Remark: First of all I did not want to publish my review on this board. But reading the other reviews of this cruise, I changed my mind, that you can read another review with some total different experiences. And second, written from a woman and third from German, because some kinds of view are different between American and German passengers. So maybe it´s interesting for you to compare.
Cruise with the Splendour of the Seas/Royal Caribbean Cruise Line november 12th - november 26th 2005
Itinerary: Transatlantic westbound Barcelona Alicante, Spain Malaga, Spain - at sea Tenerife, Canary Islands - 6 days at sea - Nassau, Bahamas - 2 days at sea - Galveston, Texas
Translation kindly supported by Petra and Andreas Halamoda
Arrival: Flight with Lufthansa German Airlines from Dusseldorf, Germany, to Barcelona, Spain, without any problems; arrival in Barcelona at 9.30 am, reception and luggage pick- up by RCCL- service staff at the airport. We had to wait about 20 minutes for the arrival of some more fellow cruise passengers on another flight. We got in a bus together with some more german passengers and some American passengers, who had just arrived at another terminal. Because of our early arrival we had a little sightseeing tour of Barcelona for free which took about 1 ½ hours. Unfortunately it was raining all the time and there weren't any photostops. However at all attractions were already long waiting lines, although day time was still early.
Arrival in the port of Barcelona was at 11.30 am, the check-in procedure took approximately 10 minutes, very fast. The corridors and hallways to the cabins were blocked by boards, telling that the cabins would be ready no sooner than approximately 1.00 pm, which was acceptable for us. So we had an early lunch in the Windjammer Cafe and took a first look around the ship.
Cabin: "Large" inside cabin, #7583, large is pretty over the top (see photo) with 149 sq. ft. After the cabin attendant changed the double- bed- configuration into two single beds alongside to the walls was enough space to use the cabin, first with the double- bed it wasn't. Wall closet had acceptable space, but only to hang up clothes, there were no shelves for shirts or other clothes inside. Only 3 bigger and 4 smaller drawer cabinets and 4 drawers near the beds. Bathroom was of normal size, with space below the washing stand and behind the mirror. The cabin is equipped with one arm chair, one chair and a small writing desk, a safe, a refrigerator is missing. When asking the front desk about the cabin size, they told us that the Splendour has the smallest cabins in the fleet (which is wrong) and we should be lucky, because we have obtained a larger cabin (normal inside cabin 138 sq. ft.). We asked for a larger outside cabin and they replied, that they all were booked out. This also was not correct. Later during the cruise I received a list from the Cruise Director for my review about the passengers and the nationalities.
Partly refurbished: The cabin had been partly refurbished during our cruise. It was done within 2 hours. Unfortunately we had not been informed that our cabin was part of the refurbishment of 547 cabins. So they left after having made a mess with our clothes lying on the arm chair. Partly refurbished means, that the arm chair and chair got new covers, as well as the head board and new curtains in front of the beds. New carpets will laid during the next weeks. But to me the choice of colors was not the best, it doesn´t really match together. A specialist company from Finland has been on board for this refurbishment with its own workshop.
As a counter example, the superior inside cabin measures 172 sq. ft. and the balcony cabin has 193 sq. ft. plus 38 sq. ft. balcony.
Passenger Nationalities: 1.572 passengers from 30 nations. USA: 931, United Kingdom: 335, Canada: 86, Germany: 56, Netherlands: 45, Mexico: 23 and the rest from many different countries ranging from Australia to Uruguay. Decks: Passenger decks 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8. Deck 1: medical facilities and ship entrance and exit while in port. Deck 3: conference center, newly refurbished Deck 4: Atrium, open from deck 4 up to deck 8, very tasteful, with pastel shaded green and blue armchairs and sofas and glass- tables. Champagne bar: enclosed by beautiful glass walls; out to the Atrium with a large band- stand for Live music, changing several times on evening, ranging from duos or trios to even a Big Band with 10 musicians. Also space for a dance floor (sadly not for me, because my husband belongs to that species of man, who are stick- in- the- muds when it comes to dancing). This was one of our favorite places in the evening, to enjoy a cocktail (starting at 4,25 $) or a beer (16 OZ 3 $) and to observe the parade of our fellow passengers.
42nd Street Theater,an obvious difference to the other ships we know is that it stretches only over one floor. Good view from everywhere, even when seated in the back of the theater, which we prefer, so that we can leave without any disturbance, if we don´t like the show. Comfortable sofas for 2 or 3 persons, still in good condition. Quality of the shows very different, but I must admit, that we did not see all the shows. Band with 10 musicians surprisingly big, 10 dancers, 4 singers.
Schooner Bar, which we did not like as much as on the other RCCL ships. Smaller and darker, piano music too loud, so it was almost impossible to have a conversation with other people.
Casino, like all Casinos loud and smoky, because passengers were allowed to smoke there. If we wanted to go from the atrium to the theater we had two choices, either through the casino or over the deck below the lifeboats. We preferred the latter.
King & I Dining Room (lower floor) tastefully decorated, with blue or red chairs and dark wood. Tables for 2 to 10 persons, very spacey, even for the waiters for better service. Lunch: to be able to write about the lunch in the dining room, we have eaten there once and were very disappointed. Like our experience on other ships, the staff is during open seatings not as polite as in the evening to their guests at their dinner tables. In this case it was so terrible, that we spoke with two of the headwaiters and complained about both the service and the food. The result was that the headwaiters had a meeting with the dining-room-staff and discussed this. I told them, people could have the impression that the waiters are only friendly to those at their own tables because they know, that they'll receive a good tip at the end of the cruise. This is both not correct and not acceptable for me as a guest. The food quality also was not good and our waiter expected that we'd use the same cutlery for all our courses. He was not inclined to bring us new cutlery after clearing up the plates. So we got it by ourselves from other free places. He also did not serve the ordered soft drinks (we had a soda-package - 14 days - 102 $ per person), even as we asked him again to serve Sprite. It was so different to the excellent service at our table for dinner.
Deck 5: front desk and shore excursion desk, Shopping"mile", Top Hat Lounge and upper floor of the Dining Room. Boutiques with different small stores and a free space in the middle for daily changing offers. Hallway to the Top Hat Lounge - biggest lounge on the ship, used for events as Captain's Welcome Party , Repeat-Cruisers Party (445 Gold-Members, 190 Platinum-Members, 71 Diamond-Members and 3 Diamond-Plus-Members), several other events, dancing classes, catholic mass and much more. Tasteful furniture and in good condition.
King & I Dining Room (upper floor) Dinner: for dinner we were 7 Persons at a table for 10. We have been seated together with two friends of us (a german couple) and a wonderful american couple from California and their female friend, a wonderful lady from Texas, all very sophisticated people. It was a pleasure having dinner with all of them and you could not find better tablemates. Very obliging service by our waiter from India and the Assistant waitress from the Philippines and the Headwaiter, also from India. There was a choice of 4 starters, some of those were repeated too often, 2 soups (partly chilled soups, the best I have ever had), 2 - 3 salads with a choice of dressings, if desired also our favourite dressing (Blue Cheese). 4 Entrees and 4 daily available standard alternatives. 4 - 5 different desserts plus different ice- cream both in really good quality. If desired, French Fries and other extra wishes were fulfilled. During the first two days food was slightly cool, but it improved day by day. The meat-quality was excellent, the fish-quality above average. Our waiter served most of the time one or two more dishes (appetizers, main courses and desserts), that we all could taste something different. The Executive Chef was from Austria, we had some nice conversations with him. The Maitre D' Orlando P. Rosa came recently from the Jewel (where we met him last year), a couple of other crew members of the Jewel management will follow him to the Splendour within the next weeks.
Deck 6: photo gallery for the usual photos of passengers and a Cafe, but hardly enough places to sit and enjoy coffee or ice- cream.
Deck 7: Library - also tasteful and discreet furniture, with deep red and half round green leather- armchairs. The choice of books in the library was relatively small and most of the times lent, because a lot of passengers spent their time reading. A sheet was on display, on which you could register for a tour of the bridge of about half an hour for 15 persons each group on days at sea with 4 tours in the morning and another 4 in the afternoon.
Card room - 10 tables with 4 chairs and some separate chairs, all in green leather. There were exceptionally beautiful wooden folding shutters at the windows.
Deck 8: Crown & Anchor Society an area for those, who want to inform themselves about future RCCL cruises and to make a reservation. There was also the popular Internet-Cafe: equipped with 16 IBM-Computers, loudspeakers, a separate Laser printer, but no webcams. Cost: per minute 50 cent or package for 25 $ - 59 minutes, 35 $ - 89 minutes, 50 $ - 151 minutes.
Deck 9: Pool deck - we found the pool, heated to 72 - 75 degrees, with two different depth levels. There were two roofed jacuzzis as well. Adequate number of deck chairs with plastic strings, which I found very comfortable. Some were close to the pool in the sun, some were under a roofed area at both sides of the deck. Several tables with 4 chairs on the side and in front of the Windjammer Cafe. Smoking section on one side of the ship. The sliding- windows could be opened towards the sea. There was blue astroturf cover (which was in strong need of a renovation) and partly timber floor. A small stage for small bands was found here, but they did not play all the time. An area for activities, like some pool games or dancing was in front of the pool. Solarium - a roofed area towards the stern on the same deck, with several deck chairs and tables, 4 chairs each, pool heated to 90 degrees, 2 jacuzzis, a Bar serving Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, French Fries and Vegetarian Pizzas (very good) on different hours until 1.30 late at night. Hallway to the stern where we found Spa and Gym with several equipment, like treadmills, cross trainer, dumb- bells and more. Some of the equipment were out of order. Behind the Spa and Gym was a wonderful sun terrace for about 40 people, partly roofed and really quiet.
Windjammer-Cafe: at the bow of the ship, offering about 450 seats, a panorama view to three sides, and so a beautiful place to eat and see. Smaller than on other RCCL ships, offering tables for 2 to 6 persons, in a very worn and torn state. Really not acceptable any more, they should be removed completely. Chairs were still acceptable. But the ship is scheduled for drydock in Lisbon next may and the Windjammer will be completely renovated then, similar to the one on the Legend OTS. breakfast: starting at 6.15 am on days in port and at 7 am on days at sea. Divers sorts of bread, rolls, small cakes, donuts, and danish. Some warm meals, a small selection of cold meat, sausage, cheese and fish. A station for warm pastries like Toast, English Muffins and more, 2 stations for coffee, water and milk, several sorts of tea, 2 stations for juices like orange and ACE. Adequate choice of fruit, fresh or cut, or canned ones. Then my husband's favorite station, the egg cook, who prepared fresh omelets with a wide selection of ingredients, and fried eggs, turned or sunny- side- up. Lunch: from 12 am to 3 pm. A choice of several salads, already prepared or a selection of fresh ingredients and dressings to create your own, unfortunately without any variation during the 14 days of our cruise. Two soups, freshly cut meats, a diversity of vegetables as side orders, different warm main courses, and every day freshly prepared pasta, excellent both in quality and taste. As desserts there were daily changing custards and different cakes (which we'd prefer for tea- time) As beverages always lemonade and iced- tea, sometimes brought to the tables by the waiters. Like in the dining room at dinner- time, the service staff was always helpful and they assisted older or handicapped persons with their meals. Tables were cleared up relatively fast. Tea- time (Coffee- time for us germans): starting 3.30 pm, a selection of cookies and dry cakes, sandwiches (yummy), waffles, several warm dishes and every day Tacos and Tortillas with the usual toppings. Dinner: we never had dinner at the Windjammer. But the restaurant manager told us, that more than 200 people were dining in the Windjammer every evening. Deck 10: Jogging track (4 laps - 1 Mile) and sun deck with two roofed areas for about 12 deck chairs. There were plenty of deck chairs to place individually all over the deck. At the stern of the ship was a mini golf course, 2 Shuffleboards and the rock climbing wall, a special feature of RCCL. Deck 11: Viking Crown Lounge - a very tasteful interior in this bar area with outstanding circumferential visibility, during the day a wonderful place to rest, relax, observe and read. In the evening it turned into the Disco with a DJ. But I admit that it was too late for us to visit the Lounge at night. But I met people, who were there every night until 2.30 am. separate lounge for cigar smokers. weather: The weather on a transatlantic crossing is a hot discussed topic on our German cruisers forum. Many questions arose, so I decided to write down the weather conditions every day. The First Officer told me, that we had an unusual course, different to normal crossings, almost in one line from east to west. If we would have left Tenerife two days later, we would have been facing a really bad storm.
Here is my weather report: Barcelona - rain, 63 degrees; in the afternoon less cloudy and warmer Alicante - rain, 57 degrees; in the afternoon warmer up to 68 degrees Malaga - 48 degrees; in the afternoon 64 degrees Day at sea Malaga Tenerife; sunny, 68 degrees, waves rising between 4- 6 Meters, rough seas Tenerife - sunny, 70 - 79 degrees, calm seas 1. day at sea- sunny 70 degrees, calm seas; 2. day at sea- sunny, 77 degrees, calm seas; 3. day at sea- fog, rain, 75 degrees, rough seas; 4. day at sea- in the morning sunny, 77 degrees; in the afternoon cloudy, calm sea; 5. day at sea- rain in the morning, in the afternoon sunny, 73 degrees, calm seas, strong winds (force 6); 6. day at sea- around 79 degrees, rough seas, again Wind force 6-7; Bahamas - warm, 75-79 degrees, during the night very rough sea due to crossing the gulf stream, wind force 8; 2 days at sea - warm, 75 degrees, windy, very calm seas, almost like a lake; I have to remark, that it was really windy at almost every day at sea.
The worst part of the cruise was disembarkation. We were called ½ hour later than scheduled and had to wait outside the terminal for about 20 minutes because the terminal was overcrowded. After entering the terminal we had to pick- up our luggage, only very few porters were available and they only took the luggage of some groups. We stood in a long waiting line for about 1 hour, before we reached the US customs and Immigration booth. A very nice and friendly officer handled the immigration process in approximately 5 minutes, including fingerprints and photos both with and without our glasses on. But then we were confronted with the next lack in organisation. Torrential rain poured down with thunderstorms and floodings. There was not enough service staff present to help you with the transfers and to guide you to the right bus, which were even not allowed to stop in front of the Terminal whereas private cars could stop there. We got wet to our bones on our way from the Terminal to the Transfer bus. So we had to change all of our clothes when arriving at the Houston Airport. Even the luggage was completely wet, too. This was badly organised by RCCL.
From our point of view there is not much to tell about our ports of call. In Alicante and Malaga we had a free Shuttle-Transfer to the city, because we docked far away from downtown. Because of the rain, we made only short sightseeing on our own. In the afternoon, when the sun came out in Alicante, we took a taxi to a Fortress with a wonderful panoramic view over the coast with its beaches and the port. We paid 20 Euros (about 24 $) for the whole trip with the four of us, 20 minutes waiting time for the driver at the Fortress included. After having a private walking tour in the center of Malaga, we took a taxi back to the ship. Cost was 6 Euros (7,20 $) Remark: there were almost no english speaking taxi drivers, in spite of the fact that we were asking for them. So communication was very difficult and I had to use my small knowledge of Spanish. In Tenerife we took the public bus number 103 nonstop from the port in Santa Cruz to Puerto de la Cruz. That was an advice by a member of the visitor information center. They were standing at the pier and provided information about Tenerife Island. So we rode in 45 minutes for a price of 1,90 Euro (2,30 $) one way. I can't imagine a cheaper way to get around the island. People who want to visit the famous Loro Parque (like a zoo, but famous for their parrots) have to pay an entrance fee of 33 Euros (40 $) for an adult and 19 Euros (23 $) for children. As the bus- stop was in quite a distance to the ship we took a taxi for our way back, costs: 6 Euros (7,20 $). Puerto de la Cruz is worth visiting, highlights are its black beaches (because of their sands of lava) and the artificial saltwater pools in the center of town close to the sea, well- known for their exceptional design. Bahamas - again we did a private tour, hiring a van and a driver for 2 ½ hours costs were 20 $ per person. Our driver showed us different sights of the island, different beaches and the famous Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island. Our opinion about Nassau: One day is more than enough. The city center was too crowded (Splendour, Zenith, Sovereign, World, and Regal Empress were docked) and there is too much traffic. Besides it is too expensive, what is very important. If you take the advice of the cruise line for serious, that you can make a bargain here, it turns out as a lie, if you know the prices on some caribbean islands like St. Thomas and St. Maarten.
The days at sea were very pleasant and really relaxing for us. We took part in only a very few activities, like the Crown & Anchor member wine-tasting-seminar, a roll- call- meeting with members of another board, a tour of the bridge and two visits of the arts & crafts activities, with handicrafts on the level of Kindergarten- kids due to my opinion. Every time we desired to sit outside in the sun we found deck chairs at our favourite place, or we found a nice place inside to relax or to read a book. Many conversations we had with many crew members were always interesting, from Asst. Waiters to different cooks up to the Executive Chef and the Captain. We met the Captain in a private atmosphere and not during the usual Captains Reception. We were very pleased and honoured being invited to the Captains Table. It was an interesting and informative dinner and not too formal. Captain Yngvar Knutsen took command of the Splendour in Barcelona when we came on board. He decided to become master of the Splendour, because he did not want to be Captain on any larger ship. Like many other RCCL-Captains he is from Norway also like the majority of his officers. He told us that the Splendour is scheduled for drydock in Lisbon after the transatlantic Crossing in may 2006 for 9 days, as it is usual almost every 5 years. Several exterior renovations are on the to- do- list and a complete renovation of the Windjammer Cafe. We heard from the Sous Chef, a nice guy from Holland, that the refurbishment will be done in the same style like they did it on the Legend of the Seas, the Splendour's older twin sister, the year before. Totally 547 inside cabins will be partly redecorated, like I wrote before. These redecorations will be done while cruising. Because of the Splendour's new itinerary next year departing from Venice, Italy they prepare themselves for another passenger mix, more German and italian guests. So they are changing a part of the Management. The hotel director Luis Acosta left the ship in Galveston, the cruise director Tim Seivert finishes his contract with RCCL in january and more responsible managers will be switching over from the Jewel of the Seas to the Splendour.
Summary: A great and relaxing cruise for us. Besides, our first Transatlantic Crossing. We would love to repeat it, but this time on an Eastbound Crossing, to have minor problems with the time changes. We have set our clocks 7 times back, and then there was the flight back from Texas to Germany with 7 hours ahead time difference, causing a huge jet- lag. Important to know for some of you, that we had 3 formal nights. The appears were totally mixed ranging from evening gowns, smokings, dinner jackets (I even saw a swallowtail) to also nice suits or other beautiful combinations. My husband was dressed in dark grey with changing ties, correct due to my impression. On the other evenings, he never wore a jacket, a nice dress shirt instead, a vest and a nice slack (but no jeans) worked out well. For me I wore every evening something special like a nice pant or pantsuit combined with a chic shirt or blouse. I never felt underdressed. Those people, who didn´t like to dress up, had their dinner in the Windjammer-Cafe. I never saw someone dressed inappropriately in the Dining-Room.
Because we knew in advance that the ship was not in a newly- like- condition any more, we were pleasantly surprised how good she appeared, especially compared with Celebrity's Zenith. But we have heard, that the Zenith has been into drydock and redecorated after our Southern Caribbean cruise in february 2005. The size of the Splendour was pleasant. You did not feel being together with 1.570 passengers. The ship was never overcrowded, in fact it was opposite and we always found a quiet place to relax. We never saw rude or drunken passengers, although we have never been around the ship in the late evening hours. Our latest was midnight and this was just for taking photographs of the Gala-Buffet. Only a few children were on board and they've never been bothering. Food was much better than on the Zenith in february this year, service was really good and we had no officious wine stewards. Considering it all in all it was a wonderful cruise, with many quiet moments, but also a lot of nice and interesting conversations with people from many different countries. Our personal summary for other cruisers: absolutely recommendable.
During the winter season the Splendour is based in Galveston, making four or five day cruises to the western caribbean with ports of call like Cozumel. Exception is one cruise during christmas holidays, which lasts 10 days. On April 23th 2006 she will be departing for the Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing to Lisbon, Portugal. After drydock she will be cruising out of Venice, Italy weekly for 8 days. There are 2 weekly changing itineraries with the following ports of call: Piräus (Athens), Greece- Kusadasi (Ephesis), Turkey- Heraklion, Greece- Korfu, Greece or alternatively Piräus- Mykonos, Greece- Rhodos, Greece- Dubrovnik, Croatia. The captain told us, that the Westbound Crossing in fall 2006 will be very unusual. It will take 20 days, starting October 29th until november 17th 2006 with the following ports of call: Venice- Dubrovnik- Messina (Sicily), Italy- Barcelona, Spain- Alicante, Spain- Malaga, Spain- Teneriffa (Canary Islands), Spain- 6 days at sea- Bahamas- Key West- Galveston. Surely a very interesting cruise. Read Less