This was my 13th cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship but my first time on Splendour of the Seas. The cruise was from Sao Paulo, Brazil around Cape Horn to Valparaiso, Chile. The ports visited were Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Ushuaia, Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt.
Usually, I arrange my own air travel but this time I used Royal Caribbean's air package as it was my first time to South America and I was concerned about the long transfers from airport to ship. I am glad I made that decision. I flew from Toronto to Sao Paulo (via Newark). RCL staff were there to welcome us and the air conditioned bus ride to the port in Santos took about 90 minutes. Check in was quick and we were able to go straight to our cabins.
I had an inside cabin on Deck 8. Usually, I get a balcony cabin but there was a big price differential on this cruise. I was apprehensive about having an inside cabin but it worked out fine especially as it was only one flight of stairs to get out on deck. The ship still looks in good condition considering its age. Personally, I prefer the Radiance class of ships. This was a Crown and Anchor Society member cruise so there were all kinds of extra events, door prizes and gifts delivered to our cabins. The highlight for me was the free excursion offered by Royal Caribbean to Diamond members. This was to the Tango Show at La Ventana in Buenos Aires. This was truly an amazing show. The dancing, music and pure passion were fantastic. Lots of wine and food made the experience even better.
As on many cruises, the trip is often affected by the service provided by one's cabin steward, waiters and other crew. I had a fantastic waiter (Marcela) and assistant waiter (Flavia) and a great cabin steward (Norton). Being a Diamond member, I had access to the Concierge Lounge on Deck 7 (which used to be the Card Room). As there were a lot of Diamond members on this cruise, an additional lounge was open each evening in the Conference Lounge on Deck 3. Both lounges were full each evening. I must say that the Concierge Lounge is one of the very attractive perks offered by Royal Caribbean. It's not just the free drinks (although that is very nice!) but about the great people you meet in the lounge. Most have traveled extensively and have wonderful stories to tell. It's always nice in the evening to learn what everyone did that day and what they plan to do the next day. I would be hard pressed to go on a ship that does not have a Concierge Lounge.
In Rio, I took the RCL Sugar Loaf and City tour. Montevideo, I just walked around the city by myself. In Ushuaia, I visited the prison (now an excellent museum and art gallery) by myself and took the RCL Train Ride excursion in the afternoon. This train ride is on tracks built by prisoners and took us to the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Punta Arenas is a nice small town and I walked around it by myself. In Puerto Montt, I did the Cruising Lake Llanquihue & Town excursion. This was a really nice trip and we had an excellent tour guide who taught us a lot about Chile and the surrounding area. The cruise ended in Valparaiso and as I was flying out of Santiago in the evening, I took the 8 hour Coastal Cities, Valleys and Santiago excursion. It included a wonderful lunch in the countryside at El Pregon. If you have read this far, it probably sounds like this was a great cruise and it was. To go around Cape Horn was an incredible experience and not something that many people have done.
However, the cruise was not without its problems. The main one was the Norovirus which caused the closing of the spa, fitness center, library, internet cafe Adventure Ocean area and even the casino. In the Windjammer, you could not serve yourself. Hand wipes were required all the time. Thank goodness the Concierge lounge remained open but there were no snacks provided. This all lasted quite a few days and certainly affected the enjoyment of the cruise for many of the passengers. There were problems with the quality of the food especially with the beef.
My other criticism is with the smoking on board. On this cruise, smoking was still allowed in cabins and many of the public areas. I found it especially difficult to cope with during trivia and crafts events that were held in bars and lounges. I know this is a controversial matter but it did affect my enjoyment of the cruise. Someone suggested a "Share the Air" program where notices are put up requesting that people refrain from smoking in public areas.
This was certainly a difficult cruise to have as a Members Cruise and the Crown and Anchor Society staff worked very hard under trying circumstances. Rachel Hancock, Charlie Kurtuldo, Cindy Cooper, Joanne Banister, Beatrix Garcia, Marta Ramirez and the rest of the C&A staff did an excellent job. My thanks to all of you. The big surprise for us was the arrival in our cabins one evening of huge beach towels with a map of South America showing our voyage. This was for Diamond members only but some others won a towel as raffle prizes. I am sure that there are some passengers on this cruise who feel that I should have been more critical in my review but I certainly had a wonderful cruise and will continue to cruise with Royal Caribbean. Actually, I have 8 future cruises booked - all with Royal Caribbean.