Splendour of the Seas Cruise Review by bothel
- Sail Date: April 2008
- Destination: Transatlantic
I chose this transatlantic cruise because it originally included stops in Brazil, Morocco, and Portugal. Touching three continents on one cruise was the chief reason I chose the Splendour. Vision class ships are too small for me -- I prefer the Radiance class ships. My first disappointment came just after the final payment was due when RCI announced that all three Morocco ports were cancelled. Instead, we would stop at Tenerife, Madeira, and Cadiz. I had been to all three, and like each of them. My disappointment was short-lived.
I will not bore you with the flight from Portland to Sao Paulo. Flying economy class on international flights must be the equivalent of 100,000 years in purgatory -- and this from a non-catholic. We flew into Sao Paulo and were efficiently bused to Sao Paulo's port: Santos, where we waited to board the ship. It was here that I learned my first cultural lesson. Brazilians are not handicapped with the northern European notion of lining up -- massive rugby scrums are closer to the truth. And I must admit that I am not certain that germanic order is any more efficient than a good old-fashioned crowd-shoving stampede. (For some reason, this cultural attribute seemed to disturb most of the outnumbered English-speaking guests more than anything else.)
The embarkation was nothing like the well-oiled boardings of Miami or Los Angeles. But it was a fun new experience.
I love aft cabins. There is nothing like watching the sea from an aft balcony while eating breakfast. What I forgot is that the aft balconies on Vision class ships do not overlook the sea directly. They overlook a stark white canopy covering the crew's recreational deck. As a result, I learned a lot about various crew members simply by listening to the exchanges below my balcony. The cabin was clean and roomy.
I participated in quite a few more ship activities than usual: bingo, trivia, dances. The cruise director's staff kept us all entertained. And that was a difficult task. Imagine a trivia contest where every question is asked in two languages and where the questions should equally appeal to English and Portuguese speakers. I give extremely high marks to Jaoa Pereira (who is on his way to the Majesty) and Fernando del Azar Cordeu. Both of them should be cruise director stars for RCI. We also had an English language coordinator: Linda Polasky. She was extremely helpful, and is easily one of RCI's future stars.
I have to add a special note of thanks to the cruise director, Jill Tasker. I sponsor a dinner for the entertainment cast on each cruise. She was very creative in helping me put together that dinner with the limited dining resources available on the Splendour. Thanks, Jill.
That brings me to the entertainment. It was all very good. The singers and dancers did an excellent job with material that does not showcase the abilities of a very talented group of performers. Each of them has the ability to reach through the dark and touch the souls of audience members. And they did. One of the main reasons I go on cruises is live entertainment. This group of talented performers met and exceeded my expectations.
I like repositioning cruises because sea days are by far my favorite times on ships. But ships always stop. Our first stop was Rio. I elected to take the excursion to see the Christ the Redeemer statue. It rained. No view. But I took some fascinating pictures of the statue emerging from the clouds.
The next two stops, I explored on my own. Salvador is a beautiful city with a restored old town. Like every tourist area, the squares teem with hustlers. This was the only stop on the trip where I always felt on guard. The old buildings are picturesque. Once again, I took some great photographs. I wandered away from the tourist area. While taking photographs, I was accosted by a young woman. But that only added to the color of the trip.
The next stop was Recife where I visited the old town of Olinda. More old buildings. More photographs. Beautiful.
Then five days of glorious sea days. They was interrupted by a stop in Tenerife and an excursion to the volcano. I had done it before. Too many hours on the bus. But we had a great time walking around Santa Cruz.
Next stop -- Madeira (one of my favorite islands). I walked around Funchal with friends and had one of the best fish dinners of my life. If there, do not miss the opportunity to try scabbardfish -- ugly fish with a great taste.
Then Cadiz, Spain for a day. Nice Old World splendor.
When we left Cadiz, the Splendour showed its age by losing its stabilizers. As a result, we arrived late in Lisbon, and I missed my flight. But it gave me an opportunity to spend another day in Lisbon and an opportunity to visit my favorite cafe where I enjoyed the local sardine pâtE.
I met some very nice people from Brazil on the cruise and learned things about Brazil I could not have learned by being on an American-enclave cruise. Overall, it was a great experience.
I have left my one complaint until the end because it was not a big deal. But it was a consistent irritant. During the past 18 months I have noticed a marked deterioration in the quality of dining room food on RCI cruises. Part of the problem is that the menus seem to be almost as old as the ship itself. Even taking the repetition issue into account, individual meals were just plain bad. I have never had beef that was simultaneously tough and tasteless. The chicken and duck were no better. And this is where the Splendour's lack of a specialty restaurant exacerbated the issue. On other ships, a dissatisfied diner can find good food in Chops, but not here.
Our waiter was absolutely perfect. He did his best to keep our table happy, but he could not overcome problems that started in the kitchen.
However, having said that, I would gladly take this cruise again -- just for its growth opportunities.
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