around the corner from their signature bar.  You are supposed to need a key to get into it but that feature on the Grandeur was busted.

Once you are inside you will be greeted by the Concierge.  On the Grandeur the staff in here is top notch.  They are some of the best concierge staff I have run into.  They were actually much better than the concierge staff I’ve run into while staying at club level at the Disney resorts.

While you are in this lounge you can drink whatever you want at no cost.  Between booze and soft drinks over the seven days my wife and I would have spent over $250 if we had to pay for what we drank (granted that’s at cruise ship prices).  We are not big drinkers either.   We are only talking about three drinks per person per day.  That goes a long way into lowering the cost difference between a grand suite and a normal junior suite.

There is also food available in the lounge.  The quality wasn’t bad.  It was better than what you would expect them to give away in a lounge.  It was much better than the food I’ve run into at the club level at the Disney resorts.

The Concierge will also make reservations for you.  In fact you will do better booking through him than on your own.  If something is sold out it might not be sold out when you book through your Concierge.  In some cases they can bend and break the rules for you.

The Shows:

This is not an overview of the entertainment on RC.  This is to let you know that if you book a Grand Suite you get reserved seating.  I can’t explain how nice this is if you are going to go to one of the shows.  On other cruise lines you have to get to the venue an hour early and sit through bingo to get a seat you can actually see from.  That’s not the case if you are staying in a grand suite.

Exclusive Party:

People staying in a grand suite or better also get access to an exclusive party.  They have the typical free booze and food that you would expect at one of these.  They also role out the ships officers who make the rounds and meet everyone.  This was a nice little bonus. 

Getting Off the Ship:

Normally this is awful.  If you are staying grand suite or better you report to the lounge.  They feed you and then your concierge reserves the elevator to keep anyone else on the ship from using it.  Once the call is made he personally takes you down to the correct deck and sees you off the ship.  I think for this alone it might be worth the cost of staying grand suite or higher. 


Wrap Up:

Overall if you take advantage of the perks that come with a grand suite it can actually be a value.  However, the worst thing you could do is book this room and then not go to the lounge or take advantage of the other perks.  For this to be a value you REALLY need to take advantage of all the perks.

You can see a video tour of the room here.

If you are looking for a cruise review, that’s coming at a later date.

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