Let me start of by telling you a little bit about us. We are a family of (3); two adults (34) and one child (7). We live close to Galveston (about 1.5 hours) and have cruised on two previous cruises. Our first cruise was RCI-Grandeur of the Seas and the second was with Carnival-Glory.
GREAT LAST MINUTE DEALS:
Because of my husband's work situation, we need to usually schedule at the last minute (2-3 weeks prior to leaving). We were able to book one inside cabin for $1100. However, about 1 1/2 weeks before departure, I checked the RCI website and the inside cabins had gone down in price by $100; so I called them and they made the change. With only 5 days to go before our ship left, I re-checked the RCI website and was able to get an oceanview cabin for $300 less than my inside cabin. Again, I called RCI and they changed the cabin for us and credited our account for the difference. Now we had an oceanview cabin for $700!!! How awesome is that?? Be sure to check the RCI website regularly for deals like this!!
ARRIVING IN GALVESTON:
We drove in and were going to park in the suggested parking facilities (Port of Galveston parking lots) for approx. $70 (according to RCI info). However, once we arrived we noticed that EZ parking offered 5 day parking for $35 and that is where we parked. It's just as close and about half price. Service was good.
I understand that the Splendour of the Seas is about 10 years old. Despite her age, she has been maintained admirably. Yes, there is some wear and tear; but nothing to really complain about (especially considering the great deal we got!)
Since we went in the beginning of December, it was a little chilly leaving and arriving back into Galveston. Nothing horrible; but chilly and windy. The windy conditions made for a less than stable cruise; but our weather (despite 60% forecast for rain) was incredible in Cozumel & Costa Maya. We may do our next cruise either earlier in the fall or spring/summer next time to avoid the windy conditions though. Pool time was not optimal on sea days because of the wind; although we had "warm" weather. Since we had a "rocky" beginning and ending (cold front caused excessive wind), my husband needed to have some help and he prefers non-medication methods. I heard (via the boards) that ginger is very good for sea sickness and it worked wonders for him. He did feel a little queasy; but did not get "sick". The recommended dosage is 2 per day with meals. It's safe for kids too. Just FYI.
We always enjoy the food on the ship. We are not cuisine experts; but all in all, we enjoyed the offerings and variety. There really is something for everyone (adults) although the selection is limited for picky children (pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers round out their menu). We don't usually do the dining room experience, although I hear that it is pleasant. My husband prefers to eat solo and absolutely loves the buffet concept; so that's where we take most of our meals. One note, they do offer dining room options in the Windjammer. So check out the menus and see what is available. The staff will be happy to get you that longed for NY strip steak and shrimp cocktail too! My absolute favorite was in fact the NY strip steak (made to order) and the desserts-tiramisu (absolutely delicious!) and the chocolate mousse (to die for!). They also had a very good stir fry option and made to order creme filled crepes (which were my husband's fave).
Because we consider this to be a FAMILY vacation, we try to limit the time that our son spends in the kid's program. However, on this trip... He told us: "This is my vacation too!"; which we thought was funny. Therefore, we let him spend more time there than we would have liked; but he had tons of fun. The staff is great and they plan plenty of activities for them. It's hard not to let them go; when they enjoy it so much! Despite having school in session, there were plenty of kids on board; which made it easy for him to have a good time. They had a pirate presentation and also a talent show; which he also enjoyed. The Adventure Science program was also a hit with him and his new friends.
As many may know, hurricane Wilma hit Cozumel pretty hard. It was very evident in the vegetation. It was very sad to see all the palm trees blown over and nothing green. However, the beaches still looked great! We rented a Jeep to sight see on our own through Budget Car Rentals. Even with full coverage, we only paid $75. You CAN negotiate the price with almost any vendor. The jeep started out at over $100 plus tax & insurance. After haggling for a few minutes, were were able to get the jeep (including "full coverage" and taxes) for $75. We did not go through the cruise line for this. (FYI). We drove all along the west/south side of the island (only roads available) and even visited the Cozumel Country Club. Not much of a club house; but the course was very nice. It runs $165 for a full day and $99 for twilight (after 12:30pm). Club and shoe rentals are available for an additional $29 each. We drove to just about every beach and spend most of our time at Paradise Beach (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ON THE BOARDS). There is no cover charge to enter this beach facility and use the beach chairs / umbrellas and but they do expect you to buy food/drinks. Prices are comparable to U S restaurants. Drinks are good. (frozen margaritas for $6.50 and sodas/beer for $2). This beach had life jackets, an "iceberg" and several trampolines that were available for an additional $8 per person. I think they also offered wave runners for an additional charge. The restrooms were in pretty good condition and the service staff was great.
We also went to Punta Sur; and checked out the beach there. It's beautiful; but not for swimming with kids (too rocky). Great for pictures though. There were some vendors there too and had some nice handcrafts for purchase.
For lunch & shopping, we went to Cinco Soles (ALSO HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) and really enjoyed our food / drinks / atmosphere. The prices were a little steep for us. We ordered one order of fajitas for one (nothing compared to what you get here for one order of fajitas for one), an appetizer (cheese quesadilla) and two margaritas. Price: $60 (with tip). I think we could have gotten a better deal elsewhere; but the ambiance was great! Shopping was nice here too although not too much haggling goes on at this location. Better to shop elsewhere.
We wanted to go to the San Gervasio ruins; but they close early (at 4pm); so we missed out on this... Maybe next time. I think it's only a few bucks per person to enter.
We tendered in and it went very smooth. 15 minutes, at most from the ship to the pier (including waiting in line and waiting for the tender to get full). Not bad!
We were able to dock in Costa Maya. We went directly to the little cruise terminal and found the shopping was great (even better than in Majahual!). We tried to rent a car, then a golf cart... They are also willing to haggle the price (for a jeep $60-golf cart $30-all day); but by the time we were decided on which option, they were all out vehicles. In the end, we took a taxi ($3pp to Majahual) and it worked out even better. Turns out that you can only drive to Majahual and then it's walk only in the village. WAY CHEAPER TO TAKE THE TAXI. We initially wanted to go on the ruins tour offered by David and Ivan (ALSO HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ON THE BOARDS); but we got up too late to make the tour. They charge $43 pp (adult) and $40 (child). There are other tours available for similar pricing at the pier; but David & Ivan were so highly recommended that we really wanted to go with them... It's a shame that we were too late to make their tour! We ended up walking through the village (Majahual) and finally made it to Pez Quadro (beach facility at the end of the road); which had also been highly recommended on the boards. We had an incredible time there. Beach chairs were available, bar and restrooms too. Beers $2 and Margaritas $4. Massages were available here too; but a little more expensive $30 bucks for 30 minutes. I heard others charged $20 for 40 minutes; but I don't know if the quality was the same. We took a taxi back to the pier and did some shopping. They won't haggle the pricing at the pier but the pricing is still better than in Majahual, where you do haggle and still pay more.
BOOZE & OTHER DRINKS/FOOD STUFF:
We took our own soda (allowed) in a checked cooler and packed our rum and whisky in our checked luggage. No problems there. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone; but for us, it was cool. :) We still ended up buying drinks on board :)
One of my husband's favorite things about RCI was the room service we had on our prior RCI cruise. This time, it was not so pleasant. The wait was very long and they no longer offer delicious ice cream in the room service menu. I guess since they have Ben & Jerry's, they don't need to. B&J ice cream runs a little over $3 per cup and the coffee shop charges similar to Starbucks; but the quality is not up to par. I ordered a Cafe Frio (which was supposed to be like SB's Frappuccino) and ended up throwing it away, it tasted awful!! B&J's ice cream was only so-so.
We really enjoyed the show productions. They singers and dancers did a great job. We especially liked the SWING production. We played bingo and went to the casino. Lots to do for everyone! My husband liked the gym too.
CROWN & ANCHOR SERVICE:
Since this is our second cruise with RCI, we were already signed up to their C&A membership. We didn't find our C&A coupons (2 books) in our room; so I asked for them and our room steward made sure we got them. We also got a little bathroom organizer (2) about 3 days in to the cruise. Nice little perks. We used also of our coupons and left the rest in the safe for someone else to enjoy. I hear that others can freely use them on the subsequent cruise.
ALL IN ALL, WE HAD A GREAT TIME ON A LIMITED BUDGET. WE WOULD DEFINITELY CRUISE WITH RCI AGAIN. WE ALWAYS HAVE A TON OF FUN ON AND OFF THE SHIP. TAKE THE RECOMMENDATIONS TO HEART. THEY REALLY ARE THE BEST OPTIONS OUT THERE! :)
If anyone has questions or would like pictures, just email me and I'll be sure to respond. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org