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Cruising is a breeze with Royal Caribbean

Spend any time aboard a cruise ship and you will long to leave the port. That’s how I felt when I attended a luncheon on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas recently. (I think that’s why they keep your driver’s license at the port.) It had been a couple of years since I had been on a cruise ship of this size and it was fun watching the excitement of the passengers as they prepared for a little relaxation time.

 

Grandeur of the Seas is not a small vessel. It weighs in at 73,817 tons and holds 1,950 passengers. It made me wonder how the cruise line can feed all these people more than three times a day and maintain some sense of quality. That question was answered by Executive Sous Chef, Courtney Harris, hailing from Jamaica. He gave me a rare look inside the expansive kitchens of the ship. Little did he know, I was looking for places to stowaway. Kidding. Sort of.
The main hot kitchen was bustling with staff getting ready for lunch and dinner. The intoxicating smell of Prime Rib filled the air when he showed me the ovens roasting away; some set for rare and some for medium-rare. On the other side of the kitchen, several 150 gallon steam jacket kettles were filled with soup. Each day they prepare one clear soup and one cream soup. All the soups are freshly made each day.
In the cold kitchen, or Garde Manger kitchen, fruit baskets were being prepared for the embarking guests. The coolers were filled with different carved creations, hours in the making. There were carved watermelons, squash and even a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Bouquets made from fruit and vegetables were ready to be placed out at service time. It was really a testament to the talent Royal Caribbean brings into their kitchens.

The bakery, which is a separate kitchen, had that “Mom is baking something really good” smell. A few pastries, including croissants were sitting there left-over from breakfast. I was starting to get really hungry looking at all this food. They showed me where they make all their dinner rolls from scratch and also all of the pie crusts. It would have been easier, and perhaps less expensive to buy these items, but they insist on making them. The only possibly store-bought item I saw were some hamburger buns. A huge oven and proofing box were ready for the evening’s bread items. Each of them would hold an entire cart of baked items, which is about 10 – 12 racks.

Dining options are much more flexible these days on cruises. On Royal Caribbean, you can choose to accept an assigned seat or sit in the upstairs portion of the main dining room at tables seating two to four. If you don’t feel like dressing up, you can casually dine at the Windjammer Cafe or elect to have food brought to your room. Before or after dinner, you can wind down with a cocktail at the Viking Crown Lounge, a large glass-enclosed area near the top of the ship with beautiful views of the water.

One of my favorite spots on the boat was the Solarium. It is an area for adults to relax poolside with those little umbrella drinks. Located right next to the spa (how convenient), it is all about indulgence and regenerating. Totally enclosed in glass, you can get some sunshine without regard for the temperature outside. The area is totally climate-controlled and if you get hungry, there is a little, intimate dining area off to the side where you can nosh if you feel inclined.

You may be wondering how much it costs to go on a cruise these days. I found out about a deal through eWomen Network (and yes, men are invited as well), for a November 4, 2010 cruise. $429 per person for an Oceanview cabin and $519 per person for a Balcony cabin with third and fourth persons considerably less. This rate is being offered through AAA Travel. Call 813-289-5800 extension 6546 for details. You can even pay for it over time until August 1st. A portion of the proceeds will benefit eWomen Network Foundation.

 

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