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146 Splendour of the Seas Cruise Reviews

Background information: 34th cruise, mid-40s married couple with two college-age daughters along. Live near Galveston. Travel information: Since we were already at the Galvez Hotel in Galveston for a friends wedding, we booked the ... Read More
Background information: 34th cruise, mid-40s married couple with two college-age daughters along. Live near Galveston. Travel information: Since we were already at the Galvez Hotel in Galveston for a friends wedding, we booked the Cruise-package there and utilized their free parking and transfers. Excellent idea, I highly recommend this! Embarkation: Platinum members, so checking in took about 3 minutes! Stateroom: Since this was a short cruise, we never opt for a higher category cabin. Our cabin was small but functioned perfectly. Excellent menu of TV stations. A/C was great, bed was hard. Ship Info: The ship was fine. Does show some age, but that was to be expected. Easy layout, very similar to other RCCL ships we have been on. Dining: Second seating table 002. We were not impressed with the food. It was ok, just never had a meal that made us go WOW! Ate pizza, burgers and dogs during the day  they were pretty typical cruise food. Activities: These were standard just like every other cruise weve been on. Casino got lots of donations! Service: Cabin steward was sufficient. Didnt see him often, but for the most part he did a good job. Had to track down beach towels for shore excursion, but other than that, he did an OK job. Dining room waitress was awkward and asst. waiter was inept. Had to track down Asst. Head Waiter for help! Filling water glasses isnt rocket science! Room service was 30 minutes late on 2 of the 5 days we left out Breakfast menus? Pool bar waiters were plentiful and bartenders were friendly. Wait staff in Windjammer were very helpful. Shore excursion: Catch the Wave Snorkel Safari in Cozumel: this is not a luxury vessel as advertised. There are no hot/cold showers. There wasnt enough snorkel equipment for everyone. There is no towel service. There is no A/C. The bar and buffet were nice. Reefs are slow to recover from Hurricane Wilma. Uvero Beach Break in Costa Maya: great excursion. Nice beach, air-conditioned bus ride. Just as promised. Disembarkation: Disembarked ship 20 minutes ahead of the schedule, but stood in a long customs line in the terminal. Took another hour to get out of that! Summary: This was a relaxing vacation. Our group of friends had many fun moments. We enjoyed the 12 hole miniature golf and utilized the spa several times. Realizing that being on a cruise beats being at work any day&.there really wasnt anything about this cruise that exceeded our expectations. It was fun and relaxing, but nothing spectacular! Read Less
Sail Date March 2006
The service by Royal Caribbean is excellent. Very friendly, courteous, and diverse staff. The formal dining room staff and food was really great. The food in the Windjammer Cafe was basic and best for just a quick bite or snack. I ordered ... Read More
The service by Royal Caribbean is excellent. Very friendly, courteous, and diverse staff. The formal dining room staff and food was really great. The food in the Windjammer Cafe was basic and best for just a quick bite or snack. I ordered room service once and received the wrong food and spoiled salad dressing. The delivery person was good, but the food itself was disappointing. Breakfast in the formal dining room was better than the cafe. We had a large outside stateroom, which was more than sufficient for our time at sea. We liked the large window. The decor was nothing like the picture at the Royal Caribbean website. We experienced little rocking at level 3, mid-ship. Our room was near everything, but still quiet. Maid service was excellent. Our favorite area was the Solarium. We really enjoyed the quiet in the late morning and early afternoon. The warm saltwater pool is refreshing and there was no worry about getting too much sun. Our two ports of call were Cozumel and Costa Maya. Cozumel is still recovering from the hurricane last year. We had a wonderful time snorkeling and doing snuba through Mayan Paradise Tours. I highly recommend them to anyone interested in snorkeling or snuba. Costa Maya was my favorite. A beautiful, small, tropical place with white sand and clear water. We really enjoyed the tour of the Chacchoben Ruins that we booked online at chacchobenruins.com. It was a small group and the guides David & Carolina provided a ton of Mayan historical information. We chose Galveston Limousine for our shuttle transport from/to Houston (Bush) Airport. They provided good service and are less than the shuttle associated with the cruise line. Overall it was a great trip and I'd sail again with Royal Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date February 2006
This was our first cruise so I have nothing to compare this with. My sister is a seasoned cruiser and she recommended RC and this ship. Overall, our experience was quite positive. We are early 50s with no children. We just wanted a nice ... Read More
This was our first cruise so I have nothing to compare this with. My sister is a seasoned cruiser and she recommended RC and this ship. Overall, our experience was quite positive. We are early 50s with no children. We just wanted a nice long weekend of pampering. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived about 1 pm and only spent a short time on line before we boarded. Our balcony stateroom was quite roomy with enough space for all our things. Our cabin attendant Jose was quite attentive and did a great job. Meals in the dining room were all great. Our waiter did a fine job of recommending particular dishes and we were never disappointed with these choices. Food in the Windjammer Cafe is typical buffet style fare - nothing exciting but adequate when you are in a hurry or just want to be more casual. The midnight buffet was worth staying up for -- even if just to see the display. They served shrimp, caviar, decadent desserts and pastries, etc. Shows in the evening were fine -- not Broadway caliber but entertaining. During the day there was always something to do (cooking class, bingo, poolside games, etc.) The ship is 10 years old so there are signs of age, but nothing that detracted from the experience. The center atrium and general layout of the ship is beautiful. Easy to find your way around. Cozumel was our only port and it was disappointing. It still shows signs of devastation from Hurricane Wilma and it will be a while before the lush tropical foliage is back to where it should be. We didn't have great weather during the entire trip so that hampered things a bit too. Overall, we had a fine experience on RC and would cruise with this line again. It was a great value for a long getaway weekend. We waited til the last minute and were able to get a great deal on a balcony cabin. If your dates and times are flexible, there are good deals out there. Read Less
Sail Date January 2006
Just back from a 4 night shortie aboard Splendour of the Seas to Cozumel and back to Galveston, Jan. 16th  20th. We followed a cold front into the Gulf and half the ship ended up green around the gills. Fortunately, neither my husband ... Read More
Just back from a 4 night shortie aboard Splendour of the Seas to Cozumel and back to Galveston, Jan. 16th  20th. We followed a cold front into the Gulf and half the ship ended up green around the gills. Fortunately, neither my husband nor I are bothered by rough seas. Our first night out was accompanied by 22 waves and 70 mph gusts. She was a rockin and a rollin. My husband, on a triple dog dare, went into the spa pool alone. No other guests in the solarium. It looked like a pan of dish water sloshing around like mad and per his diving watch was a chilly 72 degrees. You could see the bottom of the pool going up and the water would spill over the side coming down. It was hilarious and he enjoyed the thrill but apparently the ship staff thought the pool, in fact both pools indoors and out, should be closed, because the water was evacuated that night and the nets put over the pools. They didnt open again until we docked in Cozumel. We sailed out of the front at dawn and got our first look at what the hurricane left of beautiful Cozumel. The pour trees! All stripped and just budding back out. Looked like stilts sticking out of the ground. Some hotels we remembered from last time were completely gone, only foundations left. But the people havent changed. Reconstruction going on at a furious pace. It will be no time until things are normal again. Due to the high winds our day in port, most water sport excursions were canceled but our 2 bus loads of Passion Island visitors voted to go on, so we went out to the island with determination. It has been considerably damaged (mostly trees, and all the little buildings were blown away) but the restrooms and kitchen and cabana have been rebuilt and the buffet was fantastic as well as the beverages/open bar. Our guide Alex made us all feel like old friends and did his best to make the visit a good one in spite of the high winds that blew the stinging sand on our legs. The usually azure crystal clear water there was sand churned by the wave action so it was not as spell binding as it usually is, but we are determined to return again the next sail. The rest of the day was spent eating a little Cozumel Cerviche Mixto, Wonderful! Octopus and all! The sail back home was uneventful as the weather goes. Peacefully calm and enjoyable. As usual, the staff and service aboard was as we have come to expect from RCCL ships, impeccable! The food did not disappoint, however, the entertainment is much better on the longer cruises. All in all, another wonderful interlude with RCCL. Youll love the elegance of Splendour as much as Rhapsody. She is a fine ship. But we are determined to make it a 7 day at least from now on. Four days is just not nearly enough, rough weather included. Read Less
Sail Date January 2006
First off, I would like to say for the $$, this was a great cruise. It was short but nice. It was our first cruise, mine & my husband. We were celebrating our anniversary and this cruise was a four-nighter over the weekend. It was ... Read More
First off, I would like to say for the $$, this was a great cruise. It was short but nice. It was our first cruise, mine & my husband. We were celebrating our anniversary and this cruise was a four-nighter over the weekend. It was perfect and it was over our anniversary. We had booked an inside cabin and got upgraded to a balcony, so we were thrilled! The stateroom was great, shower was small but adequate. There was lots of storage space for our clothes. Our stateroom attendant was wonderful! Very friendly and did a great job. We had early dining and most of the meals in the evening in the dining room we had good service; however, we were quite disappointed in the overall dining experience in the dining room and the other eateries on the ship. The service in the dining room for breakfast and lunch was awful! The food was ok, but the wait staff was pretty terrible. This sailing had one stop, Cozumel. After seeing Cozumel, I would have expected Royal Caribbean to send us somewhere else. It was pretty devastated by Hurricane Wilma and will definitely take many years to recover. There is no vegetation (no green palm trees, etc.) and the buildings are wiped out. We went on the Catch The Wave snorkel safari which included snorkeling, a glass bottom boat ride & lunch. The water was great and the fish were plentiful, but the reef is hurt badly. The lunch on the boat was pretty terrible too. We had a facial at the Spa onboard the ship and we both had different experiences. It wasn't worth the money, but the staff was friendly. The fitness center is wonderful! Great size and plenty of machines. The hot tubs on board were not working very well. The water was warm, but not hot. Also, they replaced some carpet on the pool deck overnight but it wasn't finished for our last at sea day and everyone wanted room on the pool deck that day. It was sad, since part of the deck was blocked off because of the renovation. The ship cruise director was great, but there really wasn't lots of activities planned during the day other than bingo. Not everyone likes bingo. Entertainment in the evening was fair, not stellar like I anticipated. The shows in the theater were ok, but definitely not "Broadway shows." Read Less
Sail Date December 2005
I take Transatlantic Cruises because of the days at sea, so I will not be reviewing any of the ports as my entry into them was very brief. This was my fifth cruise on RCCL and my second on the Splendour and it was a mixed bag. The ... Read More
I take Transatlantic Cruises because of the days at sea, so I will not be reviewing any of the ports as my entry into them was very brief. This was my fifth cruise on RCCL and my second on the Splendour and it was a mixed bag. The Splendour of the Seas is the fastest ship in the RCCL Fleet and one of the first built in the Vision Series. It was built in March of 1996 and is now approaching almost ten years. The overall condition of the ship is average, there are signs of its age showing in its furnishings, but the ship is kept very clean. During the crossing they were changing carpets and drapes in the Cabins and a much needed reconfiguration is scheduled for the Windjammer Cafe on Deck 9 when the ship enters dry-dock in April of 2006. The Windjammer Cafe is the Buffet Style Restaurant and in the evening it is turned into the Casual Dining venue for the ship. The Windjammer also serves the Afternoon Tea. During dry dock the hotel manager claims all of the carpets in the public areas will be changed. Other improvements were mentioned but could not be confirmed so I will not mention them. BOARDING RCCL has introduced an online check-in procedure which I used; we arrived at the Pier at 11:30 A.M. and had our Room Keys/Ship Charge Card in less than a minute. We could not gain access to our Cabin until 1P.M, so we sat in a public area until P.M. arrived. Our luggage arrived by 4 P.M. and that was a first. I have waited until after midnight on some other ships for my luggage. The Boarding procedure has really improved at RCCL and I give that a solid ten out of ten points. FOOD AND SERVICE RCCL in my opinion has never shined in the area of food but it has really changed since my first sailing with them since 1994. The quality of the food has really gone down hill. RCCL has introduced approximately 4-5 entries that consistently appear on the menu, just in case you don't want the specialized entries being offered that night. While I salute this idea the items served were not fresh and in some cases almost tasteless. RCCL had to serve over 1500 people three meals a day so the food is not individually prepared, preparation was overall very good, but the fish entries were tough, either dry, overcooked, or both. One night I was served a veal dish that consisted of 90% bone. Then a few nights later another veal selection was served and it was very tasty. Our waiter was very excellent and offered suggestions, he was from Romania but living in Italy, so he liked to offer the nightly pasta selection as a side dish. I was sailing with my mom who is diabetic and she enjoyed the Sugar Free Deserts. I ate a few and they were very well prepared On my previous cruise on the Splendour, breakfast was served off the menu in the King and I Dining Room; however most lunches were Buffet Style in the Dining Room. RCCL has changed this and now serves three meals a day off the menu in the Dining Room. Breakfast service was erratic, orders were sometimes messed up on some days and others it was perfect. The service provided during lunch was much better; it appears to me that most waiters and waitresses on RCCL suffer from lack of sleep which explains the less than satisfactory service received at breakfast. The Windjammer has not and will not ever be my favorite eating venue as I do not like buffets. I did try it a few times primarily for breakfast and the food was over cooked as it spent too much time in the warmers. Also, the condition of the Windjammer Cafe was pathetic which didn't help the overall dining experience. The Afternoon Tea offered in the Windjammer should be renamed the Afternoon Snack. While a few of the British Tea Standards are offered they also offer lots of sliced meats and a serving line that allows you to create a taco. On my previous Transatlantic Cruise on the Splendour a complete sit down white gloved Tea was offered in the Dining Room four times during the cruise. I asked if those were going to occur and was told that none were scheduled. Service in the Bars was superb Bar Tenders made an attempt to call you by name and remembered your preferences. A few of the Bartenders could be quite entertaining and I spent many a night watching Andre from the Ukraine wowing me and others with his card tricks. One thing that particularly bothered me in the Dining Room was the service provided by the Head Waiters and this was frequently mentioned by other passengers. The Head Waiter is supposed to check every table in his or her section to see if the service is satisfactory and assist the waiter/waitress if things get too hectic. On this cruise I wore a Casio Watch the first two nights as I hadn't unpacked my more expensive Rolex until the third night. The Head Waiter would only check tables and assist the waiters with passengers that either ordered wine or had expensive watches on, finally after mentioning this to the Hotel Manager the service changed and he performed his duties as expected until the last night of the cruise when we walked around with a tip envelope slipped into his front jacket pocket. On the last night I had ordered lobster and he was supposed to remove the shell, he only did that for passengers who gave him envelopes. CABIN AND CABIN SERVICE As I stated earlier the cabins on the Splendour are getting a new look, our cabin had been updated in January according to my Cabin Steward. When boarding I asked for refrigerator for my mom's insulin and that the queen bed be turned into two twins. The requests were honored very promptly. There was some dirt in the recessed electrical 220 volt outlets, other than that the cabin was spotless. One morning my water drained slowly from my sink and I reported it to my Cabin Steward and it promptly repaired. Midway thru the cruise the Executive Housekeeper called me and asked me about the service received from my cabin steward, this was the first time this had occurred on an RCCL Cruise. I just obtained Platinum Level in the Crown and Anchor Society which entitled me to free use of robes while on board and they had two kinds Baltic Cotton and Terry Cloth, I prefer the Baltic Cotton and asked that they be changed once again the request was handled promptly. There were quite a few Platinum and Higher Members on this cruise so when you turned in your bathrobes for a new one it could take some time. There was some obvious wear on the bathroom sink, but the ship is almost ten years old. CRUISE STAFF AND ENTERTAINMENT The Cruise Staff on this cruise was excellent; they seemed happy and performed their duties enthusiastically. I climbed the Rock Climbing Wall four times on the cruise and enjoyed that experience and the staff who did it. I participated in the Ship Shape Program which offers you a Ship Shape Dollar for each activity you participate in and at the end of the cruise you turn the dollars in for Ship Shape Merchandise. Shows were offered in the 42nd Street Theatre and the quality varied. Ole Ole was onboard and it was very well done and two other performances were offered in the Ships Multi Storied Lobby. One night they had a singer on which was not to my liking so we exited the show early. There were Piano Players in the Lounges that did their jobs well and a Piano Player in the Dining Room most nights; however because of the size of the Dining Room it was hard to hear him/her at times. The sound system in the Dining Room needs some attention as it was hard to hear even the recorded music selections when the waiters sang for us. I also appreciate the effort made by the Cruise Director to minimize announcements. We had the midday bridge announcement from the Captain, the afternoon Bingo Announcement, and an announcement regarding the show times. The Ballroom Dance Instructor was fabulous and I learned the Fox Trot. THE QUEST FOR MORE REVENUE We did not participate in any Shore Excursions as I went for rest and relaxation. Park West handles the onboard Art Auctions. I use the term art very generously, as the items are marketed as very collectable and great investments, in my humble opinion they aren't. What bothered me the most about the art auctions was how pushy the people were from Park West were. One day I couldn't get a reading from my blood pressure device so I went to the Medical Clinic and asked the nurse on duty to take the reading, she informed there would be a $35 dollar charge, and I passed. Then one night I needed a heating pad for my mom and was informed by a Purser there would be a $30 dollar charge to just open the clinic. I paid it only to find out there were passengers in the Clinic and there was a nurse there for the night. Another passenger I knew visited the doctor and was charged $105 for the 5 minute consultation and the doctor sold him cough syrup for $25. Gold by the Inch has moved from the shopping venue on Deck 5 to right in front of the doors as you exit Deck 9 for the pool which I found rather aggressive. The items in the shops were mostly overpriced and logo merchandise. There was some nice porcelain figurines by Llardo offered and an Italian Figurine Maker. Salon Services were overpriced and the quality delivered was second rate. A lady I became friends with paid $95 to have her nails done and the polish wore off within days. The "so called" specials just brought the pricing from super over priced to very over priced. CROWN AND ANCHOR SOCIETY This was my first cruise as a Platinum Member and I enjoyed the robes, complimentary 15 minutes of internet time given, complimentary wine tasting, and free bar drinks. I had heard that Platinum and Diamond Level Members were given a Special Lunch; it was replaced with a cocktail party. I inquired about this and the Loyalty Ambassador told me there were many back to back cruisers on this cruise and they thought another lunch would be too repetitive, maybe so but the previous cruise only had one day at sea we had nine. I think a cocktail party would have been in order for the previous cruise and luncheon on the crossing if repetition was a concern. DISEMBARKATION The worst part about a cruise is getting on and getting off. While the Embarkation process was smooth the disembarkation process was a total mess. There were an insufficient number of porters and I spent almost an hour in line clearing customs and I was in the third disembarkation group. The cruise ship terminal in Galveston has been enlarged which helps but what is needed is more porters and more Customs Inspectors. What RCCL can do about getting more customs inspectors is a mystery to me. If more porters are hired by the agent in Galveston and there are no more Customs and Immigration Inspectors added all that will be accomplished is a delay in the long line. I urge everyone who experienced this to write the local Member of Congress for Galveston, their Member of Congress, and their state's US Senator, and the two US Senators from Texas. However, long lines in US Customs and Immigration are the norm these days. FINAL THOUGHTS RCCL offers a great value on Transatlantic Crossings and with the introduction of the Voyager of the Seas to Europe means that almost every class of RCCL ship will now be making the crossing twice a year. RCCL needs to improve the food quality, do something about staff that solicits gratuities in the manner that I experienced with the Head Waiter. I will be taking the Splendour again in April for the Eastbound Transatlantic so while this wasn't a superior cruise it wasn't totally bad either. I realize the challenges facing the cruise business with increased fuel costs but revenue per cabin is up by 20 percent on the basic fares too. I think it's time to STOP the nickel and dimming in the Medical Clinic. Also, I would suggest that RCCL look at the pricing offered by contractors in the Spas and Shops. I think they might try working to get their needed returns using lower prices and more volumes. A lot of people thought the prices charged were robbery and left a bad taste. Read Less
Sail Date November 2005
My wife and I have had 11 cruises on Princess, Holland America, Celebrity and RCCL. This is our second cruise on Splendour. The first was Panama Canal and western Caribbean. I remember that cruise as being pleasant experience. The only bad ... Read More
My wife and I have had 11 cruises on Princess, Holland America, Celebrity and RCCL. This is our second cruise on Splendour. The first was Panama Canal and western Caribbean. I remember that cruise as being pleasant experience. The only bad thing I remember about that cruise was that the beef was so tough that you had to send it back and accept the fish or pasta. That was a common complaint. Embarkation: We booked a Barcelona hotel through RCCL, so they picked us up early had us at the dock before most of the other passengers showed up. This process was about as good as it gets. Accommodations: Small, but we knew that. I guess no worse than any other ship. However, we had the worst cabin attendant we have ever had. He seemed very unhappy and didn't make up the room until almost noon. I will have to say that if I had his job, I wouldn't be too happy either. Food and Service: The food was not up to the standards of other cruises. I guess that I am comparing it to Celebrity. The dining room waiters made the mediocre food more palatable. I know that the ship was smaller than other others in the fleet, but I wish that they would put in healthy, light lunches that Constellation had. All you had in the solarium bar was hot dogs, burgers and pizza. The Windjammer was utter chaos about 9AM. I do remember that most of these types of eating venues are quite busy on all ships. Ever notice that people can become very hostile when it comes to getting their food? Believe me, no one was about to starve. Entertainment: Maybe because this was a transatlantic cruise but most of the shows were not very good, at least compared to other cruises. Ole Ole was fantastic. Health Concerns: My wife and others I talked to came down with the gastronomical maladies that stalk these cruises. Down and out for two days. I did notice that the ship did not have the hand sanitizers around the ship when we left Barcelona. After the passengers started getting sick, they came out. My wife wanted only ice cream or yogurt. When I asked for either at the Windjammer, the girl at the entrance told me that because of the sickness around the ship, they no longer could serve these items. Thanks. Also all help-yourself eating was taboo. I believe that if the Splendour had used these procedures from the start, that there would have been much less sickness. Celebrity Constellation was much better about sanitation. So, we will try to use Celebrity when we can, or Princess or HAL. It really depends on the itinerary. If RCCL is the only line to take us where we want to go, we will book with them. Read Less
Sail Date November 2005
The Ship: My sister and I shared an interior stateroom on deck 6 (6583). My parents had an oceanview on deck 3 (3000). Our stateroom was really comfortable and we hardly missed the window, except it was a little hard to get up in the ... Read More
The Ship: My sister and I shared an interior stateroom on deck 6 (6583). My parents had an oceanview on deck 3 (3000). Our stateroom was really comfortable and we hardly missed the window, except it was a little hard to get up in the morning without seeing any sun. Our room was larger than we had anticipated so we were pleasantly surprised. There is also lots of storage space in the closet, drawers, under the beds, even in the bathroom. Im not a frequent cruiser so I cant really comment on how the ship compares to others (our last cruise was in 2000 on the Viking Serenade). It did not look old at all to me, but it did not look brand new either. Service: We had a wonderful stateroom attendant, Jairo. He was really jolly and always left our room spotless. We loved the towel animals too! The service onboard the ship was extremely friendly all around. We loved the waiter we had on the first night but they changed him after one night. The dining staff always seemed to be trying their best and working so hard at it, and while it wasnt what I would call 5-star service, it was competent and efficient. Food: The food in the dining room was just okay on most nights. Im picky about the types of food I eat and the cleanliness but am not that hard to please. I enjoy eating but not in huge quantities, and I didnt book the cruise because of the food. Most nights I found the food adequate, never terrible, but nothing to rave about either. Some exceptions were the pork chops, the lamb chops we had the night the ship sailed from Rome and the lobster on the night we sailed from Naples. The lobster was rather small, but the waitress got our tablemate an extra order. We often ate in the Windjammer for breakfast and the selection was pretty good. Despite the large number of people, the staff kept it reasonably neat. One night we also had dinner there, which was more relaxing than dressing up and eating in the dining room. On the last day we also took advantage of the pizza and burgers at the solarium. Again, while they didnt taste fantastic, they werent horrible either. Ports of Call/Shore Excursions Marseille: We wanted to take a taxi to the bus station to catch the bus to Aix-En-Provence. The taxi driver pretended not to understand my French (I know he did because later on he was already conversing with me). Anyway, they strong-armed us into the taking the taxi all the way to Aix for a fixed rate of 50E one way. This isnt bad at all since we didnt have to walk anymore nor wait for the bus, and especially if we had gotten others to share the taxi with us (it could fit 6). He dropped us off at the rotunda at 10:45. We attended mass at Eglise de la Madeleine at 11:00 and did a little souvenir shopping along the Cours Mirabeau. Because it was Sunday there wasnt much to do. We didnt see the bus that went to the Atelier Cezanne, in fact we only saw 2 buses the whole time we were there. We decided to walk to the bus station to go back to Marseille. Its about a 5 minute walk from the main rotonde. The bus comes about every 5  10 minutes and stops in front of Quai # 1. Its blue and clearly marked. However, when we got to the bus station in Marseille there were no cabs to be found. Because we didnt plan on going around Marseille, we didnt have a good map of the city  only holding the RCCL provided map which did not show where the bus station was so we could not figure out where we were in relation to the ship shuttle that goes to Vieux Port. Anyway, we waited about 10 minutes before we saw a cab  the driver was actually on his day off and was bringing his son to the bus station to send him back to his mother. He told us if we could wait for him about 20 minutes until the bus left he would drive us but if we found another taxi before then we should take it. Well, we didnt see any other cab at all so after his son left, he drove us to the cruise terminal with his girlfriend sitting in the front seat. They were both very nice and spoke great English. At the dock they have a couple of souvenir stands where we were able to do a lot of shopping. They had lavender soaps and sachets and Herbes de Provence. They were very reasonably priced and made great gifts to take back home. Villefrance-Sur-Mer: The ship was tendered today so we had to line up and take tender boats. We made our way to the train station (from the tourist office turn right and just walk along the water until you see the SNCF sign on the stone wall to your left). They have a special ticket for cruisers RT Villefranche-Monaco or Villefranche-Nice. As we got off in Monaco we took the exit on the right side of the station and walked down where we saw the bus stop of Place Sainte Devote. Before your trip, write to the tourist office of Monaco and request for a map. They send a great one which is very informative about the bus routes and is also a very accurate and easy to read street map. We caught the #2 bus to go to Monaco Ville and bought the tourist day pass from the driver. I think it is good for 8 rides which is more than enough. We got down in Monaco Ville, right in front of the Chocolaterie de Monaco. Of course we had to go inside and take a look. They had some wonderful and delicious looking chocolate (also quite expensive). We just bought a box of 4 small pieces. We walked down the street on the left of the Chocolaterie making our way down to the Palace. We got there just in time for the changing of the guard. I barely saw anything though since everyone had staked out their place earlier and they were all taller than me! I still got a beautiful view of the sea and the mountains at the lookout point to the right of the palace. From the palace it was a short walk to the Cathedral. With your back facing the palace, I believe it is down the rightmost street. Spent some time at the Cathedral then walked down past the aquarium and the small tourist train station to go back to the bus stop and catch the bus to the Casino. At the casino we took a few pictures but all the restaurants looked expensive so we decided to catch another bus and head to the Fontevielle commercial center. There was a McDonalds but I refused to eat there because I was not going to Europe to eat food I could easily get back home. We happened upon a stand serving pastas in the courtyard. It was really cheap and although I saw that it was just heated up frozen food, it tasted pretty good. At around 3pm we took another bus. I asked the driver if there was indeed bus service to Nice and he told us there was and to catch it at Place Sainte Devote, the bus stop outside the train station. The driver took us another route so we were able to see another part of Monaco. We were glad we decided not to pay the 6 E each for the small tourist train because taking the bus was much cheaper and we got to go all over. We waited at Place Sainte Devote for about 10 minutes for the bus. We saw a #100 bus but the driver didnt allow us to get on. It turns out that when the #100 bus stops there with a Monaco sign on the front it is dropping off passengers from Nice on the way to the last stop. After another 5 minutes we saw the #100 bus with a Nice sign and got on. The ride to Nice went through the winding mountains with great views. At Nice, we got off at the Le Port stop by the water. Stopped at another chocolate place called Confisserie Florian. You can tour the workshop and watch them make the chocolate before going upstairs to buy some of the chocolates. Most were quite pricey but I did buy chocolate covered caramelized orange slices which were heavenly! By this time my Dad was already tired and quite antsy to get back to the ship so we did not get to walk all the way to the Promenade des Anglais. We found a taxi stand and took a taxi back to Villefranche. Florence: We booked a tour with Tuscany By Taxi for today with Ricardo as our driver, sharing with a couple we met on Cruise Critic. The 6 of us fit comfortably in the van. It was a holiday (Nov. 1) so there was no traffic. We got to Florence in about an hour. We first stopped at Piazzale Michelangelo for great views of the city. After Piazzale Michelangelo we drove down into the center and stopped at Santa Croce square to see the church. Because it was All Saints Day we could only stay at the back part of the church since there was mass going on. Found small jewelry or pill boxes with Florentine designs at a souvenir stall. 2 E each or 5 pieces for 8 E. I also found nice postcards for 0.25 E each. Got one of the interior of Santa Croce since it was too dark to take good photos (the guard told us no flash allowed). We told Ricardo that we had reservations for the Accademia at 11am. He drove us through the city and showed us the meeting place  Piazza della Republica  before going to the Accademia. He parked on the street and came with us to the entrance. It was pretty chaotic outside even by the side marked for those with reservations. We still had to wait about 10 minutes to get in. I think they only let a limited number of people inside at a time. Spent about an hour in the Accademia. Its not that big so you get to see everything. The statue of David is amazing and a must-see! Its really the work of a genius. They also have good and free restrooms so use them here if you need to. As we exited the Accademia we saw the line for those without reservations  it was a few blocks long. If you are in Florence on a cruise, I suggest calling ahead and getting reservations or else youll spend the whole day in line. There is also a photo store across the entrance to the Accademia. They had a sign that says they transfer photos from memory cards to CDs in half an hour. Since you cant take photos inside the Accademia anyway, you can give them your memory card, go into the museum and pick up the CD when you are done. I didnt do this but I regretted that I didnt when I found out later that night how much it cost on the ship! Anyway, once you exit the Accademia turn left and walk straight down and youll hit The Duomo. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant near the Duomo  Bucca Nicolini. After lunch we lined up for the Duomo. We thought it would take long but it moved really quickly. Spent about half an hour inside. They have audio guide booths that you drop 1 E in and two people can listen to it at the same time. We found this to be a pretty good deal. As we exited the Duomo it started pouring! This was the only time in the two weeks we were in Europe that it rained. We had smartly left our umbrellas in the taxi so we waited it out at the doorway to the Duomo. It stopped after about 10 minutes. We crossed the street and looked at the baptistery doors then walked down the road between the Duomo and the baptistery toward Piazza Signoria where we took some great photos. The Florence tourist office also mails out a great map if you ask them. And while things looked far from each other on the map, they are not. Its so easy to walk around Florence, probably much quicker than taking a taxi or bus since a lot of zones are pedestrian-only ones. Left Florence at 3:30 pm and drove for about an hour to Pisa. The others are right  there is not much to see or do in Pisa aside from the leaning tower. We missed going into the church but took some photos of the outside. There were only a few people lined up to climb the tower but I didnt know how long it would take and we only had 30 minutes in Pisa. We left Pisa at 5:15pm and made it back to the ship before 6pm. Rome: We left the ship at 7:30am and caught the free port shuttle. It says Navetta Gratuita on the front. We bought a BIRG ticket for 9E that includes RT train, and unlimited metro and buses. Dont forget to validate it in the yellow boxes before riding. No one actually came through to check our tickets though. We caught the 8:12 train. If you plan on visiting the Vatican, get off in Roma San Pietro  its about another 10 minutes maybe from Roma San Pietro to Roma Termini and youll be closer to the Vatican from the San Pietro station. We got to Termini around 9:40. Termini is really huge. If you want to go out of the main entrance to Termini, from where the train stops go straight until you reach the main gallery, dont go down the stairs nearest to the platform, although that will take you to where all the taxis wait. We had hired a driver to meet us in Termini and take us around for the day. We asked her to take us straight to the Vatican so we could line up for the museums. I had faxed for a reservation a month before but did not get any reply (actually they had e-mailed me my reservation after I had already left home but I did not get to check my mail until the ships day at sea  I hope my name doesnt get put on some blacklist since I didnt show up for the reserved guided tour). The line was several blocks long so we spent another 20 minutes arguing whether or not line up. Talk about how to waste your time in Rome. Finally at 11am we decided to give it a shot and fell in line. We made it to the entrance in about 30-40 minutes. Turns out the line is actually just to x-ray the bags. Buying tickets once you are inside is no problem. Since it was already November, the museum closes at 1:45pm so we cruised through the museum to get to the Sistine chapel, which is what we really wanted to see. We did stop at the Raphael rooms though. Its a really long walk to the Sistine chapel from the entrance  it took us a good 40 minutes maybe. We spent about 15 minutes in the chapel. I saw the exit that leads to St. Peters Basilica that is supposed to be reserved for guides However, it was still closed since the Basilica itself was not yet open We later regretted not waiting for it to open because we spent another hour in St. Peters square lining up for the Basilica versus waiting maybe 20 minutes for that exit to open. Our guide drove us to St. Peters Square where we lined up for the Basilica. This line seemed to take much longer and was much much more disorganized than the line for the museums. The line is also the x-ray the bags. People cut in line on more than one occasion. We even saw a guide from one of the ship tours from the Millennium even tell off some of those people in Italian but they didnt seem to care. People were pushing and squeezing like crazy. We were glad we got in line when we did though because after about 20 minutes, the line grew exponentially with all the tour groups coming in after lunch. We finally made it into the Basilica. Its really amazing. However, I expected I would be able to sit and pray for awhile but because there are a lot of people, it is not exactly quiet inside. They also remove all the benches except for the ones in front and its closed off to the public. We spent about half an hour inside. After the Vatican we went to Piazza Navona where we ate lunch in one of the cafes. From Piazza Navona we dashed to the Pantheon and had a quick look inside. There are lots of people but thankfully no line and no admission fee. Our guide then drove us to the Fontana di Trevi, through lots of traffic. Its probably better to walk since on the map, the Pantheon and Fontana dont look too far away. We dashed to the fountain took a few quick pictures and tossed the coins over our shoulders. We were there for only about 5 minutes, maybe less. By now it was already 4pm. The train back to Civitavecchia left at 4:35. No time to see the Spanish Steps and the Colosseo. We got to Termini at 4:20. Its a long walk from the entrance to the platform (I think its #27). We ran almost all the way and made it, out of breath but with about 5 minutes to spare. At least we got seats on the train. Saw a couple of other cruisers barely make it. I think they stood all the way to Civitavecchia. The trains in Italy do not have a list of stops posted inside the train, nor are there any announcements about which stop is next. While Civitavecchia is logically the last stop, I still wanted to make sure. You can barely see the station names as you are pulling in since it was already dark. If you are unsure just ask the other people on the train. Better safe than sorry. Once we got off in Civitavecchia, we bought some things at the convenience store at the station before walking back to the port gates for the free shuttle. Made it back to the Splendour around 6:15. Naples: For this tour, I booked Giovanni Lerusce based on the recommendations I got from Cruise Critic. We again shared this tour with a couple we met on Cruise Critic. Anyway, when we got off the ship, Giovanni was already waiting for us with his absolutely lovely Mercedes van. We all kept complimenting his van that I think at one point he was already embarrassed. The 6 of us fit comfortably inside. We drove to Pompeii first, catching a glimpse of the infamous traffic on the other side of the highway. It did look terrible and Im so used to horrible traffic back home. It was a beautiful clear day, not a cloud in the sky so we had great views of Vesuvius. We arrived at Pompeii just after it opened at 8:45 am. We saw a lot of guides gathering groups but we decided earlier that we were comfortable exploring on our own. We rented one audio guide and grabbed some of the free maps. We all enjoyed Pompeii. It was really cool to imagine the people living there 2,000 years ago. It is rather difficult for older people to walk around though because the paths are stony and uneven. We saw an elderly gentleman on what I think was a shore excursion lose his footing and fall. I think he hit the side of his head but he got up and seemed ok, especially for someone his age. I hope he had nothing more than bruises. We did not make it to the amphitheater because it was too far from the entrance we used (Port Marina entrance). We did see highlights like the baths and the house of the faun though. At 10:45 we met Giovanni outside the entrance. We also bought some orange granitas in the stand while waiting for him. They were delicious! Giovanni said that there was a protest going on the road to the Amalfi coast so he would take us through the back way through the mountains, first stopping at Ravello. Half-way up, we stopped at a lookout point to take some photos and get a nice view of the Bay of Salerno. In Ravello, we visited the church of San Pantaleone, an old church from the 11th century where the saints blood miraculously liquefies each year during his feast day. We bought some souvenirs and paid 0.50E to use the bathroom at the bottom of the stairs on the left side of the square. At least it was a clean and well-supplied bathroom. We walked into the Ravello tourist office who told us the best place to eat was Villa Maria, at the top of the town. It was about a 5-10 minute walk up the mountain on paved roads/stairways but quite difficult to get to still. The place was beautiful though. It had a great view and fantastic pasta and risotto, probably the best meal we had on the whole trip. It took longer than we anticipated though including the walk up and down the mountain. After Ravello, we then made our way to Amalfi where Giovanni had to make some tricky moves on the narrow road when we came face to face with a large truck. He is a good and safe driver so we werent nervous at all. In Amalfi he dropped us off near the parking area by the beach. We bought some gelato for 2E per cup, took some photos and went into the main square where we bought some limoncello to take home. They had small bottles in funky glass containers shaped like guitars or shoes for only 2.5E. The church was closed so we took photos from the outside and stopped to buy some souvenir dishtowels (also 2.5E each). We spent about half an hour in Amalfi but it wouldve been nicer to get to explore a little bit more. After Amalfi we drove through Praiano on the way to Positano. Giovanni parked along the main road and we had to walk down to the village. We only had 30 minutes and after taking some pictures of the great view, we only had enough time to walk down, browse in a few shops then walk back up the steep road. We did not even go all the way down. It wouldve been nice to spend some more time here as well. The view here was fantastic! By the time we got back to the car Giovanni said it was time to make our way back to Napoli. It seemed pretty early to me but of course we did not want to get stuck in traffic. We didnt go to Sorrento but we caught a glimpse of it from the road. It seems to be a bigger town than the others we visited. We also drove through Castellamare di Stabia and Giovanni pointed out the gates of his house to us. We did not hit any traffic on the way back to Naples. We were back on the ship at 5pm. The Amalfi coast is so beautiful and the towns all so charming. It was rather relaxing compared to the harried pace we had in Florence and Rome where there is so much to see. It was a nice change to just ride along and enjoy the scenery. Summary: The whole family enjoyed this cruise immensely. Yes, it was very tiring, but it was also a great way to see many different places in a short amount of time. My parents found it stressful worrying about whether we would get left behind by the ship every day and also didnt enjoy constantly having to figure out what bus to take or where we were going. For people who are like my parents, perhaps an itinerary of ship-sponsored tours would have been more appropriate. As for myself, I like the independent sightseeing. The private tours were wonderful though, and quite economical if shared with Cruise Critic friends. I wouldnt mind going on the same itinerary again on the same ship. This cruise is good value for money, especially, if like me, you are in Europe for the first time. Read Less
Sail Date October 2005
Overall this was a great cruise. I was travelling with my mother who is handicapped and my niece who just turned 20. Service. The service was excellent. We got a great cabin steward, waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter. Our head ... Read More
Overall this was a great cruise. I was travelling with my mother who is handicapped and my niece who just turned 20. Service. The service was excellent. We got a great cabin steward, waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter. Our head waiter really pitched in and did as much work as the waiters. He was friendly and helped us tremendously especially my mom who had trouble getting up from the chair. Housing. The cabin was a nice size even for three. I think it was considered a suite. Rooms in general on ships are small but it was a nice size with plenty of storage space for clothing and the room had a safe for valuables. It was the type that you program to lock and unlock with a credit card, nice especially if you don't want to carry all valuables with you. Dining. The food was good. I have cruised Norwegian, and Carnival. I would put them on par with Carnival. Norwegian had more menu choices at dinner and an midnight buffet every night. This cruise had themed dinners every night to feature the local cuisine and one midnight chefs buffet. They also had a list of five entrees that they served every night that were tasty basics if you did not like the regular choices. One nice thing about the menu was they had codes for different dietary options on the menu, like vegetarian or lower calorie/more balanced options. We had a waiter who was good at asking you questions and helping you decide what to order and if you did not like anything he would make sure you got a second choice quickly. Like the other cruise lines there was also casual dining available during all meal times, on this ship casual(buffet) dining was on the pool deck. Open seating for Breakfast and lunch in the dining room and assigned times and tables for dinner. Entertainment. The entertainment was good. Not terrific but good. There were shows every night. I saw two and both were good but as someone who lives in Chicagoland and takes advantage of shows like the Lion King it was not spectacular. Young Adult Options. They had a good alcohol policy. You had the option of setting the rules for your 18 - 21 year old and what alcohol they could consume; options ranged from no alcohol to allowing them beer and wine. Concerns. Some of the male crew members seemed a little inappropriate toward the 16 - 21 year old girls. I observed male crew members getting touchy feely with some teens in one of the popular fitness areas, another asking 16-17 year old girls to buy him presents in the next port and another flirting a girl using some semi-explicit language. I assumed cruise lines were better at teaching staff members about how to treat young guests appropriately and had strict boundaries. I guess not. If you have a teen daughter, have a talk with her about how adult males should behave and maybe think about a self-defense course or a loud whistle. Read Less
Sail Date October 2005
RCL Splendour, May 28-June 4, 2005, 7-day, out of Barcelona This was our 10th cruise, the 3rd on RCL (the other 2 were on the Monarch and Rhapsody). The other cruises were on Carnival (Sensation, Victory, Jubilee, Ecstasy), Celebrity ... Read More
RCL Splendour, May 28-June 4, 2005, 7-day, out of Barcelona This was our 10th cruise, the 3rd on RCL (the other 2 were on the Monarch and Rhapsody). The other cruises were on Carnival (Sensation, Victory, Jubilee, Ecstasy), Celebrity (Galaxy and Mercury) and Norwegian Sea. We really like RCL cruises, but will cruise any line based primarily on price, departure port (Galveston is close) and ports visited. We took this cruise with just the 4 of us, myself (47), husband (50) and two daughters (20 and 18). This cruise was a whirlwind of activities and VERY busy. Had we been with a bigger group (like my whole 11-member family), we would have gone insane trying to organize port activities. As it was, we did a mixture of ports on our own, with a couple of RCL shore excursions and one private tour. We spent 2 days in Barcelona pre-cruise and 1 day in Chicago post-cruise making for 10 long days of travel. On the cruise, we went to Marseilles, Villefranche, Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Citavecchia (sp? Rome) and Naples. We especially like Florence and Pisa and would like to visit the Isle of Capri again without doing the Blue Grotto. Here's my overview of the trip: Pre-Cruise: Stayed at the Hotel Continental Palacente for two nights in Barcelona pre-cruise - great little hotel located 1 block North of Placa Catalunya and the start of Las Ramblas. Rate was 130 Euros for a queen-bed room, 120 Euros for a 2-twin-bed room - get the 2-twins room as the Queen bed felt pretty small. 24-hour buffet included hot food (soup, paella, etc.), fruit, candy, bread, olives, wine, beer, bottled water and soda. There's also a free stand-up internet terminal. AC in the hotel was great and it's a very pleasant hotel. Rooms are not large but the bathrooms are. Views from the room were of the building room next door - we could have paid more to get a better view but it didn't seem worth it for 2 nights. We took taxis from airport to hotel, hotel to port and port to airport. Costs for these trips were 25-30 Euros with tip. Taxis around town were 5-12E before tip. Some drivers charged extra for 4 people, some didn't. The most expensive taxi ride was to Park Guell at about 12-13E each way. We decided against the Bus Turistic as the 17E cost/pp added up to 68E total and there was a LONG line at Placa Catalunya to get on the bus. While in Barcelona, we walked up and down Las Ramblas (first evening) and on Friday went to Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Panera Apartments (designed by Gaudi) and had a fabulous tapas dinner with Sangria Friday night. We really loved Barcelona and would like to return there some day. Embarkation: We left the hotel at around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and took a taxi to the port. It cost about 27E. We waited in a pretty long line that moved fairly quickly and were on the ship about 12:45. We got all our luggage around 5 p.m., which is early for us - usually we don't see it until 8 p.m.. Cabin: We had a Cat. H outside (3032) and a Cat. N inside cabin (3029). 3029 is right under the Schooner Bar piano and the girls (ages 18 and 20) had to endure Billy Joel music every night until 12-1 a.m.. We enjoyed the cabin locations as they were 1-2 decks up from port exits (either Deck 4 or Deck 1) and 1 deck from the casino and dining room. The only time we took the elevator was to go to the Lido deck for pool or snacks. We didn't miss a balcony and weren't in the rooms much at all. There were two plugs in the room - one with US electricity (110V) and one with European electricity (220V). Food: We found the food in the dining room to be mediocre to good. We sent steaks back on several nights because they were overcooked. The lobster was delicious though and the service was great. We did eat in the dining room 6 out of 7 nights and the food on this cruise was just not that good compared to other RCL cruises and even other Carnival cruises. Food at the buffet wasn't much better. Snack food at the indoor pool was quite tasty - especially the French fries. Overall though, we were not very impressed with the food on this cruise - it probably has to do with the weak Euro against the dollar. Entertainment/Other: Can't say much about the Entertainment as we didn't participate in hardly any of it. We played a couple of times at the Putt-Putt golf course - a little 10-hole course that was very lumpy. Never did the rock wall as we always seemed to be in port on the few hours during the day that it was open. We did go to the casino quite often and for the first time, came back with about $200 more than I started with. I came in 2nd in the Blackjack tournament but they limited the number of players so I only got $164 but that was still great. Slots seemed tight and we had all our luck on the roulette and craps tables. I did finally get a straight flush on 3-card poker betting $5 so that was probably my $200 profit. Internet on the ship is expensive ($.50/minute) and slow. Also, we could NOT get internet mail to work at all for AOL and also couldn't read my work mail. We tried using it the first day and gave up after that. Marseilles: Did the Nostradamus tour Sunday afternoon in Marseilles - waste of time - hot and boring. Also missed the RCL's M&M because of it. Would have been better off doing a taxi tour. Villafranche: tendered in around 10:30 and tried to take the train to Nice but didn't quite get the right train schedule and ended up waiting an hour until the next train. Moral to the story: look up the route online before the trip. In Nice, we walked downhill from the train station (2nd Nice train exit) to the ocean - it took about 45 minutes through a congested, construction-ridden city. Didn't care that much for Nice. Came back in time to take the 4 p.m. train to Monte Carlo where we took a cab to the casino (10 Euros). The private tables (you pay 10 Euros each to go in) open at 4 and we got there around 5:20. Played a little Roulette (with 5 Euro minimum chips) and won 30 Euros but since it cost 40 for 4 of us to get in and 13 Euros for a Gin and Tonic, I think we lost money. It was fun anyway - Blackjack table minimums were 25 Euros and up. Took a taxi back to the train station and just missed the next train by minutes. Waited another hour to return. Got back around 8 p.m.. Livorno: did a tour with a group of 4 Australians to Florence and Pisa with Limo in Rome tour guide - I enjoyed Florence even though it was hot and pretty crowded. Saw David at the Accedemia without waiting in the hour-long line - our private driver had made reservations for us and walked us right through - cost 11 Euros/pp. There isn't much to that museum except for David. I've heard the Uffizzi is much better for its collection but we weren't in the mood for more museums. Found an air-conditioned internet cafe in Florence and spent about 30 minutes there for about 3 Euros. We next went to Pisa and had a whopping 40 minutes to spend there - I'd have preferred 2 hours as Pisa is nice and we wanted to climb the tower. We didn't because we didn't have enough time. Our guide didn't offer much to our group of 8 other than getting us into Accademia without lines and a pretty uneventful trip to Florence. But, it was still cheaper (75 Euors/pp) and less crowded than doing a ship's excursion so that was good. Naples: we took the hydrofoil to the left of the ship around 10:35 to the Isle of Capri for about a 45-minute ride. Then we stepped off the hydrofoil and caught the last jet-boat to the Blue Grotto. They didn't leave again until 3 p.m. - maybe this has to do with the tides. At the grotto, we ended up waiting about an hour in choppy water for our rowboat to take us in. I got seasick - my Ginger pill didn't do it for me. Then, once I climbed from the speed boat into the rowboat, I got sick again - if you've ever had any hint of motion-sickness, take Dramamine or Bonine before this trip or you'll be sorry. I managed to quit being sick right before we entered the grotto and it was really lovely with the water lit a neon-blue from the bottom. We stayed about 5 minutes, took the boat back to Capri-town, ate lunch outside at an expensive cafe and then took the hydrofoil back around 3:30. Hydrofoil cost 22 Euros each for a round-trip ticket and Blue Grotto cost about 17 Euros each without a tips. Would I do the Blue Grotto again? Nope - I'd rather see more of the Isle of Capri. Rome: Did the "Rome: Eternal City" Tour with the ship for $190 each. We waited about 30 minutes in line to get into Vatican Museum and then spent about 2 hours in the museum, another hour in St. Peter's and a shop and then on to a marvelous lunch. The afternoon was spent at the Colosseum (no waiting in line) and then back to the ship by 5:15. It was a good tour but the Vatican was hideously crowded and all those crowds were gone by noon (the museum closes at 3 p.m.) - if you have the choice, go in the afternoon. Would I visit the Vatican museums/Sistine Chapel again - nope, too crowded and hot. I might go back to St. Peters though - it was gigantic, cool and impressive. Was this tour worth it - probably not at almost $200/pp. We probably could have done a private tour for much cheaper and bought us a REALLY nice lunch for the difference. But, by Thursday, we didn't want to have to think about anything - we just wanted to be led around. Debarkation: We were one of the middle colors and were off the ship by about 8:45. However, we waited quite some time for our luggage to come out on the luggage treads - like at the airport. The problem with having to wait for it to come out - by the time we got all 6 pieces of luggage, everyone seemed to get all their luggage and then we ALL went out to wait in a long taxi line. Still, we got to the airport around 10 a.m. for our 1 p.m. flight. The light plan home was: Barcelona-London-Chicago-Dallas with an overnight planned in Chicago so we could see the Art Institute on Sunday. Our flight to London was 90 minutes late and with a 2-hour layover, we literally RAN through the airport to catch our flight to Chicago. We made it but our checked bags didn't. We stayed at the Hyatt Chicago O'Hare Airport hotel for a Priceline rate of $55/night with just our carryons and checked out Sunday morning. We took the shuttle back to the airport and then the shuttle to the rental cars and rented a nice car for $35/day. We drove into Chicago and easily found the Art Institute and it is FABULOUS. That's one of the best museums I've ever been to. We drove back to the airport with a stop at Super Dawg Hot Dogs (had to try it but it was just OK, not great hot dogs) and were back in the airport by 2 p.m.. We entertained ourselves until our 5:30 p.m. flight and got home just fine. Our 5 bags were delivered 6 a.m. Monday morning. Yippee! Overall Impressions: I liked Florence, Pisa and the Isle of Capri. The cruise itself was exhausting and I don't think I'll do another 7-day Med. cruise. We may look into 10-12 day cruises or just come back to Italy and go to Venice and Florence/Pisa. The people in Barcelona and Italy were very friendly and helpful. Not so much so in France - I don't think I'll return to the French Med for an extended stay. The Splendour is a very nice, well-kept ship and I wouldn't mind cruising on it again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2005
This review is for the May 28, 2005 Splendour of the Seas cruise of the Western Mediterranean. It included the ports of Marseille, Villafranche (Nice and Monaco), Livorno (Florence), Naples (Amalfi and Pompeii), Civitavecchia (Rome), and ... Read More
This review is for the May 28, 2005 Splendour of the Seas cruise of the Western Mediterranean. It included the ports of Marseille, Villafranche (Nice and Monaco), Livorno (Florence), Naples (Amalfi and Pompeii), Civitavecchia (Rome), and Barcelona. Following the cruise we spent the a few days at the PortAventura resort before returning home to California. 05/28/05 We arrived in Paris after a 11 hour flight from Los Angeles. We made our way down to a crowded shuttle bus that took us to terminal 2F. There was almost no air conditioning in terminal 2 at the CDG airport. Near the entrance to terminal F, I exchanged $500 in traveller's checks for euros. There was a family from England waiting for the same flight to Barcelona that was also booked on the RCCL cruise. The flight out of Paris was delayed and we arrived in Barcelona at 3:15pm. After collecting our luggage we left the airport and quickly found a taxi. The taxi ride from the airport to Port Vell took 20 minutes and cost 25 euros. At 4pm we checked in with no wait and boarded the Royal Caribbean Splendour of the Seas for a seven night cruise of the Western Mediterranean. Our cabin stewardess was named Narva. After finding our cabin, we explored the ship until the announcement was made for all passengers to put on their life-vests and report to their muster station. We met a couple from California during the muster drill. At around 6:30pm we went to eat dinner in the King & I Dining room. Our waitress was Nery Gonzales from Chile. Her assistant was Charlton Rodrigues from India (with Portugese ancestry). I had the Prime Rib and my wife Rosie had the salmon dish. The ship left port as we began our meal. Following dinner we strolled through the ship. At the shore excursion desk we bought the last two tickets for the Sunday afternoon tour of Marseille. Our luggage arrived in our cabin sometime after 9pm. Later that evening we attended the Adventure Ocean kid's club orientation meeting in the Top Hat Lounge. Then we went to see the opening night show in the 42nd Street Theater. The main act was a group from Argentina called Los Pampas Gauchos that played drums and did tricks with a whip. The cruise director Rico acted as MC and welcomed everyone onboard. Before going to sleep my son Max and I played a round of miniature golf.05/29/05 After a good night's sleep we awoke and went to have breakfast in the King & I Dining room. We were seated with two other couples from Portugal (Santiago, Raza, Rachel, and Eugenio). For breakfast I ordered the granola which came on top of sliced fruit and was covered with yogurt. Max and I went swimming later that morning. At the side of the pool Rosie and I played a game of bean bag toss. After a relaxing morning by the main pool we returned to eat lunch in the King & I Dining room. We were seated with couple from Ireland, a lady from Virginia, and another couple from Florida. Max took a nap at the table. After lunch we dropped off Max at the kid's club. Rosie and I then went on our afternoon RCCL tour of Marseille. The tour bus first stopped at the Palais Longchamp, where we walked up the steps and took pictures. Then the tour bus drove along the water's edge to a spot where we could take pictures of the harbor. The tour continued with a drive to the top of the hill overlooking Marseille, where we stopped at the Notre Dame de la Gard cathedral. Rosie and I entered the church and heard the lord's prayer in French. When we returned to the ship, we picked up Max from the kid's club and returned to our cabin. We then dressed for the first formal dinner. I wore my black tuxedo and Rosie wore a black cocktail dress. We dropped off Max at the kid's club and then went to the King & I Dining Room. After a quick dinner, Rosie went to the spa for a hot stone massage. As the ship left Marseille it sailed around the island from the Count of Monte Cristo story. At around 9pm I went to pick up Rosie at the Spa. Rosie and Max went to bed early so I went to see the Rumba Flamenco show staring Ole Ole in the 42nd Street Theater by myself. Our cabin steward, Narva created a towel animal that looked like a creature from the sea. 05/30/05 The ship was already anchored in the Villafranche harbor when we awoke. We went to have breakfast in the King & I Dining room. At our table we met a family from Jacksonville and a group of ladies from London. One of the women looked like the queen of England's mother. After breakfast we walked around the top deck of the ship and played a round of miniature golf. I tried climbing the rock wall, but didn't get very far. Just after 9am we boarded the tender to Villafranche. A short five minute walk took us to the steps leading up to the train station. I left Rosie and Max and went to the other side of the platform where I bought 3 tickets to Nice. While waiting for our train we saw a woman screaming for her husband. After arriving in Nice we walked about twenty minutes before reaching the beach. On the way we stopped in a convenience store to buy water and arm floaties for Max. The beach was made of large stones that were painful to walk on barefoot. We considered taking the city tour bus that lets you hop on and off at over ten stops. Instead we took the tram for a basic tour of the city. The tram stopped at the top of a hill overlooking Nice. On the tram we meet a family from Indiana. After returning to the beach we walked back to the train station and returned to Villafranche. We spent an hour sitting on the beach at the bottom of the steps leading up to the train station. Max had fun playing at the water's edge and looking for sand crabs. We then walked to the dock and boarded the tender back to the ship. We ate a light lunch in the Windjammer cafe from which we had a spectacular view of the harbor. Around 5pm we got off the ship again and went to take the train heading in the other direction to Monaco. The office at the train station was closed and I didn't have change to buy any tickets from the vending machine on the platform. While trying to get change, I was told by a local merchant that there would be someone on the train who I could pay for our tickets. So we got on the train to Monaco without tickets and never met the ticket seller. Leaving the train station in Monaco we made our way to the Casino in Monte Carlo. It was somewhat confusing without a map, but we eventually found our way to the top of the hill overlooking the harbor. There we took pictures of the harbor and in front of the casino. We ate Häagen-Dazs ice cream in the park across the street from the Casino. We returned to the train station around 8pm. In the train station we met a couple from India who were buying tickets for the trip back to Villefranche. We just missed the train and had to wait almost an hour for the next train back to Villafranche that arrived just before the ship was scheduled to leave. After boarding the ship we went straight to the King & I Dining room for a late dinner and the head waiter was nice enough to find us a table. Max and Rosie went to bed and I went to see the Elvy Rose show in the 42nd Street Theater. The towel animal on this night was an anteater. 05/31/05 We awoke as the ship was arriving in the port of Livorno, Italy. Our RCCL excursion to Florence met in the 42nd Street Theater. Before departing on our excursion tour I grabbed a couple boxes of granola cereal and a few pastries at the Windjammer cafe. On the way to Florence we saw the town of Pisa in the distance. The tour bus stopped at a rest stop for a bathroom break and Rosie bought some coffee. When we arrived in Florence we drove through a residential area to the Michaelangelo park overlooking the city. There we took pictures and bought some bottled water. The tour bus then dropped us off in the middle of the old city. From there we went to see Michaelangelo's David at the Accademia Museum. We continued our tour on foot and walked passed the Uffici Gallery to see the Ponte Vechio. From there we walked for about 15 minutes to a restaurant on a plaza next to a church. The restaurant was made up of many themed rooms. The room we ate in had a map of Spain and South America on the walls. We sat at a table with a couple from Canada. The appetizer was lasagna and the main course was chicken. After lunch we walked through the cathedral were Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci are buried. In the square outside the cathedral we bought some souvenirs and gelato. On the bus ride back to the ship I photographed some of the souvenirs we bought. After boarding the ship we went to eat dinner in the King & I Dining room. After taking Max to the kid's club, Rosie and I went to see the Jump Jivin' Swing show in the 42nd Street Theater. The towel animal was a dog or some other animal sitting and had floppy ears.06/01/05 This was to have been the day we went to Rome. However there was a change of plans due to the scheduled closing of the road to Pompeii on Thursday. The authorities were going to remove or detonate WWII bombs found near the road. The captain decided to take us to Naples instead of Rome so that those with plans to visit Pompeii could do so before the road closure. The ship arrived in Naples one hour late at 8am. We again went to have breakfast in the King & I Dining room and this time we sat with a group of loud Americans. We met in the 42nd Street Theater for our Amalfi Drive and Pompeii shore excursion. The tour began with our sick tour guide telling us about Mt. Vesuvius. Our first stop was to see how inlayed wood is made into artwork. We then began our three hour drive along the Amalfi coast. Rosie quickly got motion sickness from all the twists and turns. Max slept most of the morning bus ride. It was tough taking pictures from the moving bus. The delay in the digital camera was good for some laughs. We eventually stopped for a short break in the town of Amalfi. There we bought gelato and shopped for souvenirs. There was a store there that sold colorful pottery and tableware. Our tour bus continued along the coast until we reached a restaurant situated on a cliff overlooking the town below. We sat with an American couple from Georgia and another lady and her mother from Pennsylvania. After lunch we headed back to Pompeii. Before going into the ruins we visited a cameo factory. I wished we had spent more time exploring Pompeii. After an hour we boarded the tour bus for the return trip to the ship. After dropping off our bags we went to have dinner in the King & I Dining room. A couple and their daughter Lucy from England joined us at our table. Didn’t see the Love & Marriage Game show in the 42nd Street Theater. Took Max to see the Karaoke show in the Top Hat Lounge. The towel animal was a jack rabbit. 06/02/05 The ship docked in the port of Civitavecchia at 7am. Ordered room service for breakfast. We were running late and didn’t eat much of the breakfast. Met in the Top Hat Lounge for our Imperial Rome excursion. It was a bank holiday and there wasn't very much traffic in the city. First we went to see the Trevi Fountains. Bought a cappuccino for me and Rosie and gelato for Max. Tossed a coin into the Trevi fountain with the hopes of returning to Rome someday. The tour guide took his job very seriously and spoke with a thick accent that made his English hard to understand. The next stop was Vatican City. Due to the crowd, we waited 30 minutes in the sun to go into St. Peter's Basilica. Drove to a restaurant where we ate lunch with Lara and her boyfriend Michael's family. The appetizer was a pasta dish with the main entrée being veal. For dessert we had tiramisu. After lunch we continued the tour driving through the city. Max and Lara became good friends. Spent over an hour at the Coliseum. Returned to the ship and got dressed for the second formal night. I wore my grey tuxedo and Rosie wore her blue cocktail dress. Max put on his tuxedo and pretended to be James Bond secret agent 007. Had dinner with Graham, his wife Kay, and his daughter Lucy. Rosie and I both had the lobster. After dinner we took pictures of the gorgeous sunset and posed for the formal pictures taken by professional photographers in the Centrum. Took Max to the Explorer kid’s club. Rosie and I saw the Star Struck show in the 42nd Street Theater and then we went dancing on deck 11 at the Viking Crown Lounge. After we picked up Max, we returned to our cabin and Rosie went to sleep. Max and I went to the midnight buffet. Took video and pictures of Max with the ice sculptures and craved fruit. The towel animal was a monkey attached to a clothes hanger. 06/03/05 Day at Sea. Ordered room service for breakfast. Max and I left our cabin to allow Rosie to sleep in. Took pictures of the art work around the ship. Picked up Rosie and went to have lunch at the King & I Dining room. Sat with Elvy Rose and two other couples. One of the couples was from India and had been contestants on the Love & Marriage game show. Bought some ship souvenirs and then went to deck 6 to select our formal pictures. An American woman was very upset that she couldn’t find her pictures. She started arguing with one of the employees and demanded to see the manager. Spent the rest of the afternoon packing our bags. Ate dinner at the King & I Dining room. Took Max to the Explorer’s club. On the way back to the dining room, picked up the tip envelopes to give to our service staff. Gave our waitress Nery $80 and her assistant Charlton $40. Gave the head waiter $20 and our room stewardess Narva 60 euros ($78). Rosie and I went to see the Artistry of Floresance show in the 42nd Street Theater. This was the farewell show that also included a very good juggler from England as the closing act. Went dancing again at the Viking Crown Lounge. The DJ played nothing but Latin music and later Rico hosted a Merengue competition. The towel animal was a manta ray. 06/04/05 Arrived back in Barcelona. Had breakfast in the King & I dining room. Gave our waitress Nery the box of See’s chocolates that I had bought for the M&M party. Went to the 42nd Street Theater to join the RCCL Barcelona City Tour and Transfer excursion. Toured the city with stops at the top of Montjuic Hill, the Gothic Quarter, and the Familia Sagrada. Took out 70 euros from the ATM near Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral. The tour bus dropped us off at the Placa Catalunya where we took a taxi to our hotel Barcelo Sants for 10 euros. Ate lunch at the hotel's buffet restaurant. A couple from Panama that also had been on the cruise was staying at the same hotel. Exchanged $300 in traveler’s checks for euros at the front desk. After lunch we went down to the train station and bought round trip tickets to Placa Catalunya from the ticket vending machine. The train trip to Placa Catalunya took less than 10 minutes. After Rosie got a coffee drink at Starbucks we crossed the street to walk down Las Ramblas. We saw the many outdoor bird shops and the amazing human statues. It was getting a little chilly for Rosie so she bought a Barcelona t-shirt for 3.5 euros. We eventually made it to the food market and after seeing the fruit and fish stands we bought food for our picnic dinner. Leaving the food market we took the subway to the Palace Fountains. At the bottom of the steps we sat down to eat our picnic dinner of sliced salami, cheese on French bread. We walked to the top of the steps and took pictures of the city below. Around 9:30pm we walked back to the Barcelo Sants hotel. I was able to get a 3 euro refund for our return train tickets that we didn’t use. Throughout the day I heard the expression “vale” constantly, it’s the way the people in Spain say OK. The taxi drivers would also say “hombre” and “aye madre” all the time. Read Less
Sail Date May 2005
We had a great time on this cruise but there were some disappointments. Embarkation was very easy. We got to the cruise terminal at 11:45 and were on the ship before noon. Our stateroom was very nice although for the price we could have ... Read More
We had a great time on this cruise but there were some disappointments. Embarkation was very easy. We got to the cruise terminal at 11:45 and were on the ship before noon. Our stateroom was very nice although for the price we could have had a nicer stateroom on one of Carnival's Spirit class ships. Our stateroom attendant was adequate not great. Food was awful, although the service was outstanding. Our waiter and ass't waiter were the best I have had on any cruise. I highly recommend getting the wine package if you enjoy wine with dinner. The choices were good and the price was outstanding. The Windjammer Cafe was worse than the King and I dining room. Avoid it at all cost. Breakfast and lunch in the dining room were adequate. We found lunch to be better than dinner. I ate mostly vegetables at all meals because they were fresh, usually steamed and had some taste. There were many activities on the ship. The spa was over priced and the services were marginal. I did however get a fairly decent free facial the first day because they needed someone for a demonstration during the spa tours. We chose this itinerary because we scuba dive. We did not make it into Grand Cayman. The reason was somewhat sketchy - they said that it was not safe to tender. (We heard at other ports that since the hurricane the Cayman Port Authority also has something to do with these decisions.) We booked our own scuba trip in Cozumel - Scuba with Alison. She was outstanding!!! Cozumel is an awesome place to dive. There is an abundance of beautiful fish and we saw 3 giant sea turtles. I highly recommend Alison. She will not take more than 8 divers. We did the ships scuba excursion in Belize. It was diving with the herd - 14 people. We had "Joe diver" who had only been diving for a year and had to tell everyone how to dive. Funny, he was the guy who didn't pay attention to the dive tables and went too deep. Imagine that!!! Belize was unimpressive as was the dive operation. Also, RCI does not give you the correct info on their website as to total cost and what would be provided. I do not recommend booking with the ship. Costa Maya is a machination of the cruise ship companies - TOURIST TRAP!!! We went back to the ship after an hour. I can buy the same things in Ensenada for less. The highlight of the ship was the Schooner Bar. We spent most of our time on board there talking to Loren the bartender from Jamaica. He was wonderful to say the least. We became friends with a group of people who would meet there everyday. Lot's of fun!!! There were many young children and teenagers on this trip because of spring break. For the most part they were very good but if you are trying to avoid the kids I would not book in March or thru the middle of April. All in all we had a good time but probably will not book with RCI again. Carnival, even on their 3 day cruises had better food, better services and nicer cabin for the money. Read Less
Sail Date April 2005
Party consisted of my wife and I with our 8 and 12 year old daughters, and two other couples, in 3 adjoining balcony rooms. All adults are "barely past our forties". Previous cruises include NCI Norway, Carnival Imagination (both ... Read More
Party consisted of my wife and I with our 8 and 12 year old daughters, and two other couples, in 3 adjoining balcony rooms. All adults are "barely past our forties". Previous cruises include NCI Norway, Carnival Imagination (both adults only) and last 2 years on Carnival Spirit, with daughters. Comparison comments will generally relate to last 2 trips on Carnival Spirit. This was the third cruise we booked through an online agency and have had nothing but positive results with them. We flew from Rochester, NY to Tampa the day before, out of respect for winter weather in the Northeast. As one of our companions graciously provided overnight accommodations from her Marriott miles, we stayed at a Marriott Residence Inn. The Marriott properties close to the Cruise Port were booked so we ended up about 20-30 minutes from the port and airport. The Residence Inn was a great place to stay, we just hung around the pool, and that night ordered dinner delivered from Dine-One-One which offers selections from numerous area restaurants. The only downside was that taxi and limo/shuttle service in the Tampa area is relatively expensive and options are limited. Embarkation: We arrived at the Tampa cruise port about 1:15 and waited about 15 minutes for the rest of our party to arrive. Due to the height of the causeway bridge, the largest cruise ships cannot get in, and the port is smaller and way less hectic than Miami. The various employees we encountered seemed significantly more pleasant and helpful as well. We had completed our RCI pre-boarding forms online and boarding proceeded very quickly, probably 20 minutes or less. We went directly to our balcony room on deck 7 to dump our carry-ons, then went to the Windjammer for some lunch. It was OK, but here was not much that the kids liked. The last piece of luggage arrived shortly before dinner. Ship: The Splendour is obviously not brand new, but seemed well cared for. Less glitzy than Carnival , which is not a bad thing. I thought it had kind of an understated elegance. I liked the smaller size, as it didn't feel like a mile long hike to get from one end of the ship to the other. The pools, while not large, never seemed to get overly crowded, and I liked the "baby" section on the end of one as one could sit in it against the edge with a book when the sun got a bit overpowering. The solarium pool looked ok the couple of times I went in there, and very peaceful. It's nice they have a pool area that's adults only for those that can indulge. The solarium glass roof retracts, but was never open when I was there. The chaise lounges were definitely a step up from Carnival in quality. Clothes pins and those little black binder clips came in handy to keep towels in place. Other than the last day, it wasn't too hard to find at least a few chairs together to use. As usual, there were many chair hogs who would deposit something on the chair and disappear for hours. The ship policy said things would be removed after 2 hours but I never saw this actually happen. On the last day, there were articles left on some chairs next to us for at least 5 hours without anyone showing up. I was so, so sorely tempted to take all the stuff and just throw it overboard, but I managed to resist the urge. The kids missed the water slide from the Carnival Spirit. I did the rock wall climb twice. I was a little surprised as I had been expecting more of a beginner's or kid's wall, but it has varying routes, maybe 5 different degrees of difficulty. I had never climbed before, and it took me 2 tries to get to the top on the easiest route. The secret seems to be don't look up or down, just focus on where your hands have to go next. The one female instructor/spotter (Sarah?) appeared to be the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and could have a future as a drill instructor, as she's very motivating! The wall was generally open 3-4 hours a day, and it takes time for even a small group to go through. Other than the last day however, there did not seem to be a lot of people waiting. I played the golf putting course a few times including with my 12 year old. The bumps made it challenging. Again did not observe any long lines of people waiting. Minor ship design notes: The raised doorsills had little diagonal risers to them so you were less likely to trip on them. It constantly bugged me on the Spirit that the handrails in the hallways had flat butt end caps on them, so if you weren't paying attention walking with your hand on the rail you'd frequently whack your fingers into the next rail (ok, more frequently in the wee morning hours). The Splendour, to contrast, had rounded wood caps on the end of each rail. I did find it strange on the Splendour, that there were no rest rooms adjacent to the dining room, the theater, or the casino. You had to go up or down one flight of stairs in each case. We never encountered a significant wait for elevators. The kids camp program seemed ok. Not as good as Carnival's in terms of the activities or counselors, but certainly acceptable. We were able to give permission for our 8 year old to sign herself in and out which was convenient. The unattended Library was open all hours, and was comfortably furnished. They only carried hardcovers, no paperbacks, so I didn't check out any books. I had bought a number of used paperbacks at home before we left and managed to get through 5 of them on the flight down and on the cruise. As anyone with kids can appreciate, reading 5 novels in a week is a rare pleasure. Since the books were all reasonably priced, I would just leave them out in the common areas when finished with a note that they were free to a good home. They all seemed to disappear pretty quickly. Room: Highlight for us was probably the balcony. We liked having the sliding glass door, as opposed to the spring-loaded French door on Carnival. The balcony chairs were a step up from Carnival. I missed having a light on the balcony as I would sometimes use it to read late at night without disturbing anyone in the room. The privacy on the balcony was also not what we were used to, as the gaps on the edges of the side dividers made it risky to venture forth in one's underwear (or maybe less). Our two daughters had to share a fold-down couch which was not very large nor comfortable. We definitely missed the third bed that pulled down from the ceiling that we had on Carnival. This may have been available in other rooms based on some conversations I overheard. The bathroom was average, with the exception of the shower, which was pretty cramped. I had a hard time shaving my face, couldn't imagine trying to do one's legs in there. I liked the design touch of a small trough around the outside of the shower which drained away any water that escaped the curtain. The water pressure was strong, to the point that the water could splash out of the sink onto one's clothing, which of course I discovered on the first formal night. We were able to find enough storage space for the four of us (four large suitcases, a suit carrier, and 4 carry-ons), but it was tight, as expected. I thought there could have been more space designed into the cabin, for example, there was wasted space below the shelf under the sink in the bathroom, and there was a coffee table that took up a fair amount of floor space and constantly had to be moved, that could have had some storage space incorporated underneath. The ice bucket that comes with the room is pretty small and as I drink a lot of ice water, I asked our room steward, Carolina if I could get another one. She brought another plastic one which was standard size, and did a great job of keeping both of them filled, and her overall service for the week was excellent. Food: Most days, we only had breakfast and dinner. Breakfast buffet in the Windjammer was just so-so. The scrambled eggs, which I thought was a meal impossible to ruin, were pretty bad, mealy and watery. Bacon was crispy, which is how I like it, sausages and omelets, etc just ok. The coffee stations seemed to run out fairly regularly, and the kids were disappointed there was no chocolate milk at any of the meals. My wife and older daughter usually ordered room service breakfast which they found quite good, and the service was invariably prompt. I felt bad that I didn't realize the first couple of times that there was no gratuity included for the person delivering. We did have the lunch buffet once and it was all right. They don't seem to keep the food real hot at the buffet stations. I did like that all the stations were serve yourself, as opposed to some of the cafeteria style serving lines on Carnival. The burger grill by the Solarium was again just OK. The pizza there was nothing to write home about. Coming from upstate New York, where it seems there's a pizza parlor for every 15 residents, I was disappointed that I never once saw pepperoni or sausage on the offerings. Also missed the 24 hour availability on Carnival. The "Ice Cream" stations were limited to frozen yogurt, unless you wanted to spring for $2.89 a serving for Ben and Jerry's. Again, was not offered 24 hours. Dinners were consistently excellent. We had been assigned a great table at the early seating, a table for eight just as you walked in on the lower level right next to the windows. The dEcor was classy, and the service outstanding. I have never been on a cruise where the headwaiter was as visible and involved as on the Splendour. He was constantly checking on how things were going, and if we needed anything extra would chase it down. The rest of our wait staff was great also. No one at our table ever had a complaint about a meal. I would usually combine two entrees for a Surf and Turf offering and they were all excellent. I liked that they would offer to put the second main entrEe on the same plate, with just one set of sides. I am always impressed on these cruises as to how good the vegetables and other side dishes are, especially considering the volumes they have to produce in a limited time frame. There were two formal nights, which is two too many in my mind, but I was in the minority in out party. There seemed to be ample opportunities for photos, without having to stand in lines too long. Entertainment: I did not attend any of the ship shows, (I'm just not really that into them), but the rest of our party saw most of them. Reports indicated they were fair to good. According to every single woman in our party, the cruise director, - Rico - was HOT, and by the way, very competent. We ended up sharing a cab with him (and his naturally HOT friend) on the way to the beach in Costa Maya and he came across as very friendly. He seemed to enjoy his job and did well at it. We liked the casino, with the exception of all the mirrored walls. I would guess it was an effort to make the casino seem larger, but I found it confusing as it always looked like there was another part to the room., It probably doesn't help that I have a terrible sense of direction. Almost all the tables seemed to be $5 minimum, which is unusual these days. There were a couple of Caribbean Stud and 3-card poker tables, but no Let It Ride. Dealers were generally friendly and helpful. A few liked to deal high speed, which I don't care for. There were no automatic shufflers (thank you) and the blackjack tables seemed to be using about 6-7 decks. There was one sit-down BJ table that used one deck, but the payout rules were a little different so I didn't try it. I ended up a few hundred dollars ahead which of course made me like the place a little more ;) My wife played the slots and thought the selection and payouts were limited There was a nice bar adjacent to the casino called Schooners, that had a Piano player/singer who did requests every night. I thought the volume was a little loud, but maybe I'm just getting old. I visited the disco a couple of time after the casino closed which was generally about 1:30. Very nice spot, with 360 degrees of windows at the top of the ship. I was pleased to discover that a variety of beer in glass bottles was available throughout the Splendour, including not only Corona, but Red Stripe, Amstel Light, and a few others as well. Didn't do much for my vow to try and watch calories however. . .. We purchased pop cards (soda cards to non upstate-NYers) for the kids - about $35 ea including tip. They probably saved a few dollars but not a huge amount. My daughters just don't seem to drink that much soda on cruises for some reason. Unlike Carnival, pop is not included free at Dinner, so the cards helped there. Excursions: Our general plan - or lack thereof - was to book excursions at each port as we arrived and pretty much play it by ear. The ship excursions always involve a premium price, and more importantly to me, usually involve large crowds and standing in line, two things I will go to almost any extent to avoid on vacation. As we're always happy snorkeling or beaching it we can always find somewhere to go. There's not a lot of risk involved as long as you plan plenty of contingency time to get back to the ship on time. I must say this trip reinforced my inclination to avoid tender ports whenever possible. Georgetown, Grand Cayman (9-5): The ship newsletter had indicated that until 10:30, passengers would need to get tickets ahead of time by the pursers desk, and recommended that you get there early for tickets . Turned out that 10:30 was just an "estimate" and it probably wasn't until after 11:30 that you could get on without a ticket. We did go back to the purser's area for tickets and were able to depart a little after 11:00 Based on the favorable reviews I had seen on Captain Marvin's snorkel and stingray trip we planned to try them first for a family trip. Their office turned out to be a 5-6 block walk from our dock and naturally we missed their last boat that could have gotten us back on time by about 15 minutes. We then walked back to the dock and hooked up with Capt Harvey's boat. There were only about ten people on booked on the trip. On the short bus ride to the boat, it was easy to observe that there was still extensive amounts of damage from the August hurricanes, and this was on the leeward side from where they struck! The boat was a bit older, and the overall approach was pretty casual. There was no discussion of where the life jackets were located, and they did not close the rail openings for the gangways after we left the dock, so we had to keep a close eye on our daughters. There was a self-serve cooler on the front deck with some soda, water, small cups and ice. Captain Harvey claims to be the first person to start feeding the stingrays on the sandbar years ago. Both he and his first mate, a woman who had just moved from Boston to Grand Cayman late last year, were very helpful and friendly. They ended up having to resolve a dispute with some of the passengers, as a few had to be back early, while a couple of others claimed they were promised a snorkel stop in addition to the Stingray City excursion when they booked. The captain managed to make arrangements with another boat at the stingray sandbar to take back the couple that had the early departure time, so everything worked out. I had observed before that even though these boats are in competition for passengers, they usually cooperate in these types of situations which is nice. The Stingray City area was pretty crowded when we arrived, so the boat had to anchor in water 7-10 feet deep, then we swam maybe 20 feet to the sandbar. The water was clear and warm with nice soft sand on the bottom. The stingrays ranged up to about 4 feet across and would generally congregate around whoever had food. My 8 year old was pretty scared of them, but stayed in the water most of the time. The 12 year old was a little nervous at first but ended up having a wonderful time. This is definitely a worthwhile experience. As we were able to transfer our early-departing fellow passengers to the other boat, we also made a short stop at a nearby reef for some snorkeling. It was pretty good, nothing outstanding, and the whole family was able to participate. Capt. Harvey set the sail for the return trip, and came up on the front deck with his guitar and sang and told stories about the islands most of the way back. It was a nice relaxing conclusion to the afternoon, and we got back in plenty of time for the tender back to the ship. The line at the dock was not too long. I noticed that on the Princess dock next to us they had waiters circulating with trays of cold drinks for the people waiting which is a nice touch (hint, hint to RC). The other 2 couples in our group had taken a taxi to Seven Mile Beach and enjoyed a relaxing day there in front of one of the hotels. Costa Maya (10 - 6): The Splendour was the only ship in port this day, so we had the place pretty much to ourselves which was nice. The port area is new and clean, with numerous shops, a pool and manmade beach area. There was a shuttle service from the ship to the port, but most people were walking. We took a taxi van to the fishing village of Majuhual (also known as "downtown") for I think $4 per person. It was very hot, and the a/c in the taxi was pretty feeble. Thankfully it was a fairly short ride. I had heard you could walk it on a path from the port, but with the heat and various paraphernalia we were carrying, I don't think it would have been much fun. We also saw a number of people riding bikes on the road we took, and it looked like they were eating a lot of dust. Majuhual is basically a dirt/sand road, along the beach, with bar/restaurants and various vendors along each side. Very casual and laid back, although the vendors can be somewhat aggressive, but never threateningly so. Our friend tried to take a picture of the street, and a young man jumped into the picture and then proceeded to chase our friend down the street, claiming he was owed $10 for taking his picture! Our friend told the young man he owed us $10 for ruining his picture and just kept walking. We ended up at a restaurant right on the beach, just before Tapas. It's called El Faro, but I'm not sure the name is displayed anywhere. It has a thatched roof, with yellow umbrellas over the beach tables. The restrooms were clean (although there was no seat on the toilet in the ladies room). The service and food were good and the prices very reasonable. Six adults and two children spent the day there for about $60 with a fair number of drinks, and a little bit of food. One word of caution, when you're in the water watch where you put your feet -there are a number of spiny black sea urchins, including in the sea grass. The water is very shallow, and stays no more than chest deep out to a reef which is probably 150-200 yards from shore. The water past the reef was pretty rough the day we were there, so we did not try any snorkeling trips, even though they were available for $20-35. One of our party did try a 30 minute massage for $20 and thought it was well worth it. We walked up and down the road and bought a few souvenirs, but nothing substantial. Overall a very pleasant, relaxing day. We would definitely return here given the chance. Belize City (7 - 5): The tender situation again seemed to be not well communicated. My friend and I went down to the loading area some time after they were to have started open boarding and they were still just taking those that had booked ship excursions. We got lucky somehow, as we had taken the elevators that come out right at the boarding area, and one of the crewman let us on the second tender that came after we got there. It's a long, usually high speed tender trip to the dock. The cruise lines subcontract to a number of independents, so there is quite a varied flotilla between the ship and the cruise dock. The two of us had been considering the cave tubing, and we quickly found a representative from X-Stream tours who had been highly recommended on several cruise boards. The representative was friendly and knowledgeable. We would have had just enough time to make the cave tubing, but once he explained that between the 40 minute bus ride, the 20-30 minute walk thru the jungle, and the tubing itself we realized we were looking at a 5-6 hour commitment. It was a very hot day again, and visions of the broiling van ride on Costa Maya kept dancing thru my head. Neither my friend nor I had a strong preference either way, and we ended up deciding to just spend the day checking out the port for a little while, and then enjoying the ship minus the usual crowds. As there were only two sea days on the itinerary, this option had some attraction. We heard later that day that one of the cave tubing excursions – never heard which one – had 3 flat tires on the ride to the jungle walk, and after a combined 3 hours in delays, just bussed everyone back to town. So maybe our indecision was a sign from God. We heard mixed reviews from people that had taken the ship’s cave tubing trip, some thought it was just OK, others loved it. I also heard from one woman later, that the snorkeling on the ships trip had been outstanding. The reefs off Belize are quite a ways from shore (hence the long tender rides). We spent a couple of hours exploring the port area, did a little bit of shopping, a little drinking, a little shopping, a little more drinking….. In other words, shopping guy style ;) The shops right in the port area were nice, clean and low key., I commented as we were first looking around that it was a welcome change from some of the high pressure vendors in Costa Maya. But once we left the cruise port area and went into town, omigod what a difference. The vendors and “tour guides” – some of whom appeared less than savory – were extremely aggressive. Prices were very flexible, but we didn’t stay too long or venture too far. Particularly if you were by yourself, I’d recommend staying in the cruise port area, or taking a reputable excursion. The ship’s premium might be worth it here. We had a nice time at two of the bars at the cruise port – The Wet Lizard (or Wet the Lizard I’m not quite sure), and the Iguana Bar. The local beer is good and cheap, and there were some appealing drink specials as well. (To the guy at the Iguana bar who bought a round of 3 beers, and then took the change from a $5 bill – there’s a reason some people hate Americans). The rest of our party was leaving the ship on a tender just as the two of us were coming back. We all ended up meeting up midday back on the ship, and enjoyed hanging around the pool etc. with not too many people around. I took the opportunity to make my second assault on the rock wall without many spectators around to laugh at me! Cozumel (7 – 11): Our dock in Cozumel was not the one right in town, I don’t recall the name of it (there was a “1/2 Senor Frog’s” there), but it was maybe a 5-10 minute taxi ride into the main town area. Based on reviews that Dzul Ha was the best snorkeling spot and was accessible from shore, my wife and I decided to take our daughters there for the day. The cab ride was only a few dollars. It was nice little spot, there are a couple of small man-made beaches behind the breakwall with tables, stools and a few chaise lounges. Vests, fins, etc can be rented right there for reasonable prices.. As I was getting ready to go in, one of the waiters asked me not to put on suntan lotion as it is harmful to the reef/fish. First time I had heard of that, fortunately my back was already pretty tan by then as I had done few visits to a tanning salon in the month before we left. The (3-4) stairs into the water are along the wall, so you can use it to help keep your balance. Bare feet are ok for getting in, I put my fins in after walking out to about waist deep. Fish are visible almost immediately, but the real reef is about 40 yards out. I'm not a strong swimmer and made it 3-4 times without a problem, including with my 8 and 12 yr old daughters. The reef is extensive, and you will tend to drift a bit so pay attention to where you are. We saw a myriad of small to medium fish, not many large ones though. I followed two tips I saw on a message board. The first was to use baby shampoo as a defogger, instead of saliva. This worked great, my mask stayed crystal clear for the entire time I had the mask on each time. The second tip was to bring a small bottle of mouthwash get rid of the salt taste, supposedly by pouring it on the snorkel mouthpiece while in the water. I didn’t seem to have quite enough hands to do this, but did utilize it on shore to get rid of the salt taste in my mouth. There is a open air patio with a thatch roof for shade with some couches etc underneath, and clean restrooms across the street. Our daughters had some food there, and the total bill for the day was very reasonable. It was wonderful not having to rush back to the ship. We had a great time and would recommend this spot highly. The waiters did mention it was usually more crowded than it was on this day. We went back to the ship for dinner, then back out to the for some souvenir shopping in the port area. Mostly the same goods in the different shops and prices were negotiable. When we couldn’t find the right size of a light jacket for our older daughter, the sales person went from shop to shop to find the right one. Unfortunately we discovered after we set sail the next day that the zipper was defective. As usual, caveat emptor. The other members of our party had a Mexican dinner on shore and sampled the nightlife. Good times were reported. Speaking of sampling the nightlife, one passenger apparently indulged in a few too many samples. The next day, I was in line at the pursers desk behind the person reporting him as missing. Known widely throughout the ship as “ that dancing man”, he had not been seen since the ship left Cozumel the previous night. The desk attendant insisted he had gotten back on the ship based on the computerized tracking of the ship IDs as you leave and re-enter the ship. All during dinner that night, he was being paged to call the purser’s office, and people started wondering if he had fallen overboard or suffered some other mishap on ship. Debarkation: We had a flight late in the afternoon, but were still off the ship by 9:15. We spent maybe 20 minutes in line before getting to customs. Customs itself was a breeze, only took a few minutes, and found all our bags with no problem. We found a shuttle service right at the cruise port that was significantly cheaper than the service we used to get there. I don’t recall the name, but they had a small kiosk right by the exit. We were at the Tampa airport by 10:30. We tried to change to an earlier flight but they were all booked. AirTran would not take our luggage until 4 hours before flight time, so we spent a couple of ours dragging 8 pieces of luggage around. The automated ticket kiosks for Airtran were out of order when we returned and the counter attendants seemed at a loss as to what to do. For starters, maybe take down the sign directing people to get in line there? I was disappointed that there was no wireless internet access in the airport unless you paid for it at the adjoining Marriott. While we were hanging around, who did we run into but the missing “dancing man”! Turns out he lost track of time at Carlos and Charlie’s and missed the ship. He said it cost him about $2,000 extra to get back, between the 1 way air ticket, getting money wired to the American Embassy, etc. And that was with spending the night on the streets. The cruise agent in Cozumel emailed the ship, but apparently it was never received. It was reportedly the dreaded “computer glitch” that caused the ship’s computer to show him getting back on board. Oh well, all’s well that ends well. Summary: Overall had a great time, loved the ship, the staff and the dinners, while the Windjammer buffets could stand some enhancement. Would definitely do another Royal Caribbean cruise again, but would give Carnival a slight preference. Will do everything in my power to avoid tender ports in the future. Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
First to let you know this is the first review I've ever written and only doing so at the encouragement of others. I was worried about not having enough to say, but now I can't believe how I rambled on and on ... well here goes: ... Read More
First to let you know this is the first review I've ever written and only doing so at the encouragement of others. I was worried about not having enough to say, but now I can't believe how I rambled on and on ... well here goes: We are a couple ages 55 & 61 from New Jersey and have cruised well over a dozen times with various cruise lines such as Princess, Disney, Norwegian, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. This was our 2nd RCI cruise; the first was approx 10 years ago. I chose this cruise because of the full day stop in Belize as we had never been there before and I read on the cruise boards about the river cave tubing and wanted to give it a try. I find myself looking for itineraries with port stops we have not previously made. Special news on Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor & Celebrity's Captain's Club: It appears that the 2 clubs merged as of the first of the year (Captain's Club & Crown & Anchor) so we were automatically listed as "Diamond" level for this trip as we have many cruises with Celebrity ... that gave us a few nice perks, 20 minutes free Internet each, free fancy drink with souvenir glass each, matching Bingo play, free wine tasting coupon passes (Cost others $9.95 each), lots of Casino coupons, early disembarkation tags, VIP tender passes, a travel tote bag, etc. We flew in a day ahead, as we didn't want to gamble with Mother Nature and her passion for January snow storms in New Jersey. We stayed at the Tampa Airport Westshore Hilton and took their $5 pp shuttle van to the port. (Their shuttle from the airport to the hotel was free). Embarkation was a breeze; we arrived around noon, were second in line and were on the ship within 15 minutes of climbing out of the van. When you boarded, they did not have staff escort you to your cabin like some other lines do, which is fine with us, we like to go it on our own. The ship was built in 1996 and is beautiful, clean, easy to navigate around and very well maintained. Our cabin (Owners Suite #8000) was wonderful ... the bathroom was bigger than some cabins we have had in the past! It had a Jacuzzi tub and glass shower, double sinks, toilet and a bidet. We had booked the cruise back in May and the prices for suites were very reasonable at that time. We probably spend more time in our cabin than the average cruiser, so we went for the suite. The cruise line had a chilled bottle of wine waiting for us upon arrival and would deliver a tray of goodies in the afternoon; we never seemed to be in the cabin when they were delivered to see who was bringing them. I was surprised that we did not have a butler, (other cruise lines have butlers for the suite passengers) but our cabin attendant (His first name was Lukman) was wonderful and the concierge called us once to say hello and tell us to call if we needed anything ... I guess if there were alternative restaurants onboard and we needed reservations a concierge would come in handy ... also to book shore excursions, but we booked our own excursions privately before we left home, and were very glad we did. The ship's Stingray City tour in Grand Cayman was cancelled because of rough water. We booked ours with Captain Marvin, it was not cancelled and was fine, the water was a little rough, but in Stingray City you are only standing in water up to your waist, so no big deal that a wave came by every few seconds ... they also had a woman videographer on board Captain Marvin's boat who got into scuba gear and took photos of us from underwater while you snorkeled and interacted with the stingrays ... She worked for a company called "VIP." we ordered the DVD version and they mail it to you ($45 for VHS & $55 for DVD). We received it in the mail a few days after we got home and it is wonderful. It was sad to see how damaged Grand Cayman is, the port area is operating and most of the stores are open, but once you go outside the port area it's very bad. We have been to Grand Cayman many times and were shocked to see the damage. The Westin Hotel looks like the only one open. Roofs are missing from many buildings and trees are down everywhere. In Belize the ship's cave tubing excursion was cancelled due to high rough water, as they had heavy rains in Belize the day and night before we arrived .... the excursion we booked online with X-treme still went on as the water receded enough by 10 a.m. to make it a go ... in RCI's defense, they had to make the call the night before as to cancel or not to give everyone enough time to make other plans. The cave tubing was great, I would go again in a second ... my only complaint is that they took around 30 people and there were only 3 guides ... things were not as organized as they should have been and we were basically "winging it" on our own most of the time as we couldn't hear their instructions/directions as the group spread out on the way down the river ... the extra few inches of rain in Belize the day before resulted in all the water rushing down from the mountains into the river, so it was more like cave "white water" tubing ..... we could only do the one cave instead of the usual three because the water was so high in the other two caves that there was limited head clearance ... (There were no bats in the caves, I checked it out with my miners hat light) ... I guess the water gets so high in the caves quite often after a rain and the bats would be washed out, so I guess they live elsewhere or at least I hope so ... The hike to the cave tubing start point through the jungle was about 40-45 minutes (carrying your tube & life vest) and the jungle canopy was nice, gave you shade and made it comfortable ... only problem I ran into was some fire ants got my one ankle ... ouch! I thought Costa Maya was a waste, but that's my fault, I never did any research into what was available there. We never went into the town via bus or checked out any beaches away from the port area. The beach to the right (as you walked on the dock toward shore) was closed and to the left was very crowded (Grand Princess was docked with us). We found an umbrella and chairs on the beach near a square pool right on the shore/rocks and spent an hour or so there ... you couldn't swim there because the beach was all giant coral/rocks and rough waves and the square pool near us had all green furry slime in the bottom and was ice cold ... the other nicer pool was in the center of the mall type restaurant/shopping area and I felt like if I swam there I would be the entertainment for the masses, so we passed. We shopped a little then just went back on board. Cozumel we took a cab to Paradise Beach ($12 cab each way). We have already done a few of the ruins and tried Chankanaab Park on our last visit. Paradise Beach came recommended by some cruise board folks we spoke with so we figured we'd give it a try ... it was nice ... it was free and they had nice beach lounge chairs (similar to the ones on the ship) nice umbrellas and clean rest rooms all free to use, they just expected you to buy a beverage or a bite to eat, which was fine, sodas were only $2 ... nachos $6 ... (they were never pushy, the waiters just strolled around carrying a menu). They had snorkel equipment available for rent and a nice bar, also you could pay $5 and get a wrist band good for all non-motorized water sport items (floating trampoline, kayaks, rafts, etc.) but the water was a little rough and a bit cold, so I just got my feet wet. We did get a quick rain shower and the afternoon was very cloudy ... so we took a cab back to the ship and I shopped in the stores by the dock a little and after a very extensive bargaining session I got myself a nice gold bracelet with Australian opals in it ... I have always admired those opals so I figured why not! Back to the ship stuff: The dining room service at dinner (late seating, upper level, table #17) was consistently good, (Waiter Adrian & Asst. Waiter Brazilio) we had a great group at our round table of 8 ... a perfect table size for easy conversation ... we had many laughs during the week and we enjoyed their company very much. The waiter would bring out extra dinners for the center of the table for us to try. The nightly dinner selections were all right. The service was smooth even when some of us ordered 4 courses and others only 2. I did miss having fresh baked bread sticks (not offered) and just having the basket of bread on the table, the assistant waiter would come around with a tray/basket of bread to choose from, and he would place your selection on your bread plate. (I know, petty gripe.) At dinner later in the week they again had nothing that my other half would eat (he won't touch lamb, pork or fish) they always offered a chicken breast or a steak, but he already had resorted to that once already earlier in the week, so before anyone else arrived at our table I asked our waiter if he could have a filet mignon ... the waiter seemed nervous and said he would have to check with the head waiter ... then the head waiter came over and spoke with me and said he would check and see as it might not be available, be frozen, etc. ... I started feeling uncomfortable about even making the request and said never mind if it's too much bother, he would just have the chicken breast again ... the head waiter said no, that he would check ... and he came back and said it would be ok ... so he did get it, but they made you feel like you were really putting them out ... in the past on Celebrity when we asked for something special ... like shrimp cocktails every night and there was never a problem or discussion. We ate in the main (King & I) dining room for breakfast twice and lunch twice and I was very surprised that the service was poor 3 of the 4 times. The servers seemed frazzled and understaffed. The lunch menu was the same all week with one or two additions they would stick on the bottom of the menu on a separate paper. I enjoyed a few of the lunch selections very much, but wished the menu varied more daily. The food on the breakfast and lunch buffets was not as good as I thought it could have been or had experienced on other cruise lines, (except for the lamb chops one day at lunch which were quite good) the food was rarely hot and very strange combinations and selections ... I was looking forward to those flaky croissants at breakfast that I've grown to love on Celebrity, but theirs were terrible ... after a few days I would have killed for a glass of orange juice at breakfast that wasn't watered down beyond recognition ... the Windjammer coffee machine was often empty and decaf & ice tea very strong ... the pizza in the Solarium pool was pretty good, lots of cheese ... We never tried the hamburgers or hot dogs ... but many people did. We were disappointed that the water in the indoor Solarium pool was so cold and the outdoor pool was even colder ... while relaxing on chairs in the Solarium the first sea day we observed many people put their feet in the water, saw their shocked facial expression and watched them turn around and leave ... we didn't use the rock climbing wall or the miniature golf course, but many folks did ... they held art auctions in the Atrium area, we passed on them ... I lost a little money in the casino (tight slots) ... the comedy shows (Yakov Smirnoff -- Monday night, Tom Parks -- Thursday night & Chuck Gunter -- Friday night) were good ... at times I was laughing so hard I was crying!!! The Jump Jive & Swing show (Sunday night) was fair, we didn't go to the Tuesday night show, they had a female singer (Elaine Lesley) or the Wednesday night production show (Make Mine Broadway) so can't comment on those. The pool area musical group was the standard on most ships with the exception of the one singer who when I first heard him I thought they were hosting a bad Karaoke contestant. We did not attend the Bingo sessions, but they pushed them every chance they got ... some folks complained about the price to play. In the hot tub one afternoon we met the lucky couple that won the Caribbean Cruise for two ... that was a great Bingo prize and they couldn't have been happier. The last night the Bingo jackpot was over $5000 and we heard that two people split it. An improvement they could make was the luggage delivery system (or lack of it). While we got our luggage within an hour of boarding (I'm sure the tags marked "Suite" made the difference) other luggage stood everywhere on carts outside the passenger elevator areas blocking access to the elevators and stairs for what seemed like the entire afternoon. Some folks didn't get their luggage until well after 6:30 that night. We attended the Meet & Mingle on Sunday night as scheduled (we had received an email before we left home with the date, time and location) but the ship's staff had not been aware of the event so they had nothing ready for us ... we still enjoyed chatting with everyone we had met on the cruise boards and it was fun to match the names with the faces. To make it up to us, the ship's staff planned another M&M later in the week and delivered invitations to our cabins, so we would be sure to attend. They had soft drinks and snacks and gave away a few prizes. Since we were traveling alone it was nice to see & compare cruise notes with people around the ship that we had met at the M&M. A few of the more experienced RCI cruisers who seemed not entirely happy with Splendour of the Seas filled us in on the better amenities on many of RCI's other ships and suggested we give them a try. We had a 2 p.m. flight home so we hung around on the ship and actually got to be the last ones off ... at 10:10 a.m. They were about to close the gangway ... I kept asking people for my special prize for being last off the ship and got nothing ... go figure! All in all we had a good time & met many nice people. I enjoy a few things about Celebrity a bit better, but if I saw an extra special itinerary on one of their larger ships I'd give RCI another try. Read Less
Sail Date January 2005
Just returned from a 7 night cruise with Royal Caribbean on Splendour of the Seas. We went to Key West; Costa Maya, Mexico; Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico. We had a wonderful time! The ship -- I think this was one of Royal Caribbean's ... Read More
Just returned from a 7 night cruise with Royal Caribbean on Splendour of the Seas. We went to Key West; Costa Maya, Mexico; Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico. We had a wonderful time! The ship -- I think this was one of Royal Caribbean's smaller ships, and it's about 8 years old. The room -- to save some money we got an inside room. It was the larger one, but it was still quite compact. We really didn't spend too much time in the room, so it was ok, but I think next time we will get a balcony room, or at least oceanview. Balcony rooms were across the hall from us, and they looked so much nicer and roomier. The room had everything we needed, but its decor could use some updating. Meals -- We ate so much! They had a dining room (no specialty restaurants), buffet restaurant, and various places where you could get snacks throughout the day. The service and food in the dining room (The King and I) for dinner was great. They changed the menu daily which was nice. My fiance really enjoyed ordering more than one appetizer and meal so he could try different things. We mostly went to the buffet (Windjammer) for breakfast and it was pretty good. They had a large variety. I particularly liked the made-to-order omelets. I wasn't very impressed with their lunch buffets, but we were only on the ship for lunch the 2 days we were at sea, so it wasn't so bad. Drinks -- There are bars everywhere. The drink prices were similar to what we would find in DC, so it wasn't cheap, but not ridiculous either. We didn't drink too much, but they had drinks of the day that were pretty good, and I really enjoyed the strawberry daiquiris and margaritas! There are plenty of things to do on the ship to keep you occupied. There were two pools and Jacuzzis. They had lots of games by the pool, a rock climbing wall, putt putt course (I love miniature golf and play often, but the course really wasn't much to speak of), ping pong, shuffleboard, casino (lost too much money!), Bingo (also lost!) and shows in the theatre. They had a dance club open at night, and we went there 2 nights, but it was never very hoppin'. We went to two of the shows and they were pretty good -- one had snippets from different Broadway shows, and the other one we went to was a comedian/impressionist. Now on to the what I think is the most important thing -- the ports. We started off in Tampa. Boarding the ship didn't take as long as I thought it would. I would say that we were on the ship within an hour. Our next destination was Key West. I was very disappointed because we were originally supposed to go to Grand Cayman, but because of the hurricane rebuilding they were limiting the number of ships that could dock there. Grand Cayman was one of the main reasons we chose this cruise. (We booked last January!) Well, I shouldn't complain, because we were still on a cruise! I had been to Key West before, but my fiance had not. We docked there so it only took about 15-20 minutes to get off the ship. It was quite chilly (low 60's) for the Keys. Most people who planned to do water sports didn't end up doing them. Luckily we had just planned to tour the island and do some shopping. We took a trolley tour which was nice because it took you to all the different parts of the island and you could get on and off as you please. Key West is a very fun place with bars everywhere, definitely a party scene. We went to the different shopping areas, saw Hemingway's house, the southernmost point of the US, had lunch and some drinks. Their beaches aren't much to speak of, but if it had been warmer, it would have been nice to just hang out at one. Our next stop was Costa Maya. Our ship docked here also, so it was pretty easy getting off and back on the ship. This is a relatively new port for the cruise ships, and is really only being developed now. There were a few shops and restaurants in the port, along with some nice pools. We took an excursion through the ship to Mayan ruins of Chaccoben for the morning that we were there. It was beautiful, and it was nice to see the sight, but I don't think it was worth the $65 per person that we paid. I think we would have preferred just to get transportation there and walk around ourselves without a tour guide or tour group. Friends we met on the ship went to the Tulum ruins near Cozumel which are right on the water, and those seemed much more breathtaking. We will go there next time! In the afternoon in Costa Maya we took a taxi to the neighboring fishing village which had a nice beach, some shops and pretty good snorkeling. You had to take a 10 minute boat ride to the reef which cost $15 per person. It was nice and there were lots of fish (but nothing I hadn't seen before, but I have snorkeled in lots of places in the Caribbean). The water was pretty rough that day so we were tired out by the time our hour was up. I think it was definitely worth the time and money. The next stop was Belize. The ships have to anchor about 30 minutes from shore there because it's too shallow to dock. The tender ride was the biggest pain. We got to the tendering area at 8 a.m. thinking we would have plenty of time to make to our 10 a.m. excursion that we had booked outside of the ship excursions. We finally got on a tender at about 9:30, and barely made it to our tour! We booked a snorkeling excursion through Coral Breeze which I found on the internet. The trip was for snorkeling at a coral reef, snorkeling and swimming with sharks and stingrays in shark/ray alley, and lunch at a small island called Caye Caulker. The snorkeling was very disappointing, especially after all the good things I had heard about snorkeling and diving in Belize. They took us to Coral Gardens and we had to snorkel in a "trail" following in a line behind the guide and other snorkelers. I had never followed a guide before, just kind of snorkeled about on my own on these sorts of trips before. Most all of the coral were dead, and we didn't see hardly any fish -- mostly I just saw bubbles from the person in front of me kicking their flippers, even though I tried to keep a large space between us. They even had us snorkel where it was only about 3 feet deep, which I didn't think was very safe with there being fire coral around. Our next stop was shark/ray alley, which I thought made the trip worth it, even though the snorkeling wasn't great. We stopped in an area that was about 3-5 feet deep (no coral around) and the crew put out bait to attract the rays and nurse sharks. There were tons of rays and I saw two sharks. If you were standing they would swim between your legs! I snorkeled for part of the time and they would come right up to you and let you pet them. It was a great experience. I took about 20 pictures with my underwater camera! This stop really made the trip. We then went to Caye Caulker and had lunch. I got a chicken sandwich, and it was ok. It was nice to relax for a little while on the island before heading back to Belize City. When we got back to the port we just did some last minute shopping and headed back to the ship. I would really like to return to Belize someday to visit the jungle and find better snorkeling spots. Cozumel l-- This was our last stop and the best day of our trip. We had from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the island, so it was nice not to be rushed. We just decided to spend the day exploring on our own. We took a $12 taxi ride to Playa San Francisco which was recommended in my guidebook for snorkeling from the beach. The beach was beautiful, we actually ended up on the adjacent beach called Paradise Beach. I highly recommend it. We liked it so much we just stayed there all day. There was a bar/restaurant there, free (comfortable!) lounge chairs and umbrellas. We got there at about 9 and had the place basically to ourselves for the next two hours. Then other people started rolling in after 11, but it still wasn't too crowded (and there were tons of ships in port that day). There was one section of the beach that had a trampoline and floating climbing wall for the kids, but we stayed on the other side of the beach which was much quieter. We had a great Mexican lunch and margaritas at the restaurant there. They also had a pool and clean bathrooms at this beach. But the best part was the snorkeling! You just go right from the beach and they have a snorkeling area roped off. The only bad part was that I got stung by a jellyfish (I only saw a few small ones), but it wasn't bad enough to keep me out of the water! My fiance saw a lobster and eel, but I wasn't lucky enough to see them too. Later on when we were snorkeling together, we saw a starfish, what I think was a flounder or something similar, which when he saw us buried himself in the sand for camouflage. We snorkeled to the edge of the roped off area and found a huge piece of brain coral and there were tons of colorful fish swimming around it. It was the best thing I had ever seen. There had to have been at least 10 different kinds of fish there. I saw a few I had never seen, including an interesting medium sized brown and white spotted fish that I'm trying to figure out what it's called. Now I will stop going on and on about snorkeling! We stayed at the beach until about 5 and went back to the port area for shopping and dinner. Cozumel was our favorite port, and we plan to take a trip back there one day. Our last day at sea we just relaxed and played some Bingo and spent too much money in the casino. Unfortunately it was too cold and windy to sit by the outdoor pool. Getting off the ship went a lot more smoothly than I expected. We were through customs and had our luggage within about 45 minutes or less. We have decided that we will definitely cruise again, but probably upgrade to a nicer room, and also to a newer and/or bigger ship. We'll stick to Royal Caribbean or try out Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date December 2004
Hello to all!!! This was our first time cruising with Royal Caribbean and we were very happy with this cruise line. We have cruised with with many other lines before, but I enjoyed this ship the most so far (with the exception of the ... Read More
Hello to all!!! This was our first time cruising with Royal Caribbean and we were very happy with this cruise line. We have cruised with with many other lines before, but I enjoyed this ship the most so far (with the exception of the Delta Steam Boat Company, you have to try this one in one word -- AMAZING). Boarding in Barcelona was quick and easy, very efficient. We got to our room and the lay-out was nice, room was clean and our cabin steward was very attentive. Our first port was Marseilles, France, and the ship was docked quite far from town and we were bussed in to the city. Marseilles has a beautiful port but we decided not hang around too long and went back to the ship and relaxed had a soda and sat at the Atrium Pool which was beautiful. The pool is glass enclosed with Roman statues and lots of marble throughout. By the way, this is an adult only pool but these rules are not enforced and sometimes there are far too many kids running around. Our next port was Villefranche, France, and I'd swear that Catalina Island was designed after Villefranche. What a beautiful and tranquil little town to walk around, shop and people watch. Also they have some of the best pastries i've ever had!!! We had a shore excursion to Les Baux Provence and what a wonderful place this is. A small town built in the 11th Century (I think) with winding cobblestone streets and a lot of history plus lots of little shops that you can find all kinds of knickknacks. A must see. Our next day was Florence, Italy (we actually docked in Livorno and took a bus for an hour). Lots of shops and leather, leather, leather everywhere. Florence is absolutely one of the most beautiful cities that I've ever seen, and at times there was sensory overload (my neck still hurts from looking up all the time). My wife and I walked up the Campanile (the bell tower) with 420 very narrow stairs up, and we got to the top just as the bell tolled at 12:00 noon. Now here was a bone jarring experience and very cool. Roaming around Florence is like stepping back in time. There are so many excursions available in Florence and so little time. Our next port was Rome, Italy, where we docked in Cittivechia and were bussed into Rome. The bus took almost 1 1/2 hours to get there and we were dropped off not far form the Vatican and what a sight this is!!! We just happened to be there on the day for the Pope's 25th anniversary and the place was packed (we also got to see the Pope). Next we got into the que to get into The Vatican Museum which was approx. 3/4 of a mile long but went very fast. Just a suggestion, folks like to stand VERY close to you and if you are like me, I'm not very comfortable with people hovering over me so my wife being the genius that she is opened her umbrella to give us a little more space (by the way, it was not raining at the time -- just some mist). Vatican City and The Sistine Chapel were everything I've ever dreamed of and more and could of stayed there for hours but there was much more to see!!! We hit all the usual sights, Plaza Navonno, the Trevi Fountain, Coliseum, etc., Again sensory overload. By the way, our tour guide told us the BEST pizza is in Rome and I'm glad that she enjoyed it but my wife and I both thought it was terrible. Whew -- there's still more. The next day we were in Naples, Italy, where we hiked up Mount Vesuvius and what a breathtaking hike this was, literally. From the top of this extinct Volcano you can see all of Naples and the bus ride up to the Volcano is a little nerve-wracking, tight turns in a big bus. A little note, there is an additional charge of 6 Euros to reach the summit of Vesuvius in which the ship doesn't tell you about. After this we went to a cameo factory where we got to see an artisan create a cameo before us. They also sell cameo's in this factory but they are way over-priced. Then we went to Pompeii and took a tour but our tour guide was going way too fast and we were constantly chasing after him. By the way, do not get lost in Pompeii or you just might not find your way out. Finally we docked in Barcelona, Spain, and spent the next day sightseeing, feeding pigeons in Placa Catalunia -- a must-see just for fun and running around the Gothic Quarter. Overall I would have to say that this trip was amazing and Royal Caribbean did a fantastic job. We will defiintely will be cruising with Royal again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2004
We arrived a day early and spent the night at the Harbor House Hotel. It was our second stay there and would recommend it to everyone, large, nice rooms and a very pleasant and helpful staff. It is so nice to see the ships come and go from ... Read More
We arrived a day early and spent the night at the Harbor House Hotel. It was our second stay there and would recommend it to everyone, large, nice rooms and a very pleasant and helpful staff. It is so nice to see the ships come and go from your room window and being so close to everything makes it especially nice. On the day of departure, we drove to the pier, dropped off the wife and the luggage and drove back to the Harbor House to park. Then I walked back to the terminal where we waited for around 30 minutes before they allowed us to start boarding, which I must say was the quickest and best we have ever encountered. They even served us lemonaide or water while we waited. After boarding the ship, we went to our room to drop off our carry-on luggage when there was a knock on the door, our luggage was there and it was only 12:10. Another first...way to go RCI. After that we went to the Windjammer and met with some fellow CC members for lunch. I don't understand why we have heard so many people complain about the food while on board. We found everything good, well presented and warm. The only complaint we have on the food is that there was no lobster night. Ooops, we didn't try the dreaded Ranch Steak but heard it was not too good from those who did try it. I don't know why RCI doesn't remove that from the menu, heck, they could replace it with anything. Now for the service: we have only sailed on the Rhapsody twice before so our cruise experience is not bountiful, but we found EVERYONE on board extremely courteous, friendly, and happy. The service we received was FANTASTIC. These people just couldn't do enough it seemed. Our Waiter "Adrian" was exceptional, Peter our asst. waiter was terrific, and our Head Waiter was the best we have ever had. The bar tenders were very nice but we were very dissappointed with the drinks served around the pool. They were small and served in a little plastic glass which I think of as a juice size glass. There were no souvineer glasses like on our previous cruises which is another thing we did not like. All of our days at sea were great even though we had somewhat rough seas. The ships sailed smoothly but there was a constant vibration at all times while on board. It is something they are aware of but I do not think that they are concerned about fixing the problem. It reminded me of the stories I had heard about Carnival's Celebration last year. I find that a shame. Now for the BAD News: when arriving in the port of Cozumel, the Captain made a severe turn during the time we were eating breakfast. There was total mayhem, dishes, plates and silverware flew off the tables, crashing and breaking on the floors. Some glassware even flew off the balcony and landed on top of the Grand Piano on the main dining area. Chairs oveturned sliding across the aisles. Many people were literally scared to death. Needless to say, breakfast was a long time coming and we were told by the waiters that the kitchen was a huge mess, I can only imagine, but I do know that they ran low on ketchup and steak sauce as most of it was broken when it fell from the pantry. Almost forgot, we were 2 1/2 hours late arriving in Cozumel, which was not good news for anyone having excursions and especially bad for those of us who had booked them independently. It is my feeling that us being late was in a big way the fault of the captain, but I must repeat, we did have some rough seas and some large winds also, so I cannot blame him entirely. I did notice however that during the night we were cruising at a speed of 19.2 knots which is below normal cruising speed. We booked our excursion with Adrian Romero, which was an all day excursion which included, a little shopping, a tour of the island, visiting his restaurant, the tortilla factory, a two reef snorkel, I can't tell you how many margaritas, lunch at coconuts, and then he returned us to the terminal. Adrian is one terrific guy and would reccomend him to anyone. More BAD NEWS, the next stop was Costa Maya, well we arrived there but could not dock, even after two attempts, so we were taken back to Cozumel for about a 4 hour stop that afternoon. What bothers me most about this is that I have learned from a friend in Majahual (nitrogenaddict) that two other ships were able to dock that day. I have been told that had we waited another 10 minutes we would have been able to dock. That I definately blame on our Captain, one with whom I will NEVER SAIL WITH AGAIN. Don't get me wrong, we love RCI, just not the Spendour or the Captain. If you have any questions feel free to email me and ai will try to answer. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
Background: we are late 40's and experienced cruisers on HAL, Celebrity, NCL, and RCI. This was a good value (at the deeply discounted rate we booked). Embarkation was smooth. We had an inside cabin. Very small compared to other ... Read More
Background: we are late 40's and experienced cruisers on HAL, Celebrity, NCL, and RCI. This was a good value (at the deeply discounted rate we booked). Embarkation was smooth. We had an inside cabin. Very small compared to other lines, but adequate even for the long itinerary and all our scuba gear. Cabin steward was excellent; room service was timely and room service food was good. Ship was clean and well maintained. Lots to do onboard: good gym, rockwall, minigolf, lots of hottubs, nice sauna, etc. Solarium allows for hot tubbing & swimming regardless of weather. Fun dance lessons, games at the pool, and fitness reward program. Ship's crew provided excellent service all-around. Passengers were great. All ages represented, although there were very few children. A good crowd; mostly from Texas and the midwest mainly...very friendly and accommodating to fellow passengers and crew. None of the rude and spoiled bunch from NY and NJ I keep seeing on the Florida departures. I'm going to start cruising more out of Texas for this reason alone. Food was good (not great) in both dining room and buffet. Not near as good as Celebrity or HAL, but overall tasty and well presented. Entertainment was mediocre. Broadway group was average, singers were mediocre, magician was pretty good. Poolside band good. The Panama Canal schedule is fantastic. We zip-lined in Costa Rica (outstanding), cave-tubed in Belize (lots of fun), scuba dived in Cozumel and Georgetown (always great). We stayed onboard in Panama and enjoyed the transit. Costa Maya was disappointing for me: the "Blue Haven" dive shop was poor; do not dive with this bunch; overloaded boats, poor transport arrangements, too fast below the water. I wish I had followed my wife around while she shopped (she doesn't dive rough water) and smoked a cigar and sipped a cerveza fria! You WILL enjoy this ship and this itinerary. Small cabins and mediocre entertainment are more than offset by great service, good chow, and so much to do onboard and at the ports. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
We had a great cruise and the Splendour is a beautiful ship. It is easy to get around in and we loved the solarium. One complaint we had was that the Windjammer Cafe was quite crowded and it was not easy to find a table while balancing a ... Read More
We had a great cruise and the Splendour is a beautiful ship. It is easy to get around in and we loved the solarium. One complaint we had was that the Windjammer Cafe was quite crowded and it was not easy to find a table while balancing a plate. The coffee and drinks area is very congested and not easy for the crew to keep clean. We had a nice group for our dinner partners and enjoyed each evening. The theater was one of the best we have been in and the seating comfortable, and it was easy to see from almost every seat. We were somewhat disappointed with some of the entertainment, comparing it with other ships. The ping pong was set up very well and lots of people participated in this sport. Thanks RCCL. Other ships seem to leave this as one of the last things on their list of doing better. Since this was a long cruise, we missed the washer/dryer that other ships have, but notice that more and more a getting rid of this convenience. Too bad. We had the unpleasant experience of not getting one of our luggage pieces. It had arrived at the port in time but failed to get put on the ship. The purser helped us out but we assumed it was the fault of the airlines, and all along it was the cruise ship that had let the ball drop. Food was ok. The beef was often tough, but tasted good. Would like to suggest senior servings as it seems like alot of food is wasted. Breads were great. The cabin crew were wonderful. One of the entertainers dialog was somewhat distasteful. Especially liked the 2 from Ireland, who played the guitar and violin. The Panama Canal was quite interesting and exciting to see. We could not hear the narrator or the announcements in our cabin, which was annoying. The side trips we arranged on our own were more that we expected. We went cave/tubeing and Zip line zipping in the treetops. Wonderful. Great trip. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
Galveston: We stayed the night before at the Moody Gardens hotel, it was beautiful. They have a free shuttle to and from the pier and the car was kept in their gated parking garage. We paid about $119 for 1 night. Embarkation: This was ... Read More
Galveston: We stayed the night before at the Moody Gardens hotel, it was beautiful. They have a free shuttle to and from the pier and the car was kept in their gated parking garage. We paid about $119 for 1 night. Embarkation: This was the easiest of all 4 cruises we have been on. The people were very friendly and the process was fast and easy! Our room: H 3610 on deck 3. The room was clean and nice. It had a little less storage than some ships we had been on, but it was still enough. Our room did not have a couch, just a chair. We found the room a little stuffy and wished we had brought a small fan with us. The bed was really uncomfortable, I have never slept so bad in my life. Finally after 4 nights of no sleep we requested an additional mattress. We should have done that after night one! They were very helpful with this request and it was taken care of promptly. My only real complaint was the location of the room. We were 1 room from being the last room on the floor! The closest elevator is mid-ship and those long hallways made me feel very Claustrophobic and trapped. The ship: The ship has been fitted with a rock wall and minigolf course. The atrium was very pretty and open. The study has the most comfortable chairs on board. Everything looked to be in good shape and was clean. The bathroom layout was very strange. Many of the public rooms including the dining room and theatre do not have bathrooms near them, you have to take the elevator to them! Dining: The food was good. I thought Celebrity Cruises had much better food. The windjammer was where we ate lunch and breakfast. They did a good job of keeping the food on the buffet hot. The King and I dining room was good, the asst. waitress was not very good. She was very distracted and did a lousy job of filling up our waters. The waiter did a nice job, but he had to pick up a lot of slack for the asst. Basically, we did not find anybody raving about the food, but people thought it was good. We heard several mention other RCCL ships had better food. The passengers: There was a lot more young couples on this cruise, some kids, and a pretty even mix of the rest. Cruising out of Texas was much more casual than our previous cruises. We saw lots more jeans and t-shirts than ever before. This cruise also had a ton of smokers. The smokers we saw all stayed on the smoking side and were respectful, but the ship was still quite smokey! Entertainment: It was great! We enjoyed all of the shows and there was a great mix of comedians, magicians, singers, piano players and production shows. We had a very nice time and enjoyed the cruise, we got the cruise for an amazing price, so we got our moneys worth! Read Less
Sail Date December 2003
Cruise Review: Royal Caribbean Splendour of the Seas Western Caribbean 3/5/2005 - 3/12/2005 Party consisted of my wife and I with our 8 and 12 year old daughters, and two other couples, in 3 adjoining balcony rooms. All adults are ... Read More
Cruise Review: Royal Caribbean Splendour of the Seas Western Caribbean 3/5/2005 - 3/12/2005 Party consisted of my wife and I with our 8 and 12 year old daughters, and two other couples, in 3 adjoining balcony rooms. All adults are "barely past our forties". Previous cruises include NCI Norway, Carnival Imagination (both adults only) and last 2 years on Carnival Spirit, with daughters. Comparison comments will generally relate to last 2 trips on Carnival Spirit. This was our third cruise booked thru vacationstogo.com who we have had very good experience with. We flew from Rochester, NY to Tampa the day before, out of respect for winter weather in the Northeast. As one of our companions graciously provided overnight accommodations from her Marriott miles, we stayed at a Marriott Residence Inn. The Marriott properties close to the Cruise Port were booked so we ended up about 20-30 minutes from the port and airport. The Residence Inn was a great place to stay, we just hung around the pool, and that night ordered dinner delivered from Dine-One-One which offers selections from numerous area restaurants. The only downside was that taxi and limo/shuttle service in the Tampa area is relatively expensive and options are limited. Embarkation: We arrived at the Tampa cruise port about 1:15 and waited about 15 minutes for the rest of our party to arrive. Due to the height of the causeway bridge, the largest cruise ships cannot get in, and the port is smaller and way less hectic than Miami. The various employees we encountered seemed significantly more pleasant and helpful as well. We had completed our RCI pre-boarding forms online and boarding proceeded very quickly, probably 20 minutes or less. We went directly to our balcony room on deck 7 to dump our carry-ons, then went to the Windjammer for some lunch. It was OK, but here was not much that the kids liked. The last piece of luggage arrived shortly before dinner. Ship: The Splendour is obviously not brand new, but seemed well cared for. Less glitzy than Carnival , which is not a bad thing. I thought it had kind of an understated elegance. I liked the smaller size, as it didn't feel like a mile long hike to get from one end of the ship to the other. The pools, while not large, never seemed to get overly crowded, and I liked the "baby" section on the end of one as one could sit in it against the edge with a book when the sun got a bit overpowering. The solarium pool looked ok the couple of times I went in there, and very peaceful. It's nice they have a pool area that's adults only for those that can indulge. The solarium glass roof retracts, but was never open when I was there. The chaise lounges were definitely a step up from Carnival in quality. Clothes pins and those little black binder clips came in handy to keep towels in place. Other than the last day, it wasn't too hard to find at least a few chairs together to use. As usual, there were many chair hogs who would deposit something on the chair and disappear for hours. The ship policy said things would be removed after 2 hours but I never saw this actually happen. On the last day, there were articles left on some chairs next to us for at least 5 hours without anyone showing up. I was so, so sorely tempted to take all the stuff and just throw it overboard, but I managed to resist the urge. The kids missed the water slide from the Carnival Spirit. I did the rock wall climb twice. I was a little surprised as I had been expecting more of a beginner's or kid's wall, but it has varying of routes, maybe 5 different degrees of difficulty. I had never climbed before, and it took me 2 tries to get to the top on the easiest route. The secret seems to be don't look up or down, just focus on where your hands have to go next. The one female instructor/spotter (Sarah?) appeared to be the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and could have a future as a drill instructor, as she's very motivating! The wall was generally open 3-4 hours a day, and it takes time for even a small group to go through. Other than the last day however, there did not seem to be a lot of people waiting. I played the golf putting course a few times including with my 12 year old. The bumps made it challenging. Again did not observe any long lines of people waiting. Minor ship design notes: the raised doorsills had little diagonal risers to them so you were less likely to trip on them. It constantly bugged me on the Spirit that the handrails in the hallways had flat butt end caps on them, so if you weren't paying attention walking with your hand on the rail you'd frequently whack your fingers into the next rail (ok, more frequently in the wee morning hours). The Splendour, to contrast, had rounded wood caps on the end of each rail. I did find it strange on the Splendour, that there were no rest rooms adjacent to the dining room, the theater, or the casino. You had to go up or down one flight of stairs in each case. We never encountered a significant wait for elevators. The kids camp program seemed ok. Not as good as Carnival's in terms of the activities or counselors, but certainly acceptable. We were able to give permission for our 8 year old to sign herself in and out which was convenient. The unattended Library was open all hours, and was comfortably furnished. They only carried hardcovers, no paperbacks, so I didn't check out any books. I had bought a number of used paperbacks at home before we left and managed to get through 5 of them on the flight down and on the cruise. As anyone with kids can appreciate, reading 5 novels in a week is a rare pleasure. Since the books were all reasonably priced, I would just leave them out in the common areas when finished with a note that they were free to a good home. They all seemed to disappear pretty quickly. Room: Highlight for us was probably the balcony. We liked having the sliding glass door, as opposed to the spring-loaded French door on Carnival. The balcony chairs were a step up from Carnival. I missed having a light on the balcony as I would sometimes use it to read late at night without disturbing anyone in the room. The privacy on the balcony was also not what we were used to, as the gaps on the edges of the side dividers made it risky to venture forth in one's underwear (or maybe less). Our two daughters had to share a fold-down couch which was not very large nor comfortable. We definitely missed the third bed that pulled down from the ceiling that we had on Carnival. This may have been available in other rooms based on some conversations I overheard. The bathroom was average, with the exception of the shower, which was pretty cramped. I had a hard time shaving my face, couldn't imagine trying to do one's legs in there. I liked the design touch of a small trough around the outside of the shower which drained away any water that escaped the curtain. The water pressure was strong, to the point that the water could splash out of the sink onto one's clothing, which of course I discovered on the first formal night. We were able to find enough storage space for the four of us (four large suitcases, a suit carrier, and 4 carry-ons), but it was tight, as expected. I thought there could have been more space designed into the cabin, for example, there was wasted space below the shelf under the sink in the bathroom, and there was a coffee table that took up a fair amount of floor space and constantly had to be moved, that could have had some storage space incorporated underneath. The ice bucket that comes with the room is pretty small and as I drink a lot of ice water, I asked our room steward, Carolina if I could get another one. She brought another plastic one which was standard size, and did a great job of keeping both of them filled, and her overall service for the week was excellent. Food: Most days, we only had breakfast and dinner. Breakfast buffet in the Windjammer was just so-so. The scrambled eggs, which I thought was a meal impossible to ruin, were pretty bad, mealy and watery. Bacon was crispy, which is how I like it, sausages and omelets, etc just ok. The coffee stations seemed to run out fairly regularly, and the kids were disappointed there was no chocolate milk at any of the meals. My wife and older daughter usually ordered room service breakfast which they found quite good, and the service was invariably prompt. I felt bad that I didn't realize the first couple of times that there was no gratuity included for the person delivering. We did have the lunch buffet once and it was alright. They don't seem to keep the food real hot at the buffet stations. I did like that all the stations were serve yourself, as opposed to some of the cafeteria style serving lines on Carnival. The burger grill by the Solarium was again just OK. The pizza there was nothing to write home about. Coming from upstate New York, where it seems there's a pizza parlor for every 15 residents, I was disappointed that I never once saw pepperoni or sausage on the offerings. Also missed the 24 hour availability on Carnival. The "Ice Cream" stations were limited to frozen yogurt, unless you wanted to spring for $2.89 a serving for Ben and Jerry's. Again, was not offered 24 hours. Dinners were consistently excellent. We had been assigned a great table at the early seating, a table for eight just as you walked in on the lower level right next to the windows. The dEcor was classy, and the service outstanding. I have never been on a cruise where the headwaiter was as visible and involved as on the Splendour. He was constantly checking on how things were going, and if we needed anything extra would chase it down. The rest of our wait staff was great also. No one at our table ever had a complaint about a meal. I would usually combine two entrees for a Surf and Turf offering and they were all excellent. I liked that they would offer to put the second main entrEe on the same plate, with just one set of sides. I am always impressed on these cruises as to how good the vegetables and other side dishes are, especially considering the volumes they have to produce in a limited time frame. There were two formal nights, which is two too many in my mind, but I was in the minority in out party. There seemed to be ample opportunities for photos, without having to stand in lines too long. Entertainment: I did not attend any of the ship shows, (I'm just not really that into them), but the rest of our party saw most of them. Reports indicated they were fair to good. According to every single woman in our party, the cruise director, - Rico - was HOT, and by the way, very competent. We ended up sharing a cab with him (and his naturally HOT friend) on the way to the beach in Costa Maya and he came across as very friendly. He seemed to enjoy his job and did well at it. We liked the casino, with the exception of all the mirrored walls. I would guess it was an effort to make the casino seem larger, but I found it confusing as it always looked like there was another part to the room., It probably doesn't help that I have a terrible sense of direction. Almost all the tables seemed to be $5 minimum, which is unusual these days. There were a couple of Caribbean Stud and 3-card poker tables, but no Let It Ride. Dealers were generally friendly and helpful. A few liked to deal high speed, which I don't care for. There were no automatic shufflers (thank you) and the blackjack tables seemed to be using about 6-7 decks. There was one sit-down BJ table that used one deck, but the payout rules were a little different so I didn't try it. I ended up a few hundred dollars ahead which of course made me like the place a little more ;) My wife played the slots and thought the selection and payouts were limited There was a nice bar adjacent to the casino called Schooners, that had a Piano player/singer who did requests every night. I thought the volume was a little loud, but maybe I'm just getting old. I visited the disco a couple of time after the casino closed which was generally about 1:30. Very nice spot, with 360 degrees of windows at the top of the ship. I was pleased to discover that a variety of beer in glass bottles was available throughout the Splendour, including not only Corona, but Red Stripe, Amstel Light, and a few others as well. Didn't do much for my vow to try and watch calories however. . .. We purchased pop cards (soda cards to non upstate-NYers) for the kids - about $35 ea including tip. They probably saved a few dollars but not a huge amount. My daughters just don't seem to drink that much soda on cruises for some reason. Unlike Carnival, pop is not included free at Dinner, so the cards helped there. Excursions: Our general plan - or lack thereof - was to book excursions at each port as we arrived and pretty much play it by ear. The ship excursions always involve a premium price, and more importantly to me, usually involve large crowds and standing in line, two things I will go to almost any extent to avoid on vacation. As we're always happy snorkeling or beaching it we can always find somewhere to go. There's not a lot of risk involved as long as you plan plenty of contingency time to get back to the ship on time. I must say this trip reinforced my inclination to avoid tender ports whenever possible. Georgetown, Grand Cayman (9-5): The ship newsletter had indicated that until 10:30, passengers would need to get tickets ahead of time by the pursers desk, and recommended that you get there early for tickets . Turned out that 10:30 was just an "estimate" and it probably wasn't until after 11:30 that you could get on without a ticket. We did go back to the purser's area for tickets and were able to depart a little after 11:00 Based on the favorable reviews I had seen on Captain Marvin's snorkel and stingray trip we planned to try them first for a family trip. Their office turned out to be a 5-6 block walk from our dock and naturally we missed their last boat that could have gotten us back on time by about 15 minutes. We then walked back to the dock and hooked up with Capt Harvey's boat. There were only about ten people on booked on the trip. On the short bus ride to the boat, it was easy to observe that there was still extensive amounts of damage from the August hurricanes, and this was on the leeward side from where they struck! The boat was a bit older, and the overall approach was pretty casual. There was no discussion of where the life jackets were located, and they did not close the rail openings for the gangways after we left the dock, so we had to keep a close eye on our daughters. There was a self-serve cooler on the front deck with some soda, water, small cups and ice. Captain Harvey claims to be the first person to start feeding the stingrays on the sandbar years ago. Both he and his first mate, a woman who had just moved from Boston to Grand Cayman late last year, were very helpful and friendly. They ended up having to resolve a dispute with some of the passengers, as a few had to be back early, while a couple of others claimed they were promised a snorkel stop in addition to the Stingray City excursion when they booked. The captain managed to make arrangements with another boat at the stingray sandbar to take back the couple that had the early departure time, so everything worked out. I had observed before that even though these boats are in competition for passengers, they usually cooperate in these types of situations which is nice. The Stingray City area was pretty crowded when we arrived, so the boat had to anchor in water 7-10 feet deep, then we swam maybe 20 feet to the sandbar. The water was clear and warm with nice soft sand on the bottom. The stingrays ranged up to about 4 feet across and would generally congregate around whoever had food. My 8 year old was pretty scared of them, but stayed in the water most of the time. The 12 year old was a little nervous at first but ended up having a wonderful time. This is definitely a worthwhile experience. As we were able to transfer our early-departing fellow passengers to the other boat, we also made a short stop at a nearby reef for some snorkeling. It was pretty good, nothing outstanding, and the whole family was able to participate. Capt. Harvey set the sail for the return trip, and came up on the front deck with his guitar and sang and told stories about the islands most of the way back. It was a nice relaxing conclusion to the afternoon, and we got back in plenty of time for the tender back to the ship. The line at the dock was not too long. I noticed that on the Princess dock next to us they had waiters circulating with trays of cold drinks for the people waiting which is a nice touch (hint, hint to RC). The other 2 couples in our group had taken a taxi to seven mile beach and enjoyed a relaxing day there in front of one of the hotels. Costa Maya (10 - 6): The Splendour was the only ship in port this day, so we had the place pretty much to ourselves which was nice. The port area is new and clean, with numerous shops, a pool and manmade beach area. There was a shuttle service from the ship to the port, but most people were walking. We took a taxi van to the fishing village of Majuhual (also known as "downtown") for I think $4 per person. It was very hot, and the a/c in the taxi was pretty feeble. Thankfully it was a fairly short ride. I had heard you could walk it on a path from the port, but with the heat and various paraphernalia we were carrying, I don't think it would have been much fun. We also saw a number of people riding bikes on the road we took, and it looked like they were eating a lot of dust. Majuhual is basically a dirt/sand road, along the beach, with bar/restaurants and various vendors along each side. Very casual and laid back, although the vendors can be somewhat aggressive, but never threateningly so. Our friend tried to take a picture of the street, and a young man jumped into the picture and then proceeded to chase our friend down the street, claiming he was owed $10 for taking his picture! Our friend told the young man he owed us $10 for ruining his picture and just kept walking. We ended up at a restaurant right on the beach, just before Tapas. It's called El Faro, but I'm not sure the name is displayed anywhere. It has a thatched roof, with yellow umbrellas over the beach tables. The restrooms were clean (although there was no seat on the toilet in the ladies room). The service and food were good and the prices very reasonable. Six adults and two children spent the day there for about $60 with a fair number of drinks, and a little bit of food. One word of caution, when you're in the water watch where you put your feet -there are a number of spiny black sea urchins, including in the sea grass. The water is very shallow, and stays no more than chest deep out to a reef which is probably 150-200 yards from shore. The water past the reef was pretty rough the day we were there, so we did not try any snorkeling trips, even though they were available for $20-35. One of our party did try a 30 minute massage for $20 and thought it was well worth it. We walked up and down the road and bought a few souvenirs, but nothing substantial. Overall a very pleasant, relaxing day. We would definitely return here given the chance. Belize City (7 - 5): The tender situation again seemed to be not well communicated. My friend and I went down to the loading area some time after they were to have started open boarding and they were still just taking those that had booked ship excursions. We got lucky somehow, as we had taken the elevators that come out right at the boarding area, and one of the crewman let us on the second tender that came after we got there. It's a long, usually high speed tender trip to the dock. The cruise lines subcontract to a number of independents, so there is quite a varied flotilla between the ship and the cruise dock. The two of us had been considering the cave tubing, and we quickly found a representative from X-Stream tours who had been highly recommended on several cruise boards. The representative was friendly and knowledgeable. We would have had just enough time to make the cave tubing, but once he explained that between the 40 minute bus ride, the 20-30 minute walk thru the jungle, and the tubing itself we realized we were looking at a 5-6 hour commitment. It was a very hot day again, and visions of the broiling van ride on Costa Maya kept dancing thru my head. Neither my friend nor I had a strong preference either way, and we ended up deciding to just spend the day checking out the port for a little while, and then enjoying the ship minus the usual crowds. As there were only two sea days on the itinerary, this option had some attraction. We heard later that day that one of the cave tubing excursions - never heard which one - had 3 flat tires on the ride to the jungle walk, and after a combined 3 hours in delays, just bussed everyone back to town. So maybe our indecision was a sign from God. We heard mixed reviews from people that had taken the ship's cave tubing trip, some thought it was just OK, others loved it. I also heard from one woman later, that the snorkeling on the ships trip had been outstanding. The reefs off Belize are quite a ways from shore (hence the long tender rides). We spent a couple of hours exploring the port area, did a little bit of shopping, a little drinking, a little shopping, a little more drinking..... In other words, shopping guy style ;) The shops right in the port area were nice, clean and low key., I commented as we were first looking around that it was a welcome change from some of the high pressure vendors in Costa Maya. But once we left the cruise port area and went into town, omigod what a difference. The vendors and "tour guides" - some of whom appeared less than savory - were extremely aggressive. Prices were very flexible, but we didn't stay too long or venture too far. Particularly if you were by yourself, I'd recommend staying in the cruise port area, or taking a reputable excursion. The ship's premium might be worth it here. We had a nice time at two of the bars at the cruise port - The Wet Lizard (or Wet the Lizard I'm not quite sure), and the Iguana Bar. The local beer is good and cheap, and there were some appealing drink specials as well. (To the guy at the Iguana bar who bought a round of 3 beers, and then took the change from a $5 bill - there's a reason some people hate Americans). The rest of our party was leaving the ship on a tender just as the two of us were coming back. We all ended up meeting up midday back on the ship, and enjoyed hanging around the pool etc. with not too many people around. I took the opportunity to make my second assault on the rock wall without many spectators around to laugh at me! Cozumel (7 - 11): Our dock in Cozumel was not the one right in town, I don't recall the name of it (there was a "1/2 Senor Frog's" there), but it was maybe a 5-10 minute taxi ride into the main town area. Based on reviews that Dzul Ha was the best snorkeling spot and was accessible from shore, my wife and I decided to take our daughters there for the day. The cab ride was only a few dollars. It was nice little spot, there are a couple of small man-made beaches behind the breakwall with tables, stools and a few chaise lounges. Vests, fins, etc can be rented right there for reasonable prices.. As I was getting ready to go in, one of the waiters asked me not to put on suntan lotion as it is harmful to the reef/fish. First time I had heard of that, fortunately my back was already pretty tan by then as I had done few visits to a tanning salon in the month before we left. The (3-4) stairs into the water are along the wall, so you can it to help keep your balance. Bare feet are ok for getting in, I put my fins in after walking out to about waist deep. Fish are visible almost immediately, but the real reef is about 40 yards out. I'm not a strong swimmer and made it 3-4 times without a problem, including with my 8 and 12 yr old daughters. The reef is extensive, and you will tend to drift a bit so pay attention to where you are. We saw a myriad of small to medium fish, not many large ones though. I followed two tips I saw on a message board. The first was to use baby shampoo as a defogger, instead of saliva. This worked great, my mask stayed crystal clear for the entire time I had the mask on each time. The second tip was to bring a small bottle of mouthwash get rid of the salt taste, supposedly by pouring it on the snorkel mouthpiece while in the water. I didn't seem to have enough hands to do this, but did utilize it on shore to get rid of the salt taste in my mouth. There is a open air patio with a thatch roof for shade with some couches etc underneath, and clean restrooms across the street. Our daughters had some food there, and the total bill for the day was very reasonable. It was wonderful not having to rush back to the ship. We had a great time and would recommend this spot highly. The waiters did mention it was usually more crowded than it was on this day. We went back to the ship for dinner, then back out to the for some souvenir shopping in the port area. Mostly the same goods in the different shops and prices were negotiable. When we couldn't find the right size of a light jacket for our older daughter, the sales person went from shop to shop to find the right one. Unfortunately we discovered after we set sail the next day that the zipper was defective. As usual, caveat emptor. The other members of our party had a Mexican dinner on shore and sampled the nightlife. Good times were reported. Speaking of sampling the nightlife, one passenger apparently indulged in a few to many samples. The next day, I was in line at the pursers desk behind the person reporting him as missing. Known widely throughout the ship as " that dancing man," he had not been seen since the ship left Cozumel the previous night. The desk attendant insisted he had gotten back on the ship based on the computerized tracking of the ship IDs as you leave and re-enter the ship. All during dinner that night, he was being paged to call the purser's office, and people started wondering if he had fallen overboard or suffered some other mishap on ship. Debarkation: We had a flight late in the afternoon, but were still off the ship by 9:15. We spent maybe 20 minutes in line before getting to customs. Customs itself was a breeze, only took a few minutes, and found all our bags with no problem. We found a shuttle service right at the cruise port that was significantly cheaper than the service we used to get there. I don't recall the name, but they had a small kiosk right by the exit. We were at the Tampa airport by 10:30. We tried to change to an earlier flight but they were all booked. AirTran would not take our luggage until 4 hours before flight time, so we spent a couple of ours dragging 8 pieces of luggage around. The automated ticket kiosks for Airtran were out of order when we returned and the counter attendants seemed at a loss as to what to do. For starters, maybe take down the sign directing people to get in line there? I was disappointed that there was no wireless internet access in the airport unless you paid for it at the adjoining Marriott. While we were hanging around, who did we run into but the missing "dancing man"! Turns out he lost track of time at Carlos and Charlie's and missed the ship. He said it cost him about $2,000 extra to get back, between the 1 way air ticket, getting money wired to the American Embassy, etc. And that was with spending the night on the streets. The cruise agent in Cozumel emailed the ship, but apparently it was never received. It was reportedly the dreaded "computer glitch" that caused the ship's computer to show him getting back on board. Oh well, all's well that ends well. Summary: Overall had a great time, loved the ship, the staff and the dinners, while the Windjammer buffets could stand some enhancement. Would definitely do another Royal Caribbean cruise again, but would give Carnival a slight preference. Will do everything in my power to avoid tender ports in the future. Read Less
Sail Date March 2000
Splendour of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.1
Dining 3.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.8
Family 4.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 1.0 3.4
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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