Here’s my attempt at a cruise review ... simply, Splendour of the Seas was indeed a SPLENDOUR! We has a magnificent cruise, "Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams". We were able to go to all 4 ports of call, as according to previous posts here and crew members, they've had to skip Grand Cayman the past 3 cruises due to rough weather. The only "bad" weather was the final day at sea heading back to Tampa, as it was a bit windy and mostly overcast., but there are tons of things to do onboard.
For those of you parking cars, the parking garage is right across from RCCL’s cruise terminal ($10/day). However, drop your suitcases off first to the agents at the terminal, then drive the car to the garage to park. Then, you basically just walk across the street without baggage to the terminal. We walked right in and almost immediately completed our check-in around 11:30am. After briefly sitting in the waiting area, I’d say by noon we were on the ship, we’re both Crown & Anchor members from our previous cruise, so they let you board first!
After exploring the ship, eating lunch at the Windjammer Cafe, and stopping at a few bars to sample cocktails, it was probably around 2pm when they had opened the room hallway corridors so we checked on our room. Both of my bags were there but my companion’s didn’t make it until closer to the 5pm departure. We were on Deck 6, Oceanview stateroom, right outside the Photo Gallery, thus in the middle of the ship with easy access to elevators and stairs. Our Crown & Anchor coupon books were waiting for us on the bed. The room looked brand new, extremely clean, especially the bathroom which was spotless. Our stateroom attendant Agnes was fantastic the entire trip.
Weather was sunny and 70’ for our 5pm departure. Captain Petter told us we would go under the massive Sunshine Skyway Bridge at 7:30pm, which I commute to work over, so I had to experience that. They must have a very slow channel speed limit in the Port of Tampa for us to take 2.5 hours to get there, but trust me, the time flew. Much to my surprise, there were quite a few folks at the front of the ship to experience the event, it was pretty coool to see, just wish it still had been daylight. Off to change for the late dinner seating at 8:30pm, ate, a few after dinner cocktails at the piano bar in Schooner’s, then time for bed.
"Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams"
I’m not going to day-by-day, but did want to highlight an incredible 24 hours or so we had starting Weds. morning in Belize. We woke up to a leisurely breakfast at the Windjammer, then sat by the pool for a few hours to really relax, get some sun, and let the mad rush of people off the ship as we were in no hurry. Got ready and caught a tender with little to no waiting to Belize, checked out the sights, then returned to the ship to get ready in our formal attire for our Crown & Anchor welcome back reception and formal dinner. I had a new shiny little cocktail dress, so I was excited to be able to sport that at both events. The reception was very nice at which we sat at the bar in the Top Hat Lounge and had free-flowing CHAMPAGNE. I’d take a sip or two and the bartender would top me off immediately. And of course dinner was yummy as always. After dinner, we changed into casual clothes to have a cocktail at Schooner’s, as we wanted to stay up to see the midnight buffet. I wandered into the casino, had been there briefly 2 other days but nothing, but this time Lady Lucky was shining on me. Put a $20 into the 2-quarter Red, White, & Blue double slot ... within a pull I hit 60 coins, then in another pull or so .... JACKPOT!!! I hit a red 7, double, double which was $600!!! Needless to say, I was ecstatic, as cruise casinos generally don’t have loose slots. After receiving the hand pay of $600 (don’t forget to tip slot host), I still had 130 or so credits so we played a bit more, hit another $160 and built it up to $250, then figured it was time to leave as a winner .... $850 for the night and the cruise. Did not go near the casino after that, as how am I going to top such gambling? On to the midnight buffet which was seafood themed, and yes, had CAVIAR. Exhausted, but happy, we went to bed. Woke up the next day figuring my winnings had paid for my cruise, but my companion talked me into treating myself with the “free money”. So, I used part of it at Diamonds International in Cozumel and spoiled myself with a 1 karat DIAMOND tennis bracelet. Phew! The cruise was just heavenly, but those 24 hours were something else. I wish you all the same luck!
Shopping/Excursions -- I highly suggest attending the Discover Shopping Talk on Day Two, as Karen will review and recommend places to shop in both Grand Cayman and Cozumel. plus she’ll tell you how to get a few taxi voucher from her for Cozumel. Each evening/morning before all 4 ports you’ll receive an Explore Shopping guide listing shops that RCCL recommends, but Karen gets into more detail specifically on Grand Cayman and Conzumel, as those ports have much much more to offer than Costa Maya or Belize. Regarding excursions, having heard from fellow passengers and friends, let alone what we witnessed in Costa Maya (see below), I’d strongly encourage you to book excursions via RCCL. Why? Because they only book with reputable folks and guarantee money back if problems/cancellations, it’s safer as you never know about the public excursions offered on land and your safety, the quality of where they take you and your guide (table mates said their snorkel excursion was a joke, wished they had gone through RCCL), and lastly, RCCL will wait for you if you are late returning to the ship from an excursion booked through them but not for one you booked yourself since they don’t even know about it.
Ports of Call
Grand Cayman (tender) -- We did the city tour/turtle farm excursion which was reasonably priced and lasted a couple of hours. It was very enjoyable, as you get to see a few attractions (like the bizarre land of "hell"), especially the gigantic sea turtles. You are able to pick up the smaller ones for photos. The devastation from Hurricane Ivan is quite noticeable, as we were told it was very lush in areas where it was now barren. When done, we walked around to do a bit of shopping and sight-seeing in the port area, which was very safe. Go to Tortuga, CHEAP rum prices, on both their own and Bacardi ... convenient too, as they delivered to the ship and we received it in our cabin the final afternoon of the cruise. Rum cake samples were delicious too.
Costa Maya (port) – Very pretty, but to me it seemed like a little shopping strip on a beach set-up just for the cruise ships. They did have some unique items none of the other ports had, but the shops are a bit pushy and definitely be ready to barter. A straw hat I was interested in I was told $25 at first and got it done to $10 which is what it was worth. They have a couple of bar/restaurants, a pool area, and a nice beach you can spend the afternoon at. Some people snorkeled right there on the beach. Several people we spoke to did snorkeling excursions in Costa Maya and liked it. We were docked right next to the Princess’ Grand Princess, which left about 30 minutes before us, to which we all waved good-bye to the folks waving to us. About 5-10 minutes later, we see this speed boat dash from the dock out to the Grand Princess. The gangway door opened as the ship slowed down a bit, and it was quite a spectacle watching them get this woman into the ship. Evidently it was quite an expensive speed boat ride and we were also told she would be heavily fined by the cruise line. Yikes!
Belize (tender) -- Unlike Grand Cayman, it was a good 20 minute tender ride to land, as we were anchored far away. Honestly, I wish I had taken an excursion, else there's little reason to get off the ship. The shopping area isn't much to see, and you have to stay in the contained village area or else it's not very safe, actually I’d use the word seedy which several crew members warned us. I heard the caves tubing is pretty cool, but it's a very long bus ride to/from and thus the excursion takes up most of the day.
Cozumel (dock) – Fun fun fun! Use your taxi voucher (from Karen’s shopping desk) to get to the Forum Shops, farthest shopping point from ship, then walk your way most of way back, grab a taxi from wherever you’re done shopping for $6 back to the ship. Great shopping, lots of stores, variety, very safe, good prices, etc. Diamonds, silver, Mexican arts, trinkets, blankets, etc. For a wild crazy time or just a beer to watch the antics, stop in to Carlos & Charlies and/or Senior Frog’s. They’re next door to each other and they always hopping. While most other ports had 3 or 4 ships in port, Cozumel must have had 10 or so. I actually wish we were in Cozumel for 2 days, as I’d of ventured further out from the main area. Some people also rented scooters, plus all along the short area there are beaches at which we saw people tanning, relaxing, snorkeling, etc. As were departing, some poor guy in his mid-20’s was on the dock with his suitcases shouting up to his friends. Evidently had planned to leave the cruise here and fly to NYC on business. Well, he had immigrated properly with the Mexican authorities, but had officially disembarked, so neither RCCL would take him back nor did Mexico feel he was legal. So, he was escorted away by a policeman as we left the dock. Hopefully it was a happy ending for him.
Crown & Anchor Society
Given the fact we’ve only been on 1 other RCCL cruise, thus Gold Members, I was quite pleased with the benefits. You get to board in Tampa before other passengers and our saving booklet was in our cabin on the first evening with some decent offers for being just gold – 2 for 1 cocktail, free wine-tasting ($10 value), internet use, free ship photo w/photo gallery purchase, casino deals, etc. The welcome back reception with the Captain on Weds. was free-flowing alcohol of your choice, hors d’oeuvres, and the Captain spoke/answer questions. Lastly, the RCCL logo gift which was in our cabin the last evening was very nice ... I’ll say no more so it will be a surprise.
All of them were nice, but we spent most cocktail time outside near the pool bar or in Schooner’s. The Viking Crown is always a beautiful spot for a sunset. Poolside, look for a Jamaican female named Venice, she's very cool! We ordered most of our drinks from her, she's fast and friendly! Gave us a lot of good advice about the ship and the ports of call. Our bar bill was reasonable all in all, but the complimentary wine tasting, welcome back reception, and bottles of wine we brought in our suitcases certainly helped. Again, we packed a few bottle in our luggage with a corkscrew and we had no problems having it in the room and filling a glass to take to the dining room for dinner. Just don’t be blatant about it, keep it in one of your stateroom cabins. While the beer and cocktails prices are reasonable for a cruise, the only 1 of my 2 complaints would be that their bottled wine prices were 3x what you’d see in a store at home. The other complaint would be that juices should be complimentary all day, not just at breakfast.
Champage Art Auction – offered twice during cruise. We didn’t participate, but was fun to watch, and there’s FREE champagne.
Wine Tasting – was a lot of fun and interesting. Plus, we met some wonderful people at our table that we saw/hung out with during other parts of the cruise.
Pool Games – didn’t participate, but they are daily. If you’re at the pool, fun to watch adults being silly as kids.
Washing Hands – get ready. Every time you board the ship and enter the Windjammer, you will have to sterilize your hands with that gel.
Dining – with the exception of one night, we ate all of our dinners in the King and I dining room. We chose the late seating as we didn’t want to be rushed to get back to the ship at a port to get ready for an early seating. Plus please don’t take offense, but we are in our our early 40’s and the late seating leans more towards younger and middle-aged folks like us, while the early seating has the families w/kids and older seniors.
Room Service – remember, it’s complimentary, so use it! Great for breakfast, serves as an excellent wake-up call.
Snacks – pizza, hotdogs, burger, chicken sandwich, and fries in the Solarium. Around 3 pm near the pool bar they have mexican snacks where you can make tacos or nachos.
Photos – this cruise didn’t seem to take as many photos of you, which is fine by me. We only bought 3 of ours, as they can be pricey.
Entertainment – the Starstruck dinner show was quite good, a lot of talented people. Barry from Boston in the piano bar is a great piano player but just an o.k. singer. We had such a fantastic piano bar guy on Sovereign, it would be tough to top him. Happened upon karaoke the one evening and we were surprised by the talent of the singers, the number of people in attendance, and the unbelievable clapping/support the audience gave even to the poor performers.
Miniature Golf/Ping Pong – always a good time, be a kid again .... be an adult, play for beers!
Arrival to Tampa
Always such a sad day. Suitcases had to be in the hallway the night before, 7-10pm with the tags they provided to you that evening in your cabin. We had the late dinner seating, so got back to the room around 10-10:30am to change into shorts, and our bags were still in the hallway surprisingly, so we quickly seized the opportunity and shoved our dinner clothes in them and they were picked up shortly after that. We had to be out of our cabin by 8am, so we caught breakfast in the dining room. We were yellow tag – 2 ... suppose to be 10:30am off the ship, but ended up more like 9:30am when we were called. The entire process from when we left the ship, cleared customs, and got our back took at most an hour. Fortunately we live in the Tampa area, so we got to at least be home immediately and stay in warm weather. I felt for the poor people who had to catch flights returning to cold, snow weather.
The food was very very good, the crew and service was excellent, from the waiters at the pool for drinks to our state room attendant. For being 9 years old, the ship looks fantastic, she’s beautiful, they keep her in great shape and super clean. What a wonderful cruise vacation we had with the food, service, activities, ports, etc! Definitely one of the best vacations I’ve ever had and the 7 days just flew by. I’d recommend this cruise/ship to anyone! Bon Voyage to those of you heading on Splendour of the Seas!
I’m sure I missed things, so don’t hesitate to ask any questions, and I’ll try to answer.
We sailed the Splendour in December of 2004, and concur 100%...Great cruise, with a great ship and superior crew. Already booked the Legend for next December! (Taking the Splendour's place out of Tampa).