My parents love to go on cruises. Like, a lot of cruises.
They love the ships, the food, the entertainment, but they do not care about the ports in the slightest. So, they’ve occasionally just gone on back-to-back shorter cruises if it’s worked out for them schedule/pricewise even if they just visit the same places twice. They asked us if we wanted to go on a back-to-back as the family vacation this year, so we set sail on the Grandeur of the Seas twice last month!
If you’ve been around here, you may have read a few cruise recaps since it’s the family vacation of choice, so I’ll stick to the interesting and unique stuff about this particular jaunt to Mexico and then Mexico again.
The Grandeur of the Seas is a VERY SMALL ship in comparison to most sailing these days. I do love the big floating cities with 20 different restaurants and 30 different bars and 15 different entertainment venues, but it was also nice to have some simplicity. You could obtain food in the buffet, the poolside grill, and the dining room. There were 6 bars open on the whole ship and probably about that many entertainment venues. It removed a lot of the decision fatigue. If you were hungry at noon, there were two choices (buffet or dining room).
Since we had more sea days than port days, we settled into our normal cruise rhythm. Right around sunrise, I’d wander out of bed and take some pictures from the balcony, then crawl back into bed and read/sleep until Joel was up too. Then, we’d head to the gym most mornings to do 30+min cardio and some lifting/stretching. It was a point of pride for us that we hit the gym every single day that we weren’t in port. It may sound laaaaaame, but we really do enjoy working out, especially when we’re not rushed.
I aimed to skip most breakfasts, occasionally I’d snack on something and Joel would grab a small plate of eggs. That typically meant that we were ready for lunch right when the buffet opened, so we’d meet my parents and partake of whatever goodness was there. I kept with my plan and started with a salad and then had no more than another plate of food. Wasn’t always the healthiest (e.g. one day that was nachos) but it kept the portions in check.
There was no card room, so we ended up playing in the solarium (adults only enclosed pool area) instead. I *LOVED* this because it wasn’t cold, it was right next to the drink station so I could stay full of tea, coffee, or water without having to go on shipboard adventures to do so, and I got to be outside instead of in an interior room with no windows. It was right next to the cafe that was open afternoons, and that meant an OCCASIONAL snack, but I resisted most days.
Sometimes, there’d be a nap or extra reading time in there, and sometimes when the clock hit 7 we’d go see the nightly show, but we played A LOT of cards – 14 games total over 9 days.
We opted for late dinner, which meant we ate at 8pm and with multiple courses, finished around 930-10pm. Again, my goal was to splurge here only when it was worth it. I mostly avoided fried foods unless it sounded OMG AMAZING MUST HAVE, stopped eating when I felt super full, and split desserts with Joel every night. I did fall in love with their French Onion soup and ended up with that and shrimp cocktail for many appetizers. Their simple chicken plate was actually REALLY good, and after a conversation with the Maitre-D about Indian food, we had a stretch of three nights where they made us tiki masala and magic wings off the menu (some of the best I’ve had!).
With earlier wakeups and late dinner, we didn’t make it out to do anything after dinner during the whole cruise. I think we may have finished some of a bottle of wine on the balcony whilst reading ONCE, but typically we just crashed into bed with our books and fell asleep digesting. After talking with the fam, we all felt pretty gross eating so much so late, so we’re going to try early dinner again next cruise.
There were four breaks in the sea day routine – Costa Maya (Friday), Cozumel (Saturday), disembarkation/embarkation day (Monday), and Cozumel redux (Wednesday).
Costa Maya was a bit of a bust (well, as much of a “bust” as it can be with views like that). The seas were too rough to do the dive, and since we didn’t book our excursion through the ship, we didn’t find out until we got there. They did offer a snorkeling trip in a little protected cove area for really cheap, and since going in the ocean is always > not going in the ocean, we signed up.
The trip was not the best snorkeling of our life. It featured poor visibility, fighting strong current the entire time, and since we had to wear life jackets (for damn good reasons), there was no swimming down to get pictures. However, we did get to see two eels fighting and the bigger one devour the smaller one, so that was something, even if photographic evidence was pretty spotty.
With a storm rolling in, we weren’t too sure about our diving prospects in Cozumel the next day either. There wasn’t enough interest to do the official ship dive (it was mostly college kids), so we were on our own. We called our favorite dive shop in the morning as soon as we docked and they said dives were happening, so back to Dive Paradise in the Hotel Cozumel resort we went!
We got two solid back-to-back morning dives in, though we both felt like we were swimming in place against the current at times. When we surfaced, the yellow flag on the shore had been replaced with the red flag, so the port was closed and no more dives were allowed for the day. Before we noticed the chane, we were debating between Dive #3 and a cerveza, and that made the decision super easy!
I wasn’t sure how it would feel to go on two back-to-back cruises instead of one single longer one. In some cases, it was a bit of a hassle – we didn’t get the same room for the second cruise so we had to pack and unpack twice. We still had to be up and out of our room by 8am. We had to do a very quick walk through customs and registration again, but we were one of 30 people instead of one of thousands, so it went super quick. Besides all that, it was kinda neat. We got to see two different groups of people enjoying the ship and each had a different vibe. We got two different “first days” of the cruise and the first last day didn’t count at all. Going to Cozumel twice in one week was sort of novel as well.
Speaking of, we had much better weather on the second outing, and two more phenomenal dives. Since we’ve been back to Hotel Cozumel and Dive Paradise so many times in the last four years, that resort just kinda feels like home away from home now. We did regret missing out on the beautiful blue open water you only experience from a boat dive, but there’s just so much to see right off the shore and tanks only cost 12$ each.
Disembarkation was so quick with such a small ship (we took our time and were some of the last people off the ship around 9am and were driving home about 9:30am). Our only inconvenience was a flat tire in Houston, but we were able to spend an extra hour reading our books on the side of the road and then roadside assistance fixed us right up.
After 9 days, we were ready for own bed, our own food, to set up the pool, and apparently for all of us… to get sick. I did see it coming. Masks were optional, which meant that Joel and I were one of maybe ten people on the whole ship besides the crew that were wearing them, and we didn’t wear them while working out. The buffet was self-service, with plenty of finger food, so pretty much if anyone had Covid on that ship, it was spreading. I’d prefer not to repeat the experience next time we travel, so we’ll have to think on how we can be more careful.