Grand Classica Cruise: Two-night Voyage to the Bahamas

ABOARD THE GRAND CLASSICA: The Grand Classica is definitely that.

Launched in 1991, the ship joined Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line in April 2018. With 216 inside rooms and 430 oceanview rooms, along with two junior suites, the ship has a guest capacity of 1,680 and 590 crew.

Stepping on the Grand Classica is like traveling back in time to an era when cruise ships were less about outrageous attractions like go-carts and sky diving simulators and more about relaxing and watching the ocean roll.

A return to a time when passengers yearned to get away from the daily grind and enjoy leisurely shipboard meals and learn more about themselves, other places and other people.

UNDERSTATED ELEGANCE

Updated in 2014, the Grand Classica décor is understated elegance with real Murano glass decorations and many roomy spaces where passengers can socialize or can be alone. A popular spot, the Encore Lounge is huge with large comfortable chairs and sofas, plus handy tables for drinks and snacks.

The stately ship pays homage to its Bahamas destination with decks named after islands in the Bahamas – Bimini, Paradise, Abaco, Eleuthera, Andros, Exuma, Rum Cay and more. The main dining room is named The Yellow Elder Restaurant after the national flower of the Bahamas.

The Grand Classica and its sister ship the Grand Celebration sail on two-night cruises to the Bahamas. It’s particularly perfect for someone who might want to try ocean cruising without spending a lot of time or money. Some cruise specials are priced at less than $200 per person for an inside cabin.

A special now being offered until July 31st costs $129 per person for all staterooms along with these free perks – five free drinks, a $15 onboard credit and a $50 casino match play. For details about the special called Triple Play, ask your travel agent.

“You couldn’t get a nice hotel room for two nights for that,” said Mary Ellen Thomas of Miami. “Plus, that price includes delicious meals, entertainment and a chance to visit the Bahamas.”

CRUISE AND STAY OPTION

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line also offers the wonderful option of combining a cruise with a luxurious Bahamas beach resort stay. The combo allows cruise ship passengers to sail aboard one of the two Bahamas Cruise Line ships. Upon arriving at Grand Bahama Island, cruisers can stay at a Bahamas resort for several days, then board the ship to cruise back to West Palm Beach.

That is an option I would like to try someday. But this time I am only on Grand Classica for the two-night cruise.

Attractions on board the Grand Classica are the Par-A-Dice Casino, Indulgence Spa and Lucaya Plaza shopping area. The shops carry a wide selection of watches, jewelry, clothing, toiletries, hats, cigarettes, alcohol and souvenirs. Remember that ship shopping is tax and duty free.

“We are going to save more than enough money to pay for our cruise,” Thomas Mitchell joked, holding a shopping bag full of cigarettes, rum and liqueur.

“I don’t smoke. The cigarettes are for a neighbor,” Thomas added. “But I’m looking forward to making Bahama Mamas with the rum and liqueur when I get home. A great souvenir.”

The ship has an Oasis adults-only area with a pool, two whirlpools and a bar surrounded by lounge chairs. The ship’s main Plunge Pool has a larger pool surrounded by a roomy deck and lounge chairs. A jogging track above the pool area is a popular way to exercise while enjoying wonderful ocean views.

The Grand Classica also has a Card Room, Library, Fitness Center, Salon, Photo Gallery (with roaming photographers to capture cruise moments and studio spots for more formal photos), Internet Café, Conference Room, more than half a dozen drink venues and the huge Legends Grand Theatre.

The Central Atrium on Deck 5 is the main hub for booking shore excursions, making reservations and getting assistance from guest service team members.

For children, there is Kruzer’s Club (ages 3-6), Club Chill (ages 7-12) and Vibe Club (ages 13-17).

GREAT FOR CRUISERS SHORT OF TIME, MONEY

For 9-year-old Alex of Fort Lauderdale, the cruise was a birthday gift he had requested. His parents, Lynn and Arthur, were happy to oblige. “The waiters even sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me and brought me a cake in the dining room,” Alex said.

The other part of his gift, Alex added, is going to be a close encounter with dolphins on the family shore excursion in the Bahamas. “Really, it doesn’t cost much more than if we did something special for him back home,” Lynn said. “These two days are a good way for Alex to experience a cruise without us having to take too much time off work or to spend a lot of money.”

Our cruise had about 700 passengers with the top three home places being Florida, Canada and the Bahamas, said guest services representative Guillermina. “But we get people from all over America and from around the world,” she said.

Stay tuned for more of my cruise posts when I write about my cabin, shipboard dining and entertainment. Already the time is rushing by so I’m heading out to do some more exploring aboard the Grand Classica.

Grand Classica Cruise: Comfy stateroom my home for two-night Bahamas adventure

ABOARD THE GRAND CLASSICA – Entering the ship stateroom that will be my cruise home is always exciting. When I opened the door for stateroom 6085 aboard Grand Classica, I knew I would be quite comfortable here.

Launched in 1991, Grand Classica was built during a time when passenger comfort was a priority so staterooms are larger than on many newer ships. A solo traveler for the two-night cruise from West Palm Beach to the Bahamas and back, I have a full-sized bed, desk, table and chair, phone, tabletop with flat screen TV and plenty of storage space.

The color scheme is gold, orange and red with all-white bedcovers and four pillows. Nightstands are on each side of the bed and a cubby bookcase is under the porthole window.

I always choose a balcony room when I can on a cruise ship but only 10 suites on Grand Classica Deck 10 have balconies. Mine has a porthole.

Remember that Grand Classica was constructed during an era when balconies weren’t a priority since many passengers preferred to spend most of their non-sleeping time outside of their cabins.

The porthole in my stateroom is large, letting in plenty of light during the day and giving me a nice view of the ocean. The porthole has a curtain that can be drawn over it for privacy and a large roll-down shade to block the light.

A colorful abstract painting with three deer is the only artwork in the cabin. It hangs over my bed. But it is enough.

Next to the bed is what I thought is a large closet. It isn’t. Behind a sliding door is a pull-down twin bed with instructions to have the cabin attendant arrange the bed.

My cabin has a large-enough closet and drawers – this is only a two-night cruise, for goodness sakes – plus a small fridge. I like having a fridge for cold water and Pepsi so that is a nice plus.

The bathroom is larger than expected with bottles of toiletries, bars of soap and gold-colored towels. The shower has a circular curtain rod and doesn’t feel cramped. The shower has strong water pressure and easy hot-water adjustment. Many cruise ships have only trinkling water in the shower and it is often difficult to get the water as warm as I like it. But the Grand Classica is excellent on both of those counts.

In fact, my stateroom is easy to adjust the temperature. It was too cool for me when I first arrived in the cabin but heated up quickly when I adjusted the thermostat from its initial 68 degrees.

The important thing my cabin lacks is enough electrical outlets. Remember again, this ship was built before passengers were traveling with so many electronic gadgets. The cabin has one 110-volt and one 220-volt outlet at the desk.

Since I travel with my laptop computer, iPhone and camera with a battery that needs charged, a multiple plug outlet is a necessity. The room has no clock so tuck a travel clock in your suitcase if you would like one beside the bed.

Each morning, my cabin attendant makes my bed, empties the trash, vacuums and leaves clean towels. In the evening, he turns down my bed, leaves a chocolate candy on the pillow and a copy of a four-page ship schedule detailing all the entertainment offerings for the next day.

The Grand Classica seems to have something going on every hour from early morning to past midnight.

That’s it. I’m quite comfortable here. So now I am off for dinner in the Yellow Elder Restaurant. Will write about the ship’s food and dining options in my next post.

Grand Classica Cruise: Cuisine choices plentiful on cruise ship

ABOARD THE GRAND CLASSICA: Will it be black pepper crusted ahi tuna or Atlantic salmon or stuffed chicken breast or boneless beef short ribs braised in Merlot?

Those who know me have no doubt what I chose.

Yep, it was the boneless beef short ribs braised in Merlot with creamy mascarpone polenta and root vegetables.

I don’t eat chicken unless I have to, but the woman at the next table said her chicken entrée was very good. I’m sure both the tuna and salmon were delicious choices, as well.

My short ribs were great. However, that is only part of the yummy meal I had my first night aboard the Grand Classica. I dined in the Yellow Elder Restaurant.

For appetizer, the choices were shrimp avocado cocktail, butternut squash ravioli, harvest corn chowder with chorizo, roasted tomato bisque, watercress and endive salad or steakhouse salad.

My choice was the harvest corn chowder with chorizo and it was wonderful – creamy and loaded with corn and spicy sweet chorizo.

Three vegetarian entrees are featured on the menu each night. On my first cruise dinner, the choices were vegan red lentil penne with Thai coconut curry and stir-fried vegetable or saffron rice with curried yellow split peas, aloo parantha, papadum and mango pickles raita or baked zucchini boats with ratatouille, polenta cakes and plum tomato basil sauce.

For an extra fee, passengers can order premium steaks and seafood. Choices included 12-ounce Delmonico steak for $17.50, a 9-10 ounce steamed or broiled lobster tail with drawn butter sauce for $19.95 or a 6-ounce filet mignon with a 6-ounce Maine lobster tail for $27.50.

Those extra fee entrees included two sides, either creamy steakhouse spinach, young harvest vegetables, truffle steak fries or baked or mashed potatoes. Steak sauces were cognac green peppercorn, béarnaise or maître d hotel butter.

PLENTY OF PLACES TO DINE ON SHIP

But the Yellow Elder Restaurant isn’t the only place to dine on Grand Classica.

There’s the Ocean View Buffet, the grill, Grand Café Gelateria (extra charge), A Slice Above Pizza (extra charge), The Bull (extra charge), The Rock Grill (extra charge) and Admiral’s Steak & Seafood (extra charge). A self-service ice cream machine is outside the buffet.

Since this is only a two-night cruise, I didn’t make it to all the dining spots. I ate basic breakfast at the grill on our only full day aboard ship. It was fine. I ate lunch at Ocean View Buffet the only full day aboard ship. The buffet was cafeteria-style food. It had a pasta station, salad bar, desert bar and entrée station with several entrees and some cooked vegetables, plus a rice dish and mashed potatoes and bread.

But remember this cruise costs less than $200 per person for the whole shebang and Bahamas Paradise Cruise is now offering a special until July 31st. A two-night cruise aboard the Grand Classica to the Bahamas and back costs $129 per person for all staterooms along with these free perks – five free drinks, a $15 onboard credit and a $50 casino match play.

Usually, on cruise ships I like to eat breakfast and lunch in the buffet where I can sit and watch the ocean roll. Most buffet areas have huge windows with spectacular views. The Ocean View Buffet, however, does not offer ocean views.

I easily solved that by filling my buffet plate and heading outdoors to the Rock area which does offer wonderful ocean sights. Part of the Rock is covered with a roof and part isn’t so you can choose to sit closer to the ship rail in the sun or sit closer inside protected from the sun. Both are pleasant.

Folks who ate at the specialty restaurants said the food was good and well worth the price. The Bull is known for its burgers, chicken wings and fried shrimp.

The Rock Grill is a fun dining concept that involves cooking fresh meat and seafood on volcanic stone slabs, sealing in juices and flavors. A Slice Above Pizza has a warm Italian-style décor and Italian menu.

SHIP STAFF IS EXCELLENT

As with all the ship employees, the serving staff in The Yellow Elder Restaurant is top-notch. When I arrived at the restaurant for dinner the second night, I was asked if I wanted the same table since I had mentioned the previous night that I liked being able to see the ocean.

The Grand Classica has plenty of tables for large groups, for couples and for solo travelers like me. Not all cruise ships like to seat one passenger at a table. Sometimes I like to eat with a group of strangers and sometimes I don’t. I really appreciated that option on the Grand Classica.

Sommelier Nebojsa quickly arrived, greeted me by name and asked if I would like the same Barnard Griffin Cabernet Sauvignon that I’d had the night before. Definitely.

Don’t know how ship employees remember all our names. My stateroom attendant called me by name the first time I saw him. I can sort of understand that. He knows if I am checking into Stateroom 6085, then I must be Jacqueline Finch. But he also greeted me by name when he saw me elsewhere on the ship.

On a two-night cruise seems like we just get on the ship when it is time to get off, so ship employees must have great memories.

Restaurant servers also are very observant. If my water glass got low, someone was there to fill it. When I left a bit of my short ribs, server Yadi asked if the entrée was not to my liking. Yadi said that he would gladly bring me a different entrée instead.

Nope, the ribs were delicious, but I knew dessert was coming – lemon meringue tart, banana fondant, vanilla panna cotta or ice cream or sherbet. I had the wonderful lemon meringue.

A man at the table next to me ordered escargot. His wife chose Bahamian seafood chowder. And they shared. Both had never had either of those dishes. They weren’t crazy about the escargot but said they really liked the chowder.

That’s a fun thing about cruises – a chance to try something we may not normally eat at home.

Grand Classica Cruise: Entertainment options abound on two-night cruise

ABOARD THE GRAND CLASSICA – I saw him perform both nights on my Grand Classica cruise. But I still don’t know how Igor the acrobat did it.

He moved his partner Tabbi around as though she weighed nothing. He hoisted her over his head. He held her aloft with one hand. He twisted his body until it was almost bent in half, still balancing his partner on his feet. Then the two of them performed an intricate aerial dance using large fabric ribbons.

One false move and they would have landed on the stage of the Legends Grand Theatre. But acrobats Igor and Tabbi were only part of the entertainment offered both nights on our two-night cruise.

The first night’s performance was called “Soul of the City.” It celebrated classic Motown hits, soulful songs of the ’70s and modern-day tunes. From the Four Tops to Bruno Mars, Duffy to Adele and much more, the singers and dancers put on a spirited show.

The second night’s entertainment was called “Blitz” and was an enthusiastic rock ‘n’ roll experience. Igor and Tabbi were in both shows as were the ship’s singers, dancers and musicians.

But that wasn’t the only entertainment on the Grand Classica. Seems like there was something going on from early morning until after midnight.

Activities listed in our four-page schedule included fitness classes, sky ball, sky hockey, ping pong, corn toss, foosball, food carving demo, towel animal folding demo, cocktail mixology session, pool games, bingo, Sudoku, trivia games, merengue dance class, karaoke, guided ship tours, wine tasting, salsa dance class, solo cruisers gathering and more.

Of course, our cruise from West Palm Beach had one day in the Bahamas with a great list of shore excursions. Choices include seeing the famous Bahamas swimming pigs, fishing, sailing, shopping, parasailing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins, cruising in a glass bottom boat, eco-discovery tours and much more. Passengers also can pay to visit Viva Wyndham Resort or Grand Lucayan Resort.

Quite a few people decided to stay aboard the ship to enjoy the games and swimming pool or to just sit quietly and savor the downtime.

NIGHTLY SHOWS

For shows aboard the Grand Classica, there are the nightly extravaganzas at 9:30 p.m. in the Legends Grand Theatre, plus sax and songs in the Encore Lounge throughout the evening, the Azucar Band in the Regal Room with Sheila Ford and Austin Conner, island sounds with steel drummer Kenroy, and an adult comedy show (extra charge) at 11 p.m. with comedian Loose Cannon.

Dancing is offered every night at 11 p.m. with a DJ in the Crow’s Nest. On the last night of our cruise, Sheila Ford performed a Tina Turner tribute in the Encore Lounge.

The plush Legends Grand Theatre is huge with excellent views from any seat. Built in 1991, the Grand Classica was constructed when most cruise ships offered more room for passengers and the theatre is a prime example of that. The main floor of the theatre also has seats that can be removed for dancing or for entertainment space.

SPECIAL CRUISE FOR ANNIVERSARY COUPLE

Remember that couple I told you about who was celebrating their 66th wedding anniversary on the Grand Classica? He was the fella who had never been on an ocean cruise ship before and had no plans to ever be on one. Until his daughter Robin arranged the celebratory cruise on the Grand Classica, and he decided cruising is mighty fine and he plans to do more.

Well, the couple was surprised and honored when cruise director Alex Radetzky asked the usual questions to the audience gathered in the theater on our first night.

Was anyone celebrating a birthday, engagement, wedding, divorce or anniversary, Alex asked? When Robin said that her parents, Constance and Tully Patrowicz, were celebrating their 66th wedding anniversary, Alex said that topped them all.

Then Alex asked a bar waiter to serve drinks to the couple with his compliments. When hotel director Prem Kainikkara strode on stage, Prem offered even more gifts from the crew.

The couple would be treated to dinner in the ship’s Admiral’s Steak & Seafood restaurant with a bottle of champagne, plus a cake would be delivered to their stateroom.

What a great way to celebrate an anniversary. And what great gestures from the excellent crew of the Grand Classica.

Story and photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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