Having completed this itinerary two years ago on the Serenade of the Seas, I had high expectations of this reprise, and headed a small travel group of 10. Overall, the group had a good time, but Splendour cannot be fully credited for this outcome.
Embarkation: Check-in at 11:30am was quick, smooth, and well-organized. Having read all the materials,we were prepared to surrender our passports, and were thrilled with our Omani visa stamps when we got them back at the conclusion of the cruise.
Staff: Our group was serviced by 3 Cabin Stewards, all of whom turned in at least an acceptable performance. Some of us had friendlier stewards or ones whose towel animals were more creative. Guest Services staff were FABULOUS. Each time I visited, I was assisted, promptly, efficiently, and received promised follow-up. Best of all, our waiter at dinner was far and away the best I've encountered. His razor-sharp wit, quick thinking and spot-on recommendations were a hit with the group.
Food: The food in the Windjammer Cafe was actually pretty good. There were flavors for all palates and at breakfast, if one wished to wait in the queue, options for freshly cooked eggs/meats. I found meals in the King & I Dining hall to be unfailingly delicious and well-presented.
Wifi: Value is a personal thing. I MUST be connected, so having an option for unlimited wifi, however pricey - was wonderful. I purchased that package, and connected consistently and seamlessly the entire time. I was able to text and make "phone calls" back home using Facebook messenger.
Cabin: I selected a Junior Suite and for some reason expected more from the balcony. The barren balcony area had only two uncomfy mesh chairs and a table - no lounger. Guess I must have chosen the wrong side of the ship, because we never faced any port at which we docked. The bed was terribly uncomfortable and made my back ache the entire trip. It kept moving away from the wall, so I rolled off one night -- and discovered some sort of old bedding wadded in plastic underneath. The bathroom was adequate, but for about 24 hours, the water ran brown, then yellow, making it a scary proposition to shower or brush teeth -- despite the ship's assurance that the "problem had been fixed." (The suite had tons of storage space, however).
Entertainment: I thought perhaps it was just me - but on recap, not a single one of us enjoyed the entertainment in the main theater. It was really, really, BAD. The acrobats performed on a single prop for far too long, the comic/magician was neither comic, nor magic, and that ship's production shows were mediocre at best - suffering more from poor arrangements as opposed to lack of talent. Sans the main entertainment or ballroom dancing in the centrum, there wasn't really much to do -- at least for our group of 30 - 50 somethings.
Excursions: I have to agree these were overpriced. I used independent tour operators for our group. Highly recommend Oceanair Travel in Abu Dhabi/Dubai and Musendam Tours in Muscat/Khasab. We combined a city tour and dhow cruise in Khasab, paying about 50% of the Splendour's asking price and had, perhaps, the most memorable excursion of the entire trip. We went inland and saw prehistoric rock carvings, caves, visited Khasab castle/fort and a small shopping area. We spent an absolutely decadent afternoon on a dhow, drinking tea, eating fruit and being served a delicious lunch, after which we saw dolphins and swam with some of the local fish in the clear waters near Telegraph Island. I did pay for Splendour's "Panoramic Muscat by Night" tour. It was not as exciting as I recalled from my first trip. I also bought the ship's hop on/hop off bus in Abu Dhabi. The bus takes so long (2.5 hours) to complete its route, and repeats so infrequently (1x each 1/2 hour or hour depending on line), that there's really not sufficient time to hop off more than once, to tour the Mosque.
All in all, our group enjoyed the cruise, but travelers complained of the lack of engaging activities onboard ship, the price and quantity of add-ons, and maintenance issues (the brown water and a gas odor that nauseated a few people).
Cabin 8548 was roomy and had plenty of storage space. We didn't come close to using it all. No one ever told us that there was a wealth of information in the center drawer of the vanity/dresser. The room was furnished with a sofa, table and two arm chairs, and the standard 2 twins/1 queen bed. I didn't find the bed comfortable, but my roommate was fine. Luckily the volume setting for announcements must have been set to "low" as we didn't find them disruptive - but there was no volume control in our room. The "mini bar" consisted of a couple of sodas, waters, and little container of candy and pringles. Everything was operational. The balcony is small and contained only two chairs and a table - no footstool or lounger. I could often hear the conversations of our next door neighbors - both on the balcony and in the cabin.
Overall, this cabin is adequate.
Disappointed to find that hopping on and off wasn't quite as easy as one might imagine. The bus route is too long to do this efficiently within the allotted docked time. It wasn't clear that we wouldn't be starting at Stop #1. We had to ride the bus almost all the way around the route in order to get to the Mosque before tours ended. Getting back to other attractions would have required another full-route ride, and there simply wasn't time.View All 12 Big Bus Sightseeing Tour Reviews
This tour drove through old & new Muscat on an air conditioned tour bus while a guide narrated. The guide spoke English softly with a thick accent and was often difficult to either hear or understand. The bus made stops at the Muttrah Souk, the Sultan's palace, and at a restaurant for dinner. Dinner was good, but the food was preordered, and not labeled. As such, while most items were delicious, we had no idea what we were eating and had to keep asking the names of each of the dishes and/or appetizers. For the price, it's unlikely I'd book this tour again.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Used independent Operator Oceanair Travels for our Desert Dinner Safari and was very pleased. The drivers were attentive, friendly and accommodating. We held a falcon, had the option of renting quad bikes, went sand surfing, got henna tattoos, and rode camels! The group enjoyed the belly and tanoura dancers and the dinner was great. I'd highly recommend an independent operator for this tour as the savings were significant and some operators (like ours) guarantee ontime return to the ship.View All 20 Desert Safari Reviews