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Grandeur of the Seas

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Can a cruise ship ever feel like home? For the many passengers who return multiple times to Grandeur of the Seas, the answer is an obvious yes. Known as Lady G, the 1,992-passenger ship (2,400 at full occupancy) engenders high loyalty from repeat cruisers, who cite the vessel's manageable size, diverse itineraries and personable crew as draws. The ship even has its own Facebook fan page.

Built in 1996, Grandeur of the Seas is part of Royal Caribbean's Vision class of ships, although its sole identical twin, Splendor of the Seas, left the fleet in 2016. (While rumours frequently persist that Grandeur, too, will be sold, sailings are on the books through 2019 and the line has a contract with the Port of Baltimore into 2020.) The ship last received a major refurbishment in 2012, when speciality restaurants were added; dry docks since then have concentrated solely on maintenance and soft furnishings such as carpets.

The ship's age is most noticeable in the cabins, where the blonde wood, low beds and scuffed furniture can give the space a dorm-room demeanour. The retro feel of the ship works to its advantage in other ways: Balconies are larger than what you'd find on new-builds, as are elevators and hallways (the latter are particularly important on Grandeur's longer itineraries, which draw older passengers).

And, what some people might see as drawbacks -- no water slides or FlowRider, a handful of restaurants -- Lady G fans see as a plus. Repeatedly on our 12-night Eastern Caribbean cruise, we heard passengers raving about the ship's manageable size and homey atmosphere. Most people who cruise frequently on Grandeur have no interest in Royal Caribbean's brand-new ships -- and the higher prices that come with them.

They're happy enough with what Grandeur has, including Chops Grille steakhouse, Izumi and Giovanni's Table; an outdoor movie screen; and the glorious Centrum, a lovely six-story atrium that serves as the ship's hub. It's impossible to walk through it without checking out what's happening on the dance floor below or wanting to sit in one of the area's comfy chairs and sofas. As with any Royal Caribbean ship, Grandeur has a full line-up of programming and a Solarium, where the adults-only rule actually seemed to be enforced. (We also appreciated that at the pool deck, whirlpools were clearly designed for kids or adults.)

Another factor that brings passengers back is the experienced and friendly crew, some of whom have been on the ship since it launched more than 20 years ago. From the bar staff that remember favourite drinks to a captain who leads nautical trivia, the crew is very interactive with passengers; we frequently saw the cruise director hanging out with ship regulars. We also observed a lot of patience with a demographic that faced some mobility challenges; of the 1,989 people on our sailing, 225 were over 75. One woman who boarded the ship in mid-November wasn't planning to leave until mid-April!

Whether or not you'll join these legions of Lady G-lovers depends on how well your priorities for a cruise vacation mesh with what the ship has to offer. If you're looking for an affordable cruise from the mid-Atlantic and you're OK with an atmosphere that, in this day of constant stimulation, almost qualifies as old-fashioned, Grandeur of the Seas is a lovely choice.

Daytime: Royal Caribbean has three dress codes: formal, smart casual and casual. Days onboard are casual. Shorts are permitted in the Great Gatsby Dining Room at breakfast and lunch, but not dinner.

Evening: Generally, busy port days will have a casual dress code in the evenings, while a formal night will be held on a sea day. Smart casual is recommended for speciality restaurants. In reality, there's not a lot of difference between them. Casual is defined by sundresses or slacks and blouses for women and collared shirts and trousers for men, but we saw T-shirts and jeans. While some long and cocktail dresses and suits were visible on formal night, we saw plenty of people wearing simple dresses or pants and a collared shirt on formal night. (The ship does have a tuxedo rental shop on Deck 4, but we only saw one person wearing one.) Smart casual technically means a dress or pantsuit for women and a jacket for the men; this did seem to be followed in the speciality restaurants.

Not permitted: Tank tops and hats are not allowed in the main dining room at any time.

Theatre

The Palladium Theatre has excellent sight lines, seating on fixed banquettes and drink holders on armrests. Expect several performances by the ship's singers and dancers (while the calibre isn't the greatest, it's nice to hear a live orchestra backing them up), as well as speciality acts, like an a cappella band, a rock violin player or a comedian. Shows are generally at 7 and 9 p.m.

Daily Fun

Grandeur of the Seas entertainment staff works hard to keep things moving, particularly on sea days. Multiple trivia sessions, some of them themed and others general knowledge, are held throughout the day. In addition, you'll find dance classes, paper aeroplane competitions, art auctions, wine and whiskey tastings (extra charges), napkin folding seminars, fitness seminars and shopping sales. Bands perform poolside, as well as in the Centrum, starting around 3:30 p.m.

At Night

If shows aren't your thing, there's usually a music trivia around 7:15 p.m., followed by a game show in the South Pacific Lounge. Stalwarts such as the Love and Marriage game show and the Quest adult scavenger hunt take place around 10:15 p.m. The Centrum has bands for live dancing, and various theme nights, such as a 70s night, are hosted here as well. Deck parties can also have a theme, such as tropical or the 80s.

The Casino Royale is fairly large, and winds through midship on Deck 5. It's a smoking venue, and sometimes the odour bleeds onto the rest of the deck. Slots open at 8 a.m. on sea days and tables open at 10 a.m.; everything goes late. There's a very cool glass section in the floor as you walk in from the Centrum that shows glittery pirate booty below. Tournaments take place throughout the cruise.

Part of Lady G's homey feel comes from the fact that there aren't as many bars onboard as you might think; once you pick your spot, you end up seeing the same people again and again. Although bars are technically open until 1 a.m., Grandeur of the Seas tends not to be a late-night ship. We found it dead by midnight.

Grandeur of the Seas Bars and Lounges

R Bar (Deck 4): The lowest level on the Centrum serves up classic martinis in a setting that's supposed to be 1960s mod decor. The bar and additional comfy seating surround a small dance floor and bandstand; there's almost always someone sitting here. The R Bar is where much of the ship's action takes place, including cooking demos, dance classes and themed dance parties.

Casino Bar (Deck 5): Located within the casino, this bar is one of the few that's open late. The casino does allow smoking.

Schooner Bar (Deck 6): The clubby yet whimsical Schooner Bar has floor-to-ceiling glass windows that look onto the outdoor promenade one deck below. Here, 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 sing-along seating is there for evening entertainment and trivia game purposes.

South Pacific Lounge (Deck 6): This lounge 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, game shows, bingo games, dance lessons and dancing to live bands, karaoke and various presentations, from future cruise sales to shopping talks.

Pool Bar (Deck 9): The pool bar provides drinks for sunseekers, mostly of tropical nature. It was a little too close to the smoking area for our taste, but when you need a pina colada to quench your thirst on a hot day, it's your closest option.

Solarium Bar (Deck 9): The adults-only Solarium has its own bar, although we rarely saw anyone here. It's convenient if you want to stay within the confines of the Solarium, which is almost always covered, despite having a retractable roof.

Viking Crown Lounge (Deck 11): High above the rest of the ship, the space age-style Viking Crown Lounge is undoubtedly the coolest bar onboard. So why aren't more people here? It's quiet during the day, offering spectacular views for readers who make it up there. Before dinner, private events are often held here and late at night it becomes the disco (which on our cruise was mostly a bust).

Grandeur of the Seas Outside Recreation

Pools

Grandeur of the Seas has two pools, and they are both a nice size. The outdoor main pool is saltwater and has a ledge where you can sunbathe without getting all the way in. We also appreciated that of the four whirlpools out here, two on each side were specifically designed for either kids or adults; this seemed enforced on our cruise. Lounge chairs surround the pool on two levels. Live music plays out here during the day, and there's also pool games like the Hairy Chest contest, officers versus passenger pool volleyball and Connect Four. The outdoor movie screen shows fun videos during the day and usually two movies in the evening, at 6 and 9 p.m. A soft-serve ice cream machine is located near the entrance to the Windjammer Cafe.

The second pool area, the Solarium, is designated for adults and has a minimum age limit of 16. It's spacious and has a retractable roof, and we saw it used by many people not only for swimming but for card games and reading. The Solarium has two whirlpools, as well as a bar and the Park Cafe. It's quiet, with no band, although since it's right near the spa, you'll see a lot of people pushing treatments and seminars.

Lifeguards were present at both pools.

Recreation

Grandeur of the Seas is short on Royal Caribbean fixtures: There's no FlowRider, for example, or mini-golf. The ship does have a rock climbing wall, but you have to work to find it on the back of Deck 10. Appropriate outfits for climbing are socks and dry T-shirt with shorts/pants; not bathing suits. Children must be 6 or older to climb, and parents must supervise kids under 13 (and sign waivers for those under 18).

Shuffleboard is located outside on Deck 10. Table tennis is on Deck 9, in a protected corner of the pool area.

Sun Decks

Most of the ship's lounging spaces are near the pool, but near the funnel in the fore of the ship, there's a small sun deck that's essentially on top of the Windjammer Cafe buffet. This is where you'd go if you want to get away from everyone, but we warn you, it can get windy.

Grandeur of the Seas Services

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 crew members hounding you every day to take photos with them. Around the corner are the art auction desk and a mini-gallery.

The Royal Caribbean shops are also on Deck 6. You'll find some jewellery stores, a liquor store, a cosmetic/perfume store and a shop selling T-shirts and logo gear.

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 with Voom Wi-Fi. Packages can be ordered by number of devices and come with two choices: surf, where you can browse, use social media sites and get email; and surf and stream, where you can video chat and stream movies, shows and music. At least that's the idea. We found Voom to be extremely slow and had trouble uploading photos. One device costs $12.99 per day to surf; $17.99 per day to surf and stream. If you're with a family, go for the four-device package, which is $9.99 per day, per device for surf and $13.99 per day, per device for surf and stream. A single day pass is $19.99 per day, per device for surf and $27.99 per day, per device for surf and stream.

A small library is located on Deck 4's starboard side, but we found the selection to be minimal.

Conference rooms are located near the dining room on Deck 4 with a medical facility on Deck 1. There is no self-service laundry on Grandeur of the Seas, nor are irons permitted in cabins.

Spa

The Vitality at Sea Spa is located at the aft of the ship on Deck 9. The complex includes the spa, a salon and stairs leading to the fitness centre on Deck 10. Medi-spa and acupuncture hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., while the spa and fitness centre open at 8 a.m. and close at 10 p.m.

Unlike other ships that try to cram in a lot of features like thermal suites into small spa spaces, the Vitality Spa feels roomy and spacious. Before your treatment, you're ushered into a relaxation room with aft views, water and tea, and plenty of chairs to actually relax. The changing rooms here each have a sauna and steam room; while the relaxation room is designated for people getting treatments, anyone can use the sauna and steam room at no charge.

The spa menu includes several kinds of massages (hot stone, bamboo, deep tissue, Swedish), body treatments (seaweed massage, Ionithermie therapy), medi-spa treatments such as Botox and fillers, and facials of all kinds. Prices are what you'd pay on land at a high-end resort, but discounts and packages are offered during port days and toward the end of the cruise. The spa also has acupuncture.

The salon has beauty treatments such as manicures, pedicures, waxing, teeth whitening and hair services. Men's grooming treatments are also available.

 

Fitness

The fitness centre has quite a bit of equipment for a ship this size, although the lack of a real fitness room for classes means that the area can feel cramped in the mornings when many people are both using the machines and involved in yoga or stretching. Complimentary fitness classes include stretching and abs. Cycling, Pilates and yoga classes carry a $12 fee. Individualized personal training and body composition analysis are also available for a fee. The fitness center has an age minimum of 16, but teens between 13 and 15 can use the gym during certain hours if accompanied by an adult.

A rather nice walking/jogging path circles the ship on Deck 10; four times around is a mile. There's also a very pleasant promenade deck on Deck 5 that's great for walking. Jogging, however, is discouraged.

Dining on Grandeur of the Seas fits into the overall vibe that the ship promotes -- cosy and homey favourites. You won't find a lot of trendy items on menus throughout the ship, and while every venue has choices for various dining preferences, the execution is rather pedestrian.

This is also a ship that eats early, which is understandable given the number of families and seniors onboard. If you're the type of person who likes to eat at 8 p.m., you might be the last person seated in a speciality restaurant and you'll find the buffet begins closing down at 8:30 p.m. After that point, your only free option for food is the Park Cafe (room service now carries a $7.95 charge).

Another odd dead zone was late afternoon, a time when many kids (or, ahem, others who like to eat late) might be looking for hot nibbles like a burger or a slice. The only places open during this time is -- again -- the Park Cafe, which is located in the child-free Solarium, and offers only a limited supply of cold sandwiches and pastries and Cafe Latte-tudes, which has sweets and small sandwiches. The lack of a pool grill is odd for a mainstream ship like this.

Bright spots in our dining experience included our assistant server Aleksandra in the Great Gatsby dining room, who went out of her way to make sure wine orders were taken and plates were cleared; the quiet alternative of the Park Cafe in the Solarium for breakfast and snacks; the free pastries and small sammies at Latte-tudes and the speciality restaurants, which never seemed super booked.

Speciality dining packages are a good way to break up your meals on a longer cruise. Grandeur had two packages available, both of which do provide savings than if you book them all separately. One package gives one meal each at Chef's Table, Giovanni's Table, Chops Grille and Izumi (up to $35). The second (and the most commonly purchased), for $75 per person (plus gratuity), eliminates the Chef's Table and features one dinner each at Giovanni's Table, Chops Grille and Izumi (up to $35). Royal Caribbean also offers all kinds of drink packages, from soda and coffee cards to premium drink packages, and some can offer savings. For people who don't like to commit to a full drink package, a 10 drink card for $79 (plus 18 percent gratuity) is a nice option.

Free Dining

Great Gatsby (Decks 4 and 5): In Grandeur of the Seas' two-level Great Gatsby Dining Room, passengers can choose from traditional dining (set seatings at 5:30 and 8 p.m.) or opt for Royal Caribbean's My Time Dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 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.)

Tables are a variety of sizes, ranging from 12 places to two. If you have set dining, you'll be assigned a table, although you can switch. If you prefer to eat just the two of you, you're better off signing up for My Time Dining, as that section of Great Gatsby upstairs has more two tops.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in the main dining room. Breakfast hours can vary, depending on if the ship is in port or at sea; it's usually about 90 minutes total. Breakfast choices are cold cereal and pastries, eggs and omelettes, breakfast meats and sausages, pancakes and waffles, and speciality items like eggs Benedict.

Lunch is served on sea days and is dubbed Brasserie 30. The highlight is a made-to-order salad bar in the centre of the dining room, with toppings ranging from grilled vegetables to shrimp to chicken, with a variety of dressings that the servers mixed in. You can also order from the menu, which might include turkey club sandwiches, chicken Caesar salad, pasta or a hot entree like carved ham. If you dine in Great Gatsby for breakfast or lunch, you are likely to sit with other people in order to fill up tables.

Dinner can feel pleasant or harried, depending on what time you arrive. In general, Great Gatsby undergoes the biggest rush in the early part of the evenings, and it can be hectic between 5:30 and 7 p.m. Conversely, if you go at 8 p.m., it's a much more laidback experience.

The dinner menu is extensive and offers plenty of choice for vegetarians and those with dietary restrictions, with items starred that are gluten- and lactose-free; a special three-course Vitality meal under 800 calories is also marked as well as three courses that the chef recommends. Passengers with food allergies are asked to talk to their waiter for other accommodations.

The menu is divided into rotating specials and always-available options. Starters might include spinach dip, seafood ceviche, seared beef carpaccio, New England clam chowder, hot harira soup, chilled mango and pineapple soup, garden salad, royal shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, escargot and a Caesar salad. Rotating entrees might include ricotta and spinach-filled pasta, shrimp gyoza, pork scaloppine, pan-seared filet of sole, crispy chicken Kiev and chicken Caesar salad. Always available "classic" items include linguine with Pomodoro sauce, fish of the day, marinated grilled chicken breast, broiled salmon and Angus beef sliders. On at least one formal night per sailing, the ship serves rock lobster with butter and prime rib, with the waiters pushing the lobster heavily; we were encouraged to take three (we demurred).

If you'd rather have Maine lobster, you can order it any night, for a $29.95 surcharge. Other extra fee menu items include the filet mignon from Chops ($16.95) and the surf and turf with both options ($34.95).

The dessert menu also has some rotating items and classics. Specials might include a strawberry kiwi pavlova, a warm chocolate cake with ice cream, a sugar-free chocolate coconut tiramisu and a variety of ice creams and sorbets. Anytime options were a creme brulee, apple pie a la mode, New York cheesecake, royal chocolate cake, a cheese plate and a seasonal fruit medley. Espresso coffees can be ordered at an additional charge.

Oddly, Great Gatsby waiters don't push the wine list, which probably has the ship's most interesting by-the-glass selections (at least we couldn't find a Gruner Veltliner that we enjoyed anywhere else). Wines of the day are offered at a 20 percent discount.

Windjammer Cafe (Deck 9): 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 and vegetarian items were marked. Though set up in stations, the buffet area is relatively small, and the venue can get packed (such as at breakfast before an early-morning port debarkation), making it difficult to find a table.

Windjammer Cafe serves breakfast from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. It's physically closed off in between meals. This can be frustrating if you're on an alternative schedule, or for kids who are discouraged from entering the Solarium, where Park Cafe is located. The space can also get very warm when the sun shines through.

At breakfast, you can choose to wait in the made-to-order omelette line or grab the steam-table versions of scrambled eggs, pancakes, French toast, breakfast meats, etc. in the centre 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 (although it's just a step up from frozen), as well as steam table burgers and hotdogs and an Asian section that features Indian or Chinese fare. There's a salad bar and rotating daily items such as a taco bar.

At dinner, the Windjammer Cafe serves standards like roast pork and mashed potatoes, along with a rotating ethnic corner. Sometimes this was well executed (Indian), sometimes it wasn't. The crew take the 8:30 p.m. closing time seriously and will ask you to leave if you linger too long.

During breakfast, waiters push carts through the buffet offering juice, coffee or water, but at other times we had to find our own drinks. At lunch and in the evenings, a waiter stands near the buffet with beer and wine, if you'd like to buy by a glass.

Park Cafe (Deck 9): Located in a corner of the Solarium, Park Cafe is a quiet gem for breakfast, lunch and late-night snacks. It serves breakfast items such as yoghurt parfaits, breakfast burritos, oatmeal and grits, and pastries from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.; premade sandwiches, salads and pastries from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and late-night snacks from 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. While we loved the location, we couldn't help thinking that it was out of the way for families at the main pool. We also missed hot snacks in the afternoon.

Fee Dining

Chef's Table (Deck 4); $95: If you're a serious foodie, consider the exclusive Chef's Table experience, a five-course, wine-paired dinner hosted by a chef. It takes place at 6:30 p.m., and diners must be 21 or older; expect the meal to take two to three hours. Seating is limited to 14 people.

The latest menu, posted in late 2017, had the following: Scallop carpaccio with yuzu vinaigrette and crispy quinoa as an appetizer; smoked tomato soup with garlic focaccia croutons; and Maine lobster salad with hearts of palm, pineapple, cilantro and vanilla dressing. Entree choices were roasted branzino with grilled zucchini and pesto; grilled filet mignon with truffle potato puree; or truffle tagliatelle with black truffle butter. Dessert was a Valrhona chocolate bar with salted caramel and dulce de leche gelato. The meal is paired with five glasses of wine.

(We tried to book the Chef's Table onboard, with no success. When we called the speciality restaurant hotline, the operator was unable to tell us when the next seating would be. We were also unable to find the paired wine list).

Chops Grille (Deck 6); $32: Royal Caribbean's signature option for grilled meats and seafood is usually worth the price. Chops Grille is open for dinner every night and for a special lunch on sea days ($22 per person). It's the ship's special-event, date-night venue, where the steak -- from the popular New York strip and filet mignon to 18-ounce porterhouse -- takes centre stage, but the appetizers (like the forest mushroom soup and lobster bisque) 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, creamed spinach, potatoes, green beans and onion rings -- served family-style. Some nice wines are served by the glass and bottle (the latter at relatively high markups), although depending on the night you're there, you might luck into some BOGO bottle specials. An 18 percent gratuity will be added to the total bill at the end of the meal.

Giovanni's Table (Deck 6); $30: Royal Caribbean's signature Italian restaurant serves family-style dishes at lunch ($15 per person), sea days only, noon to 1:30 p.m.) and dinner. Save a trip to Giovanni's Table for a day when you've eaten lightly, as it's easy to go overboard on the ordering; rein yourself in. The food here 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. An 18 percent gratuity will be added to the total bill at the end of the meal.

Cafe Latte-tudes (Deck 6): Latte-tudes is the all-in-one coffee and snack shop, which includes a Ben & Jerry's ice cream counter. Specialty Starbucks coffees, teas and ice cream cost extra, but the cookies, pastries and small sandwiches 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.)

Izumi (Deck 12); a la carte: Royal Caribbean's pan-Asian -- but mostly Japanese food and sushi -- restaurant is set in an airy space at the top of the ship by the Viking Crown Lounge. The menu at Izumi is a la carte, and the prices for sushi and rolls is comparable to what you'd find on land, if not a bit higher. Appetizers vary from $8 for spring rolls to $12 for a trendy poke taco (everyone gets edamame for free). Signature rolls range from $12 to $17; a full sushi combo is $18 and a sashimi platter is $21. We liked the vast menu that included tempura and hot rock grilling so your friends who don't like raw fish won't feel left out. Surf and turf hot rocks is $24. There are also ramen bowls that range from $12 to $18. Note: If you've bought a speciality dining plan, you're entitled to $35 worth of food in Izumi, which is plenty. The mochis are a must for dessert.

On at least one sea day, Izumi offers a sushi-making class; the fee is $28 (plus gratuity) and includes a fairly large lunch (spicy tuna roll, crispy shrimp roll, California roll and shrimp nigari) and 25 percent off your next meal at Izumi.

Room Service: Continental breakfast is available daily from 6 to 11 a.m. You can fill out a hanging card the night before to get juices, coffee, tea, toast, bagels, pastries, cereal, yoghurt and fruit delivered to your room for free. If you want anything more substantial for breakfast, such as eggs, pancakes, or sausage and bacon, it's a $7.95 fee.

The $7.95 fee also applies to all room service during the rest of the day and night. The menu, available from 11 a.m. through the night to 6 a.m., includes appetizers and salads; sandwiches, including burgers and grilled cheese; entrees such as chicken fettuccine Alfredo, quesadillas, nachos and chicken wings; and desserts such as a cheese plate.

The cabins on Lady G are where you see the ship's age, for good and bad. The bad is decor; blonde wood, low-lying beds and scuffed furniture remind one of a dorm room. The good? Built in the years before mega-ships, the cabins actually feel more spacious than what you find on new-builds.

Standard cabins are comfortable and practical, and even the smallest feature a tiny sitting area with a sofa and coffee table. Storage space is generous, with hanging racks and shelving in the closets (one closet door didn't want to close for us, but we didn't hear anyone else complaining of broken doors), drawers and more shelves in the desks/vanities, and nightstands. Beds are twins that can be combined into a king, although in an unusual twist, they are so low to the ground that we couldn't put our suitcase underneath them (we put ours in the closet). The only outlets in the room are on the vanity, far from the bedside. Two are American and one is European.

Cabins provide phones, safes and hair dryers (although the latter barely gets the job done; you might want to bring your own). In-cabin flat-screen TVs 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. (They would be easier to watch if they were hung on the wall opposite the bed instead of on the vanity several feet away.)

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 unobtrusive -- we never met our steward -- yet meticulous. We thoroughly enjoyed the imaginative towel creatures that came with turn-down service.

Interior: Two categories of inside cabins range in size from 136 to 145 square feet. Some come with pulldown beds for third and fourth passengers, or a sofa bed that pulls out (though all cabins have sofas). Connecting cabins are also available.

Oceanview: Standard outside cabins measure 151 square feet. Some come with pulldown beds for third and fourth passengers, or a sofa bed for extra people, and connecting cabins are also available.

Balcony: Standard balcony cabins (called "superior oceanviews") are 191 square feet with 39-square-foot balconies. Several have double sofa beds, allowing the cabins to accommodate four passengers. Balconies are each furnished with two chairs and a small table.

Junior Suite: The Junior Suite (at 247 square feet with a 74-square-foot balcony) is essentially an expanded balcony cabin with a larger sitting area (sofa plus comfy chair) and a bathroom with a bathtub.

Suite: There are four suite categories on Grandeur of the Seas. Grand Suites (349 square feet, 111-square-foot balcony) have more of a distinction between the sleeping and sitting areas -- the latter of which has a sofa bed -- and a larger foyer area. This is the first category to get extra perks.

The Owner's Suite (517 square feet, 111-square-foot balcony) has a separate living area with a double-sized sofa bed and several lounge chairs. The Royal Suite (1,119 square feet, 128-square-foot balcony) has a king-sized bed in a separate bedroom, a large living room with a double-sized 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 of which can convert into a king), a set of bunk beds and a double sofa bed in the living room. The Royal Family Suite (517 square feet with a 79-square-foot balcony) features two bedrooms, two bathrooms (one with a shower, the other with a tub) and a double sofa bed and a pulldown bed in the living room. It can accommodate up to eight people.

A Concierge Lounge, carved out of the Viking Crown Lounge, 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 petits fours served in the evening, a self-service bar (no fee), movies and CDs to borrow, and business services (faxing and copying for a fee). A concierge can assist passengers in making reservations for speciality 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.

Other perks for suite passengers include priority check-in and departure, priority tender, spa bathrobes and complimentary pressing.

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 feature 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.

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