Agents praise return of Grandeur, but repairs not quite finished

By Arnie Weissmann
ONBOARD THE GRANDEUR OF THE SEAS — Royal Caribbean International’s Grandeur of the Seas, sidelined for six weeks for repairs after a fire in Deck 3 in its mooring section, was given a 14-hour test drive on Thursday through Chesapeake Bay with invited media and travel agents from the Baltimore drive market onboard.

Some of the affected sections were still off-limits — repairs were still under way in the South Pacific Lounge, and a portion of the aft Promenade deck was sectioned off to hold equipment related to the restoration.

Workmen were housed in about 70 of the ship’s 996 staterooms while repairs were being completed. Those rooms had been booked for a weeklong sailing departing for Bermuda on Friday, and a portion of passengers on the following week’s sailing will also be displaced.

Affected passengers were offered rebooking on a future departure, as well as given a percentage of the fare as compensation for the inconvenience, according to Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean's senior vice president of sales, trade support and services.

Freed said a small portion of the bumped passengers had previously been booked for a departure scheduled during the six weeks that the ship was out of commission, and those passengers received double compensation.

“We worked with them to make sure they were happy,” she said, adding that credit and compensation could be applied to, for instance, a booking on the Oasis of the Seas.

The ship had been renovated in May of last year, and many of the agents who were onboard had not seen it since that renovation and updating.

Michelle Duncan, CEO of Odyssey Travel of Centreville, Va., had been on the ship twice before — including its inaugural Caribbean voyage in 1996 — but had not yet seen its additions and had not sailed out of Baltimore.

“I will start selling this more,” she said, seated in the Royal Crown Lounge as the ship set sail. “I love the revitalization,” she added, listing the Park Café, nursery and large outdoor screen as welcome additions.

Kathy Brancifort, president of First Class Travel in Deptford, N.J., had two clients aboard the Grandeur when the fire occurred.

“They came back and booked two more RCCL cruises,” she said, including a free cruise on the Grandeur offered in compensation for the cruise aborted by the fire.

“They were in a grand suite, and said that Royal was fantastic during the crisis. They saw crew members go back to cabins to get medication for elderly passengers, and made sure the elderly were seated and comfortable. They can’t wait for the Quantum [of the Seas, which Royal Caribbean International will launch in November 2014].

Hema Khan, owner of Kirkwood Travel in Voorhees, N.J., had been on the ship just before its redo, and had high praise for the new features.

“I love the touchscreen [interactive maps], the new restaurants, the nursery. I’m not saying I wouldn’t sail without the nursery, but parents and grandparents are going to be really happy.”

Follow Arnie Weissmann on Twitter @awtravelweekly.

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