Was this your first cruise? No. We have traveled on RCL 4 times previously. After this cruise we are Diamond level in the C&A.
How would you rate the cruise overall? Excellent. Even though there was an outbreak of the Norovirus on Day 3, the ships crew handled everything professionally and courteously.
How was the ship? Splendour, one of 4 Vision-class ships, is considered small by today's standards. She doesn't have many common enhancements like alternative dining restaurants or ice skating rinks, which means the existing venues, while smaller, need to be that much better. They are. Splendour was refurbished several years ago, and while she is showing some age, she is still a beautiful ship.
Speaking of restaurants, how was the food? RCL is working hard to raise the food quality standards and, if this cruise is any indication, their efforts are working. The food throughout the ship was excellent, always with a great variety to appeal to everyone. In almost all cases, food was fresh and hot and prepared to order. Even the coffee in the Windjammer was excellent.
What? No complaints about the food? Well, to be honest, one. It seemed I could never get a plate of hot french fries, which saved me more calories for later.
I've heard RCL changed the usual seating times for this cruise. Is that true? Yes. We actually booked the late seating, assuming it would be at 8:00. Instead the early seating was at 7:00 and the late seating was at 9:30, to accommodate the South American guests who are used to eating very late. We were able to switch to the early seating, otherwise we might have eaten in the Windjammer every night.
Were there still Formal Nights during the cruise or has RCL done away with them? Fortunately there were formal nights, for those of us that like to get dressed up. What RCL did away with, for this cruise at least, was semi-formal (suit and tie) nights. Since we packed the stuff anyway we made our own semi-formal nights. Check with the cruise line before packing.
Since this was a South American cruise, were there a lot of South American passengers? Yes. Interestingly enough, the cultural diversity of the passengers was the widest I've ever experienced. There were large groups from Asia and Europe as well. North Americans did not make up the majority.
I've heard that area of the world can be quite cold and rainy. How was the weather? At the beginning of the trip mild (mid-60's) and got chillier with clouds and rain the farther south we went until we rounded Cape Horn. Definitely a light jacket is needed. Once we rounded the Cape (North of Ushuaia) things started to get warmer and by Buenos Aires it was very pleasant.
Did you encounter any rough weather? Yes. A few days at the beginning there was an ocean swell that had the ship moving a bit. For me that is why I go on a ship and not stay in a hotel: I want to feel like I'm at sea. Some people were seasick, however, so if you are prone to motion sickness be smart and come prepared.
Were there a lot of opportunities for shopping? That really depended on the port. Some ports there were many shops, others there were only a few. In Chile, lapis lazuli is the thing to buy as is wool. In Argentina leather is very affordable. Don's miss the craft market outside La Recoleta (where Eva Peron is buried). Brazil is not known for shopping, so look for tee shirts that catch your eye. Don't forget, in many places you can bargain for a better price.
Did you do any of the shore excursions? Yes. I have written about them on this website in the Destination section. Please go there to read those reviews. In general, however, the shore excursions on this cruise were the most expensive I have ever paid. While generally worth it, be advised that we spent an average of $150 per person per excursion.
Besides the shore excursions, did you see any wildlife? We did spot some dolphins one day near the Strait of Magellan, but we never saw any whales.
Getting back to the ship, how was the entertainment? Very standard. 2 RCL Production Shows (it actually may have been 3) were interspersed with lounge singers who I never heard of, an impressionist who was terrible, a juggler, magician, and others that I didn't even bother going to. RCL isn't known for their entertainment, and that's a good thing.
What about the Cruise Director and staff? Personally, I think the Cruise Director should walk around and talk to the passengers, find out how they are enjoying the cruise, what they thought about the previous nights' show, and just mingle. We never saw her, except on the TV during show repeats. The rest of the cruise staff were involved in the same Bingo/|"Love and Marriage"/Belly Flop/etc. events. Nothing new here.
You are a Crown and Anchor Member. Did you use the Concierge Lounge? This was a shortcoming my group (6 of us) felt for the ship. We did use the Lounge on Deck 6, which ran out of seating 10 minutes after opening and filled to capacity 5 minutes after that. So we went to the Deck 3 "overflow" Lounge which had the striking resemblance to a cheerless Sheraton conference room. RCL has created a monster with the C&A benefits/Concierge Lounge, and the situation is only going to get worse.
How about embarkation and debarkation? It was fine. That people even still discuss this makes me laugh. This issue was one of the first the cruise lines addressed. They now have it down to a science, and while there may be glitches every now and then, getting on and off rarely takes very long. Most people who complain seem to do so because they couldn't get to the buffet sooner.
Would you recommend the ship and/or itinerary? Definitely, but for the right person. 15 days (8 at sea) is a long time for a lot of people. Toward the end the routine got a little monotonous; hey - you can only eat and drink so much. When it was time to disembark I was ready to go home.
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