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We arrived in Baltimore on August 31st and planned on spending the day walking around the Inner Harbor. We had a room at the Renaissance Harborfront Hotel - very nice hotel right across the street from the Harbor. Our plans were rained out by dinner time however so we went back to the hotel and settled in.
Friday morning we woke to more rain, very heavy at time, but from the restaurant on the 5th floor of the hotel we could see the Crown & Anchor and the Viking Crown Lounge off in the distance. We checked out at about 10:30 and made the 8 minute drive to the ship. The new terminal in Baltimore is really terrific and they certainly have their act together. Upon entering the lot you are directed to a line where you drive up and your luggage is removed from your car and put into huge containers. You then park and walk a very short distance to the terminal. Check-in was a breeze but we were told that since the ship was 2 hours late arriving in the morning we could not board til Noon. We sat in a comfortable waiting room and cookies and water were supplied.
At exactly noon they allowed us to begin boarding according to colored tickets we were given when we registered. We were the first group to board. Our cabins were not ready yet but the buffet in the Windjammer was open and waiting for us.
After lunch (standard buffet food but it suited us fine) we went to our cabin 8530 a Junior Suite. The room was in good shape but we were a bit surprised by a large pole at the foot of the bed. Thankfully it was well padded as it is difficult to avoid, especially in the middle of the night. The room had more than enough storage space even for a compulsive over-packer like me. We had all our luggage and were unpacked by 2:00. At 2:30 we went to the Viking Crown lounge to meet some new friends and after Muster drill (very fast, painless & necessary) we were on our way. There was some concern early in the day that because of Hurricane Ernesto and the storm surge, getting under the Key Bridge might be an issue but it was no problem. The trip down the Chesapeake was smooth and although the Captain had said we would have some "Motion on the Ocean" once we hit open water, we thought the trip was extremely smooth.
The Grandeur is a great ship, very easy to navigate but is beginning to show its age. They are constantly working on it and were replacing carpeting on this trip so at times sections of different decks or stairs were off limits.
We had early seating and had table 188 in the Dining Room - a table for 7 which after two or three days was changed into a table for 5 and we had a lot more room. Two of our tablemates never did show up. Our wait staff was terrific and took very good care of us. After the first night our Iced Teas were waiting for us and they knew who liked Regular coffee and who had DeCaff
I know food is very subjective but we always found something to our liking and certainly never went hungry. The Head Waiter visited our table every evening to check on us and see how our day was.
We saw a few shows, 1 great comedian, 1 not so great and left during the magic show. We did not see the Revue shows as we have seen them all many times before.
Our first 3 ports, Miami, Key West and Cozumel we were greeted by rains like I have never seen before. Torrential downpours all afternoon. In Miami we went to the Alligator park for the AirBoat ride which was a lot of fun even in the downpour but even the alligators had more sense than to come out so we only saw 1 or two babies.
Key West - we were supposed to take the Trolley tour but I decided not to wade through ankle deep water to cross the street to the trolley so we went back to the ship and enjoyed our balcony.
Cozumel - today was interesting to say the least. More heavy, heavy rain and I feared for our lives in the Taxi to Paradise beach for lunch. We figured we would be fine once we got under the roof for the bar/restaurant there but we did not know the roof leaked like crazy. It was becoming laughable and we made our way back to the ship dripping wet.
Costa Maya - The Sun Is Out!!! We made our way into town where we delivered some school supplies for the children there and then took a cab to Pez Quadro - an absolutely gorgeous little beach with swings instead of bar stools around the bar.Wehad wonderful lobster lunch on the beach and enjoyed a terrific day there. That one day certainly made up for the past 3 days of nasty weather and it looks like we have finally lost Hurricane Ernesto.
Port Canaveral - We were more than 2 hours late arriving into port and since we had to go to Immigration before we could do anything else it was a busy, crazy morning. It was especially irritating since we were supposed to report to Immigration at 7AM so everyone was up bright and early and by the time we docked everyone was getting a bit cranky. However, there was 1 bright spot - the space shuttle was due to launch at 11:41 so a lot of folks (us included) cancelled their planned trips to have a great view of the launch from our deck. That plan worked until 11:20 when the launch was cancelled.....that was just the way our luck was running. We spent the remainder of the day enjoying the ship and the sunshine. We did think it was quite strange that we were escorted from the port by several large tugs though - a sign of things to come.
Back at sea the next morning the Captain came on the PA to announce that we were not late getting into Canaveral due to headwinds as previously reported but because we were having rudder problems. He scheduled a Q & A session for that afternoon and ask for one rep from each family to attend. One he assured us we were in no danger whatsoever everyone relaxed. They opened the phone lines for people who needed to change flights, call rides, etc. and also opened the internet for free. He explained we would be fine but it would be very slow going and once we hit Chesapeake Bay the CG was insisting we have tugs escort us up the bay - changing our 8 hour trip to over 12hours since tugs can't go more than 10 knotts. The ship took on a real party atmosphere for the rest of the trip with only a few gripes about missed flights, etc. The biggest problem seemed to be we were due in September 10th and a lot of folks refused to fly on September 11th. The line worked with them as best they could. We were also told we could keep our luggage til 9:30 AM on Sunday and stay in our cabins til Noon.
Around midnight on Saturday we anchored at the mouth of the Bay and divers went down to inspect the damage and do temp repairs. This was quite a show until about 3AM when we were again underway. We finally docked at 3PM - 8 hours late. The first colors call to disembark was our (thankfully) at 3:50 and we had our luggage, cleared customs and were in our car at 4PM. Very quick and painless.
All in all it was a terrific cruise despite the weather and I think RC and Captain Rob did everything in their power to keep us comfortable and happy. I would sail on the Grandeur again without hesitation.