Itinerary: Depart Galveston 5:00 p.m., Day at Sea, Cozumel 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Costa Maya 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Day at Sea, Galveston 8:00 a.m.
Our Story We are 62 and 56 years old, but children at heart. We don't normally stay up late so the entertainment and disco are not noted here since we didn't set foot in the theater or the Viking Crown Lounge. We also avoided the late night buffets. We have been on a weight loss journey for the past 8 months (123 lost between both of us). We avoided our usual extreme indulgences on this cruise. We did fairly well considering our past cruising history of gargantuan orgies. We are dedicated roll call and Cruise Critic (CC) readers and writers and have made friends with many past cruisers. This circle keeps growing with each cruise. We will be getting together again for a third/forth cruise in December 2007. We keep in touch year round on the roll calls and through e-mail.
Sea Pass problem A couple of friends were frustrated and thought they were treated like second class citizens because their sea pass (the only identification card needed at ports and on board) was constantly declined, even though they had plenty of credit. They told me that the RCCL employee who registered them at embarkation entered the card as a debit card instead of as a credit card so that each time they made a purchase on board with the sea pass, it caused a request for a pin number at the purser's desk. They spent a lot of time trying to correct this situation. One of them could not get the sea pass to open the cabin door despite several rekeyings.
Boarding A friend drove us to the pier. We travel with many bags, water toys, our own water, a little wine, tequila and cognac for the apero and the digest if in our stateroom. None of the libations were confiscated and no questions were asked. To continue the tradition, we had 6 bags and my purse. We checked 4 of them. Finding a porter at the pier was easy. We had upgraded to a balcony stateroom on a last minute whim so we had no luggage tags. Those were provided quickly in the bag room at the pier.
Going through security and registration around 1330 hours was done very quickly--no queues. Something we had not noticed on previous cruises was the display of wines before accessing the gangway. Pictures came next. The photographer was definitely in a hurry Quickly please he said. It's the only time we felt rushed and deprived of enjoy the moment. The only other stop before the gangway was at an unidentified table. It turned out to be for children's bracelets.
Shore Excursions If you are planning on going to the beach, get your towel the day before your shore excursion at the pool. There are no towels at the gangway before getting off the ship. At debarkation, the crew will tell you to go back and get it from your stateroom attendant (there were none in our room) or to go to the pool deck to retrieve these. They sell cold water at the exit. Avoid the hefty charge since you can purchase it for at least half price once you get to the port.
Cozumel We had always wanted to see Passion Island and since this island is owned by the cruise lines, no private tours are available. You MUST booked this tour through the ship. It has a beautiful beach and is the site where the Corona beer commercials are filmed. Below is a detailed schedule, noted here mainly to express the amount of time wasted and to show how short this tour was. The cost was $69 per person (plus tip). There were 6 of us along with 2 busses full on this schedule. The total came to $414 (plus tip) for a total of 2 hours and 40 minutes spent on the island. Despite the wind, (tours had been cancelled the 2 previous days), it was sunny and the water was beautiful.
07:35 a.m.: we get off the tender at the pier and look for our guides we leave the pier and ask the local bus transportation where our guide might be located. I purchase a diet coke for $1 at the cafe and return to the pier. 08:05 a.m.: we finally locate the Passion Island Tour guides at the pier since no sign was displayed by guides, all 6 of us walked right by them 08:35 a.m.: we are still standing in line getting briefed on the upcoming tour 08:40 a.m.: we finally board the bus 09:05 a.m.: we arrive at site to board boat "The TITANIC II" 09:35 a.m.: Hallelujah! we arrive at Passion Island 09:45 a.m.: We weren't quite there yet...another briefing before we can ...hit that beach! 12:15 a.m.: we are on the boat, as instructed, ready to head back to shore 1215 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: the cook from the restaurant where lunch was served is on the boat too. He is passing the hat for a tip to the kitchen crew. 12:30 p.m.: we are back on the bus to get back to town
The 2 tour guides spoke English but had limited people skills. This tour was as regimented as being in the military, down to standing in a line, 2X2 and holding your own ticket. When I asked the guide what his name was, he answered, I'll tell you in a minute. We were given the history of Cozumel in one sentence. The guide used the microphone on the bus to mimic the sounds of cacophony birds, cats, and monkeys etc. who live in Cozumel. We were disappointed to spend so little time on a beautiful island.
Food and drink (margaritas and rum punch) are included and are plentiful on this tour. The beach is indeed beautiful. The shops are very expensive on Passion Island. A small Talavera sink cost $150. We purchased a big one the next day at Majahual for $60.
Since we still had at least 4 hours of warm sun, we hopped in a cab and went to Playa Azul for a little more sun and waves. When the sun started going down, we took a cab to the local grocery store, Chedraui, to get some souvenirs (great place to purchase inexpensive trinkets) carrots, Mexican salsas and other typical Mexican foods. PAMA, a duty free shop close to the pier is where we found some of the colognes the Splendour did not carry.
If you tender into Cozumel, there is a vendor that sells t-shirts for $5 each and another that sells silver (possibly plated) jewelry.
Costa Maya Our friends (the same ones with all the sea pass problems) had booked the Mayan Reality Tour in Costa Maya, through the ship. It was cancelled due to lack of interest. They found a private company and went on another excursion selected when they arrived at the port.
Our group of 4 took a cab (15 passenger Mercedes) from the dock and went to Majahual. The make-shift town is about 10 blocks long. It consists of little shacks with the usual goods for sale. Some of the vendors were quite pushy, even obnoxious. The street is sand and the speed bumps are thick anchor fishing rope. The taxis in town have an agreement with the pier owner that everyone who goes to town is taken back to the pier. The pier owner owns all the land around the pier and rents it to the workers. The cabs from the pier are his also. We were determined to go to the pretty private beach, accessible through a hole in the fence, outside the private pier. The taxi dispatcher was adamant about letting us off there. After we got in the cab, I asked the driver to take us to the Comisariato. He agreed. We found this hole in the fence. After the local mosquitoes took a chunk out of us, ( don't forget the bug stray) we finally made it to Chac-Chi beach. We enjoyed the beautiful day swimming in calm waters, about 200 feet from the Splendour. At one point, I swam too close to the pier, a shuttle driver that goes back and forth to and from the ship stopped his bus and told me to move away from the pier. He did not want me talking to anyone on the pier. There are some bad neighbor feelings since the private beach, Chac-Chi, is blocked by an illegal concrete wall. Lunch was delicious, fried fish with fries, guacamole and pico de gallo for $25. The owner and his employees were gracious hosts.
The Ship/Stateroom All areas of the ship we visited were beautiful. Everything was clean; the copper rails of the stair were well polished (the kids sliding down the rails helped). The dEcor was very elegant.
The crystal canopy over the Solarium area remained closed the entire time, even during the beautiful day at sea, coming home. This area was relaxing and comfortably warm and sunny during the day.
We also enjoyed the quiet areas of the Observatory and Sports Deck.
We booked this cruise almost a year ago with an online travel agency. Our original cabin was #6058, an oceanview and the last cabin forward, port side, before the photo gallery on deck 6. We decided to upgrade and asked for an aft even though none appeared to be available online. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that an aft cabin was available. We had the biggest balcony. We watched the wake, the sunrise on the way home and left the door open at night to hear the sound of the ocean (not recommended because of the mosquitoes when you enter the channel in Galveston). On our balcony, there were 2 chairs (no loungers) and a table. Our neighbor smoked cigars&He also had a lounge chair, we didn't.
Our stateroom also had a big couch; the vanity area was very roomy. The bed was comfortable and there were plenty of hangars, nooks and crannies to store our numerous belongings. Luggage did not arrive until 10 minutes before dinner time (first seating at 1800 hours). The safe requires a credit card to open and close it's a hassle to carry a credit card and rather defeats the purpose. You might want to check to see if the sea pass will work instead. Everything in our room was fine, except for the ice bucket. It held about 8 cubes when full. The only place I saw a regular size bucket was in the Royal Suite. I requested a bigger bucket and left little stickies requesting ice but never received any other than once a day. We had a refrigerator which held about 3-11/2 liter bottles of water. When we first checked into the room, it was full of $3.50 soft drinks which I removed.
2:00 p.m. was the rendezvous time for our informal cruise critic roll call "Meet and Mingle"(M&M). The ship will organize an M&M for 7 day cruises, but not for 5 day ones. Off we went to the Schooner Bar to reunite with old friends, and new ones that we had corresponded with on the CC boards.
Studying the plan of the ship before boarding helps speed up the transit time from one place to another&no need to stop and study the map.
Muster drill: A lot of time was spent standing and waiting at our station before being dismissed by the captain during this drill.
Young Passengers There were 450 children on this holiday cruise. Even though we saw many well behaved and wonderful children, some were rude and unruly when unaccompanied by their parents. The Splendour of the Greens (mini golf) took a good beating as some hit that ball as hard as they could. It's surprising that the shuffle boards still have sticks and pucks after the strength some kids used to play these. One poor man had his newspaper kicked out of his hand by one of the kids sliding down the rail. Not once did we see any crewmembers lose their cool, despite the chaos some of these kids caused. Young children made full use of the hot tubs which are normally reserved for adults. It takes 4 times around the track to walk a mile. The usual protocol is to walk/run counter clockwise on the jogging track. On this track, children ran walked, played, and skipped the other way or around you and into you.
Dining The dEcor (mural aft wall and staircase) in the King and I dining room are beautiful, Thai mosaics etc. A piano player in the center of the room plays soft music while you enjoy an unrushed meal.
The waiters were gracious and polished. Our head waiter, Hans was a comedian and a magician. He was everywhere at once and handled every detail/problem quickly and with a smile. Our waitress Nevin was moved to another table after the first night for some reason (station too big for her, they said) Agnelo our assistant waiter was a 27 year old from Goa. The crew normally works 10 month contracts. Agnelo was so attentive that even in the Windjammer buffet area he asked how he could help.
The food was good, well presented but entrees were not served piping hot. They ran out of turkey on Thanksgiving night and the ham was of a spam variety (I did not personally try these but enjoyed the cod on Thanksgiving night). Consumption of the tiger shrimp the last evening was discouraged. Each table had their own big silver pepper mill except for ours&they did not refill them; our waiter went on a quest to find a full one after I opened up 2 that were completely empty. The menu was elaborate; however we could have used a bit more information as to the fat/sugar content of some of the desserts. There was all this beautiful tempting bread; there is no low carbohydrate bread. They ran out of fat free milk on day 4. Oil and vinegar dressing are brought to the dining table in the original bottles. The Caesar salad with dressing on the side was great. The chateaubriand and salmon entrees were excellent.
Our sea pass was wisely used at embarkation when we saw the display of wines, to purchase the Gold Package: 5 bottles for $113 + the usual 15% gratuity. We preordered a white and a red so these would be at the dining table when we first sat down. Leftover wine is saved for the next meal. If you order wine at the table the night before the next meal, you will avoid the possibility of a long wait.
The Windjammer offered a wide variety of foods, an omelet station, beautiful breads, desserts, and a condiment station with several nice big pepper mills, horseradish, good grain mustards, HP and hot sauces, etc. The smoked salmon was plentiful. A frozen yogurt machine is also available.
The Lido Deck (main pool) offered barbecue ribs and chicken during the day at sea on the way home. There is also a cereal, fruit and milk station set up before the Windjammer opens.
The Solarium included a crèpe station with different fillings along with the usual pizza, calzone, hot dogs, and hamburgers.
At Seattle's Best Coffee, my husband purchased a double espresso (about $3 + 15% gratuity), he would have liked to sit at the cafe and enjoy it. Unfortunately, all the tables were taken by people who were not drinking coffee. All coffee is served in paper cups.
Wine Tasting An interesting and humorous wine tasting hour was spent with Joseph, a sommelier from India. For a $10 fee (+ 15% gratuity), we each received a silver tin cup on a chain and filled plates with cheese, bread, currants and apricots. The session was well organized; we had the opportunity to sit in the main dining room, and sample the following: Italy Bello Soave, Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc, Stone Cellar Chardonnay, Beringer, Caliterra Merlot, San Lorenzo Chianti, Spain's Condesa de Crianza, France's Bouvet Sparkling wine.
Cooking Demonstration I missed the actual demonstration which lasted only about 10 minutes. I was at the detoxifying seminar which overlapped with the demonstration. I did, however, arrive just in time to sample the wonderful aroma of what had been presented and received a pamphlet of the 2 recipes for which samples were offered: champagne & strawberries Sabayon and penne Sardinian style. Sales for the RCCL cookbook Savor Royale were promoted here $27.
Room Service Delivery does not start until 0700 hours. It is just as easy for one of us to go up to the Windjammer at 06:00 a.m. and get a pot of coffee, cereal, milk and delicious fresh gold pineapple. Bring a plastic jug in a vinyl holder if you want to get some juices, coffee or tea to the room, yourself. We did not order room service but our friends requested a delivery for a certain time and it arrived an hour later.
Casino We did not spend much time in the Casino Royale. Since the slot machines did not want to cooperate, I just cashed in my chips and spent my money on the nice bangles and logo items at the shops. I brought a defective machine to the attention of a casino staff member; he said it would be fixed later but not tonight.
Shops One thing to watch for is the scanned price versus the marked price. We noticed that a pair of nail clippers marked $7.99 rang up at $10. The difference was quickly credited by an amicable Canadian crew member. Those expensive clippers were returned after breaking the first time they were used.
The perfume shop of the Splendour is smaller than the Rhapsody's and does not offer as much of a selection. If you need an item gift wrapped from any of the shops, take it to the young lady at the perfume shop. She did a magnificent job wrapping up 2 gifts for us. The bow was a work of art.
If you buy t-shirts, open them up to make sure they have sleeves (if you want sleeves) and try them on in your cabin before removing the tags so you can return them. Some styles are made smaller than others. The crew will exchange them graciously.
Bijoux Turner is a fun place to shop for colorful inexpensive jewelry, scarves, purses, watches and sarongs. An inexpensive watch purchased there quit working the day I got home. I e-mailed RCCL. We are now 4 days later, and I have not heard from them yet other than the automatic reply...
If you like amber, don't miss the table full of pendants, earrings and rings, dashing and very unique, the last day at sea. Those were not on sale, unfortunately.
It is true that many items from the shops go on sale the last day, if you are willing to wait that long.
Art Auction We had planned on attending but just didn't have enough time since these overlapped with other organized activities. The one portrait we heard being auctioned was a Picasso, starting price $25,000. Of course many pieces are much more affordable. You may view a lot of the items after the first auction on deck 4.
Spa/Fitness Center We did not use the facilities at the spa; some of the documentation provided includes services for teeth whitening, ionithermie algae detoxifying, hydra lift facial, aroma spa seaweed massage, hot stone massage, acupuncture, and lime/ginger body massage. The prices range from $99 to $205. The line of products used includes Elemis, extensively.
We used the fitness center. The manager told us that she held a Masters Degree in Fitness. She offered classes that ranged from stretching, Pilates, yoga, stair stepping, personalized training, and a seminar on detoxifying the body. We took (Pilates and yoga for a $10 fee each); stair stepping was cancelled due to lack of interest. You may reserve these classes in advance. However, should you cancel or not show, you will be charged a cancellation fee, 50% of the total cost of the class. We did not make reservations for these classes. Due to the high number of no-shows, we had no problem attending, however. If you have never taken a yoga or Pilates class and would like to find out if your movements are done accurately, this is a great place to do so. The stretching was done on the sports deck. A very comfortable place mat (your choice of thick or thin) is provided. The towels are plentiful and there are hand sanitizer towels inside the gym. There is plenty of cardio vascular equipment. All the machines worked except one pulley. The body building machines are numerous and will give you a full body work out. The dumbbells and the medicine balls are also plentiful. The sauna is very roomy. There is a water, hot tea and fruit station between the spa and the fitness room.
We attended the detoxification seminar. I scheduled a consultation for a body composition analysis BCA). The appointment card was provided. The fitness manager circled the area stating that a 50% charge would be added for a cancellation. I found the sales pitch and the radical approach by the manager harsh, and some remarks insulting. A BCA was something new to me and I was curious to find out what my fat, water, muscle mass and metabolic rate is. I was prepared for a hard sale on the need to detoxify in order to lose weight (even spot reduction is possible!) and absorb your vitamins, though. I would definitely recommend the BCA if you are interested in finding out more about your body ($30 fee + a gratuity at my discretion this time) This BCA analyzer machine retails for about $1600 and provides a print out.
Ship Shape Dollars If you participate in any type of exercise for which a ship shape dollar is offered, (a symbol "runner" is displayed by the exercise on the daily printout of activities, the Compass, left in your stateroom) we recommend you identify yourself before the class starts. This will ensure that you get your ship shape dollar even if the class is canceled due to lack of interest if nobody else shows up. This happened to us with the step up class. Tell the crew at the climbing wall before you start walking your mile at the designated time, also.
You will get a key chain for just one ship shape dollar. 9 and you get a ship shape back pack. Other gifts depending on how many dollars you earn include a sun visor, a lanyard, and a water bottle. The complete list is at the rock climbing wall. These $ can be redeemed on the last day at sea, around 1730 hours at the wall.
Rock Climbing Wall All sizes of shoes are available and a very strong and friendly crew will guide and hold the rope every step of the way. You get padding, gear, and helmet. All you have to do is climb and ring the bell. Kids loved this activity.
The Captain At the captain's party, you may have your picture taken with him, if you arrive a few minutes before the start of the party. Our captain was not shaking hands, we were told, that night. This party includes dancing, hors-d'oeuvres of lump fish caviar, prosciutto and smoked salmon along with Kir royal, rum punch, white or red wine. The captain gave the numbers and nationalities of the cruisers; 19 countries and 50 countries for the crew. He also introduced his staff which includes 2 women. There were only 247 previous cruisers on this sail. Captain Oerjan is from Norway. He was sailing with his family. He ate in the Windjammer for lunch.
As we attended a sail away party immediately behind the bridge, we noted that the bridge was not enclosed. Some of the captain's navigating equipment starboard side of the bridge is not enclosed and in visible from the Royal Suite balcony.
The captain enjoyed giving us coordinates on the public address, every day at noon.
Tipping the Crew The recommended fee is $3.50 per person, per day for the waiter and room steward, $2 a day for the assistant waiter and .75 per person per day for the head waiter. Envelopes are left in the cabin to add the cash or you may pre-pay and get coupons to insert in the envelopes. You pass these out the last night at dinner.
Debarkation Our friends with the sea pass problem experienced some embarrassment when the bell rang loudly as their sea pass was placed in the scanner. They were asked to step aside and after a call to the purser's desk to review their account, they were let go. For us, debarkation was uneventful and uncrowded, the quickest and most efficient we have seen.
This vacation was a great one; our days at sea were filled with activities and were uneventful. We enjoyed this cruise line and this ship enough to sail again tomorrow with the same crew. Read Less