Splendour of the Seas Cruise Review by MAMA CHUBS@aol.com
Splendour....the very word itself conjures up visions of magnificence. Entering the beautiful Centrum area with the wonderful brass hanging sculpture certainly gives you a splendourous introduction to 11 days of sailing.
But wait, let's back up to the beginning of this cruise, and some of the basic information. We are a couple in our mid 50's, live in the Midwest and have been on several cruises. This was our second with RCI. Our cruise was booked with a pre-package from RCI at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Miami. The morning of our cruise, we pre-registered for the ship at the hotel, received our sign and sail card, room keys. Transportation from the hotel to the ship was by bus. RCI picked up our luggage at the airport, and within 1/2 hour of being on the ship, it appeared in our room. We did not have to handle it after checking it at the airport in St. Louis.
Our cabin, just aft of the Centrum, was a Category C on the Bridge deck. The verandah was a good size, with 2 chairs, a small table and a lounge chair. We found this a great place to have breakfast, and late nights just enjoying the quiet. One interesting point is that C category cabins forward of the Centrum are slightly larger than those aft. Cabin furnishings consisted of a king size bed, a hide-a-bed love seat, 2 chairs, glass and brass coffee table, two padded stools, that double as storage, and shelves and storage in every nook and cranny. Our cabin was quiet, with the exception of a few footsteps overhead that came from the entrance to the Solarium area. There is a tub shower combination, and the bathroom was large enough for two people.
Dining...Our table was on the balcony level of the King and I Dining Room next to the staircase and directly above the piano and violin. This proved to be a spot where it was difficult to carry on a conversation because of the music. We learned this was a problem only in this area. My usual dilemma in a cruise ship dining room is choosing one meal out of the many offered. This time I had trouble selecting one meal period. Everyone at our table seemed to have the same problem, and we all asked for substitutions at different times. One gentleman at our table summed it up saying "I think they are trying too hard." I found this to be a rather accurate description. The breads were excellent. Prime rib was offered two different nights, and was tender and tasty. I generally associate lobster as being a special meal served on a special night. Our lobster dinner was served on a casual night, and the side dish was boiled spinach. Salads were good and varied. The King and I dressing is a personal favorite. There was also an alternative dining offered. I cannot comment on this as we opted for the dining room each evening. Breakfast at the Windjammer was basically the same each day serving bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns, a choice of fruits, cereals, breads. The design of the buffet lines area in the Windjammer leaves a little to be desired. At the end of each side of lines you come together to an area that is not easily accessed when it is crowded. In this area are the drinks, and fresh fruit. One of the midnight buffets was held in the galley area. This was great as you got to see the workings of the galley, along with all the great ice and food sculptures. Another nice touch on several nights was the strolling waiters offering canapes, fruit, hors d'oeuvres, etc., in the lounges, casino, and public areas.
Bars and Lounges. There are many choices of bars and lounges, from loud and rowdy depending on the time to relaxing and quiet. One of our favorite spots was the Viking Crown Lounge before dinner. It was not at all crowded, and since we had early dinner, we watched several sail aways from high atop the ship. Late at night the Viking Crown turned into the disco.
Pool Area, The pool area is generally easily accessed. However, one problem, as we have found on other ships, is the towel and book in the chair problem. I did notice that the stewards around the pool periodically removed towels if no one was seated in the chair. Counting the number of people in the pool and the number of saved chairs did not compute. There were two hot tubs adjacent to the pool, and I was told getting into these proved to be a bit tricky.
Activities...The activities ran the gamut from Bingo to fitness, with some just plain fun thrown in the middle. The old standards of Horse Racing, Not so Newlywed, shuffleboard, belly flop contest, and trivia were present. I was not overly impressed with the Cruise Director, but learned toward the end of the cruise that this was her last cruise. I don't know if that explained her rather lack luster attitude, or if the attitude created this being her last cruise. The miniature golf course high on the ship is a fun diversion, and a real challenge on a windy day. For $30, you receive a cap, 3 RCI golf balls, and unlimited play on the course. There were Art auctions offered several days, along with a silent auction, and what they called a special reserve price sale the last day. We were told this special sale was because this was the end of the Art Gallery's contract. I can only hope this was the end of the so called Art Auctions.
Spa and Solarium...The solarium is covered with a glass canopy, and has a pool, hot tub, lounge chairs, and sitting areas with tables. But I will never figure out why there is a food bar offering hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza in this area. It just doesn't seem to fit. Or maybe it does, if you indulge in too many pieces of pizza, you can immediately go into the fitness area, and work them off. There were lots of specials offered on massages, facials, etc., and free clinics on skin care, hair care, make-up. There is a fitness area equipped with treadmills, bicycles, etc., and exercise classes offered on every level of ability. As more and more people become fitness conscious, the classes were often crowded. 42nd Street Theater... "Go before you go"is the best advice when attending an event in the theater. There are no restrooms close on this floor. In my opinion, a major design flaw. Access to the theatre is through the Casino, so no restrooms also is a problem for those playing in the casino. As for the entertainment, we found nothing really outstanding. For the most part, we felt it was "Same show, different ship." The headliner entertainment was comedian, Robert Klein, who was very funny.
Casino....The casino is crowded, and difficult to navigate when busy and had the usual assortment of slot machines ranging from .25 to $5 machines, black jack tables with $5. min., Caribbean Stud tables, craps table and roulette wheel.
Excursions and Islands...We are not a big believer in ship excursions on most islands, so wandered around on our own. Jamaica would be the exception to this for us, and Dunns River Falls is the main attraction there. Our day in Grand Cayman was affected by wind and high waves, and being a Sunday, most of the shops were closed. We missed going to Sting Ray City because all water activities were canceled. I love coming into Curacao, and entering the island under the bridge. Curacao could be a great place, but I have always felt it needed a good scrubbing. One plus is that we always find the people to be very helpful and friendly. I was struggling to figure out how to use one of their pay phones, and a lady sitting close by came up and handed me two coins to use. She spoke not one word of English, but saw my dilemma, and offered to help. Later on, we were waiting for the ferry on the other side of the island, and she tapped me on the shoulder and said hello. I can't comment on Key West. Because of a medical emergency with a member of our party, we spent the day there at the hospital. Cozumel was in a party mood the day we were there. Many street dancing groups, and parades going on. It really added to the atmosphere and fun of this island. Cozumel is an easy island to get around, and jeeps can be rented for the day. Just beware of the tourist on the Moped, and you have all heard about Mexican taxi rides. Carlos and Charlies is a must do in Cozumel. Why, oh, why, did they put that bar up all those steps?? Aruba is one of my all time favorites. Again, we always find friendly people there, willing to help, but not aggressive. There are two shopping centers within walking distance. The beaches in Aruba are some of the prettiest anywhere.
Children's programs....In talking with couples who had children on board, they all said that the program was excellent with varied activities from quiet times to active games.
The debarkation was easy. We still hang on to our old luggage and can spot it easily in the sea of black, green, and burgundy. We were off the ship and getting in a taxi by 9:30am.
Overview...Little things, as always, can make the big difference. Most all of the crew seemed to genuinely enjoy what they do. We are not hard to please, but when we asked for changes, they were made with a smile, from different choices at dinner to extra towels in the cabin. Most of the people on this cruise were in the 50+ age group. We did see some families with children, and couples in their 20's, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I would definitely cruise on Splendour again.
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