We drove to Galveston the day before sailing. Rode the ferry a few times. We had supper at Joe's Crab Shack. Super food, great atmosphere. We stayed at the Harbor View Inn onFerry Rd. $59.00--ocean view
DAY 1--While laying in bed at 5:30 a.m., we heard the horn blow. We jumped up and looked out the window, to see the Splendour coming around the east side of the island. We got dressed and ran down to the ferry landing to watck her come in to the port of Galveston. We returned to our room and packed and headed to the terminal to see the ship up close. She is bigger than the ships I've been on before. Afterbreakfast at the pancake house, we decided to go see what time we could board. At the Dolphin lot, they said to park and they would take is then. We were at the terminal at 11:00. Check in was a breeze. At 11:45, we were on board. Our luggage was already in our cabin when we arrived. We unpacked, and went to explore thie ship. We found our table in the dining roomand took pics while the ship was still empty.At 4:00, we were meeting with our buddies we had met on line. (We wore matching shirts that I painted, so they could find us.) We skipped dinner in the dining room due to sailing at 6:00. We ate in the windjammer and had no complaints about the food. Found the casino, where we spent too much money. For the rest of the evening, we just explored the ship, and met some of the staff.
DAY 2--We awoke at 6:00 to the sound of the ship's horn blowing. It was very foggy for most of the morning. It cleared out about 10.00. We had lunch in the dining room. We didn't like the selections, so we had burgers. Once again, the fog rolled in. We spent the day sitting by the deck. This was formal night , so we had our hair fixed. We went to the dining room for dinner. When we got there we were told that our table was not ours, even though the number matched the table # on our cards. The waiter agreed that this was not our table. I showed him my card and he said we had a problem. He would have to find us a table. I told him not to worry about it and we left. We did not return to the dining room for the remainder of the cruise. (The food in the windjammer and solarium was fine.) We took formal pics and then changed clothes. As we were about to leave the cabin, the head waiter called and asked us to come back to the dining room and she would find us a table. I explained that we had already changed and that we would eat elsewhere.She insisted that we come back the next night, but we chose not to. After dinner, we watched the broadway show, "Starstruck". We enjoyed the show. On this night, we discovered the Centrum band. We watched and listened to them play from above. Karoke was halarious!!!! Got our first towel buddy on this night.
DAY 3--Arrived in Cozumel about 7:00. Had breakfast, then off to our excursion. We did the glass bottom boat. The weather was great. The colors were bright underwater.We saw beautiful coral and many different kinds of sea life. Then we were off to town for some shopping. Upon our return to the ship, we decided to take a dip in the pool while it was empty. We sailed at 7 p.m. After dinner, we went to the Centrum to listen to the band. I had no idea that we would become "the groupies" of this cruise. Jon, Trevor and Mark are great people, both on and off the stage. They visited with us when they would take a break. They kept us entertained with music and comedy. They all have a great sence of humor.
DAY 4--Arrived in Costa Maya at 7 a.m. Had b-f, then on shore. We did the Chacchoben ruins excursion. We rode an air conditioned, charter bus for an hour to get there. The ruins are awesome. Even my 18 year old son liked them. Our guide, Luis, helped with the excavations, so we got some good info, and great pics. After the bus ride back, we shopped and headed back to the ship. We used this time to take pics of the staff that we had become friends with. Dinner and back to the Centrum.
DAY 5-- This was an interesting day. The seas were rough and I was sick. Took 2 Bonine and got to feeling better. Many people were sick on this day. The staff was putting out bags for those that really got sick. My lesson for the day---if you feel sick, sit as close to center of the ship as possible. You can't feel the movement as bad there. We sat next to the pool. At about 8:30 p.m., we were in the Centrum and BRAVO, BRAVO, BRAVO came over the PA. One of the engines had caught fire. We drifted for almost 3 hours. There was no panick. The back-up generators came on and all activities continued as though nothing was happening. The captain and cruise director kept us informed about everything . I must say, this situation was handeled very well. We were told that we would arrive in Galveston late and all flights would be taken care of. We spent some time in the Viking Crown Lounge with some friends(cruisers and staff) and had a blast. We finally turned in at 2:30. We arrived in galveston around 9:30. Immagration was quick, but it seemed to take forever for the port authorities to clear the ship for debarkment. Once done, we were off the ship to our waiting luggage and shuttle bus. At 12:20 we were on our way home.
The low points......that I fixed without a problem I was upset that the dining room didn't have a table for us, so we ate elsewhere. I paid to get my hair fixed and didn't like it, so I took it down. When I got sea sick, I found a more comfortable area and stayed there. When the fire started, we continued to have a blast !!!
The high points......That we loved The ship is beautiful. "Sunshine" is a bartender at the pool bar. He will take care of you. Helped make this a special trip for my son. They became friends quickly. He will never be forgotten. "Harlequin" is the Centrum band. Unfortunately, they leave the ship at the end of next week. I hate that all of you won't get to meet them. They will never be forgotten either. Warren is the cruise director. He is busy, but takes the time to be sure you are having a good time. Venice is a waitress in the Centrum. We told her the first night what we wanted to drink, and she never forgot it. If we said we wanted something different, she would make suggestions that always pleased us.
Although we had a few low points, I easily fixed them. I am pleased to say that we had more high ones. For that reason, I will not let the little things keep me from sailing RCCL again. We had a fabulous cruise.
I hope you find peace of mind knowing that we were taken care of at all times. May this review find you packing and ready to enjoy "THE SPLENDOUR OF THE SEAS" !!! HAPPY SAILING TO YOU ALL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Royal Caribbean Splendour of the Seas paid a visit to the port of Galveston, and what follows are some of the details of the ship, comments on ports of call and the overall impressions of the vacation.
First, we have cruised as a family five prior times on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. This vessel is the newest we have sailed, and the positive attributes are noted below.
The Splendor is a beautiful ship. She has graceful sight lines from the dock, a gorgeous lobby and dining room that all hid the age of the vessel well. The solarium and pool area also show excellent maintenance, and carpets and walls all reflect regular refurbishment schedules.
Stateroom size appears smaller than the Carnival ships, but the ample amounts of storage made up in the difference. This was our first cruise with a balcony, and as with other things relating to cruises, if you can afford it, get one. The spring weather and wave action made for great cool late evenings with the sound of moving water. It was also a place to view the ports and get out of the wind while enjoying theview.
Bed quality is poor at best. These beds were low to the ground, thin and had little back support. In addition, the converted poorly to a couch during the day, and it was of little use. These beds reminded me of the original Carnival ship the Mardi Gras.
The Windjammer Café does an excellent job in buffet style meals, and we took advantage of a pre-cruise meal and a couple of breakfasts and lunches. The food has been improved here by comparison to our past Royal Caribbean sailing, and downgraded in the main dining room.
Where is the lobster? Missing were both lobster and a quality cut of meat for all the meals. The abundance of chicken and seafood made up for most of the difference, but prime rib was offered only one night, and it was tough.
Royal Caribbean has done a nice job compensating for the lack of lobster with good food preparation and presentation, fresh vegetables, excellent desserts, and outstanding service. We had our food quickly, accurately and with the best service we've ever experienced. We had one in our group try room service, and it was dreadfully slow.
What was dubbed as the midnight buffet has been moved poolside, was lacking in variety and did a poor job substituting for a real well decorated event. This looked like a tailgate party at best.
We saw all the brochures touting the rock wall and golf course, and we tried the golf. It was luck more than skill, but passed the time prior to sail-away.
Bingo was $35.00, so if you want to play all the games bring a C note or two to enjoy all the games.
We attended all the evening shows, and the dancers and singers were very good. Prior reviews had not been as kind to these shows, and with good costume selection, excellent sound and nice back up track recorded music the shows were better than we expected. The one performer that was promoted as impersonator of many voices was mediocre, but most in our group liked him.
The 42 Street Theatre is truly beautiful, and with no support posts to block view the seats all had excellent views. One note, this theatre had computer enhanced stage lights that follow the performers, and these added a very professional touch to all the performances.
Casino gaming was about the same on the other ships, tight slot machines, large amounts of cigarette smoke and all that goes with that, so I didn't spend much time there.
Poolside events were funny, well attended and well emceed. The cruise director (Warren) was funny, worked the crowd well and kept the pace of the events flowing.
The second entertainment area was the Top Hat Lounge. We attended all the events here, and even karaoke was entertaining. Again, the dialect and humor of the cruise staff made this happen. This lounge has great seats, nice decorator touches, and all it lacks is enforcement of the smoking versus non-smoking tables.
We visited the Viking Lounge only once, and the views from here are outstanding. This lounge was the site of a couple of parties, but we skipped them and opted for a much slower paced evening on the balcony.
Solarium and Pools:
This ship has a tremendous pool and sun chairs arrangement. The ample supply of deck chairs, and multi-level access made for many choices of places to spend some time. The Solarium is one of the prettiest places on the ship. We took full advantage of the warmth of the sun, the pool and access to the lunch service in this area. Bring your Walkman or Mp3 player and book and spend some time here. It looks like a resort at a fine hotel in this area!
The outdoor pool was cold! It was cool in air temperature on this cruise, so this is no fault of RC, but the large selection of hot tubs made up for the weather.
Cozumel has become a city with much to do, and the shore excursions lured us away from the shopping for the first half of the stop. We like Passion Island, but 3 hours to visit the island is far to short.
The shopping areas have migrated to the cruise docks, and we saw little need to take a cab downtown.
Review the shore activates online long before you go, and make an educated choice as to what you want to do in Cozumel.
Costa Maya: (or the town that isn't a town)
This port is man made, created by the cruise line industry. In my opinion this is a place that best serves the goals of separating tourists from their cash. We took in a frozen daiquiri or two, did some shopping, walked around and got back on the ship early.
Again, this is a personal observation, as some in our group of 65 loved this port the best. I felt like we were dumped at a mall with bad music and goofy dancers in the courtyard square.
The Mayan people probably hadn't planned for their traditional dances to be performed by the bungee swing and margarita bar.
A word about debarkation; this is the first ship that enforced the color bands for clearing immigration officers on board. We were turned away when we tried to expedite the departure process as we have done for 5 cruises in the past. This made the entire process about 90 minutes to leave once we docked.
One event that Royal Caribbean handled extremely well was a small fire atop of engine one the evening prior to debarkation back in Galveston.
The fire was extinguished almost immediately, and we were two hours late sailing back to Galveston the next morning.
Personally, while a fire is no picnic for safety I liked arriving in port in the daylight hours. The views were great!
This appears to be an experiment of Royal Caribbean in bringing in a first class vessel for the less than 7-day itineraries. The Rhapsody sails every Sunday from Galveston, and Carnival sails a variety of durations from here. All of us hope it continues.
The ports are the only shortcoming about this vacation. Mexico is slow to develop to world class as Nassau, St. Thomas and other ports, but the costs of airfare were skipped on this vacation.
Royal Caribbean as a current them called "Get Out There" and I suggest they get our there and net a lobster or two, sail to a better port than Costa Maya and then we have a the perfect vacation fora drive to cruise departure.
Finally, we used a travel agent for this trip. She is well informed, answered all our questions and made the booking and payment process very smooth. It's the only way to go on vacation, thanks Vicki and Cari!
Just returned from an 11 night western/eastern Caribbean cruise. I have to agree with most reviews I read before going; that is, food quality good,but not great, entertainment however top notch. Food and hours of Windjammer cafe kinda disappointing compared to other cruise lines we've been on. Cabins ("large outside stateroom) not all that large, but OK. BIGGEST disappointment came on Friday a.m. after we had docked back in Miami; service at breakfast was TERRIBLE (NOTE: of course after tips had been handed out) and the disembarkment procedure left MUCH to be desired!!!!! ....
Customs (?) kept us on ship way too long, many folks missed flights back home, ship seemed not at all concerned - almost as if "...we're back in Miami, we've got your money, you're on your own". Transfers to airport included in cruise package; we couldn't use it, charter bus to airport would have taken too long (by their own admission) we had to pay for taxi to airport out of our own pocket. Airline personnel that were supposed to be at dock to assist us nowhere in sight! RCL PR Dept PLEASE TAKE NOTE; LEFT AVERY POOR TASTE IN OUR MOUTHS!!!! On the plus side, did very much enjoy being able to spend all day in various ports (e.g., 8a.m to 6p.m.) instead of just a couple hours as has been the case on some other cruise lines.
(We are late 40's and have cruised 13 times, including HAL, Celebrity, NCL, and RCI.)
Embarkation was fast and smooth.
We had an inside cabin. Very small compared to other lines, but adequate even for the long itinerary and all our scuba gear. Cabin steward was excellent; room service was timely and room service food was good.
Ship was clean and well maintained. Lots to do onboard: good gym, rockwall, minigolf, lots of hottubs, nice sauna, etc. Solarium allows for hot tubbing & swimming regardless of weather. Fun dance lessons, games at the pool, and fitness reward program. Ship's crew provided excellent service all-around.
Passengers were great. All ages represented, although there were very few children. A good crowd; mostly from Texas and the south/midwest mainly; very friendly and accommodating to fellow passengers and crew. I'm going to start cruising more out of Texas for this reason alone. Food was good (not great) in both dining room and buffet. Not near as good as Celebrity or HAL, but overall tasty and well presented. Lots of selections and good dining service.
Entertainment was mediocre. Broadway group was average, singers were mediocre, magician was pretty good. Poolside bandgood. The Panama Canal schedule is fantastic. We zip-lined in Costa Rica (outstanding), cave-tubed in Belize (lots of fun), scuba dived in Cozumel and Georgetown (always great). We stayed onboard in Panama and enjoyed the transit.
Costa Maya was disappointing for me: if you are a diver: the "Blue Haven" dive shop was poor; do not dive with this bunch; overloaded boats, poor transport arrangements, too fast below the water. I wish I had followed my wife around while she shopped (she doesn't dive rough water) and smoked a cigar and sipped a cerveza fria! You WILL enjoy this ship and this itinerary. Small cabins and mediocre entertainment are more than offset by great service, good chow, and so much to do onboard and at the ports.
Just to let you know up front, this was my first time to cruise so my remarks will come from that point of view. We booked a 12 day cruise on the Splendour of the Seas out of Galveston for December 22-January 03. Ports of call were in this order: Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Panama Canal, Panama; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; Roatan, Honduras and Costa Maya, Mexico.
Pre-cruise experiences: We chose to drive down to Galveston a day early and stay in the Harbor House hotel right on the harbor. Since we booked online 9 months in advance, the prices were very reasonable--about $89 per room. The rooms were very pleasant, large and cool with a nice breeze when you opened the windows. The room lighting was dim due to no overhead lighting, only lamps in various places. Parking is right next to the hotel and you pay $8 for overnight. They will also allow you to park for the duration of your cruise, but we chose not to since there is no security. In the morning a cereal/rolls/coffee/juice type breakfast is complimentary, but we chose to eatat the Phoenix bakery instead.
They are within walking distance from the hotel/pier and they have breakfast offerings of omelets, quiche, oatmeal, fresh fruit plates, huge cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, scones, fresh fruit juices, etc-all at reasonable prices. Dinner the night before the cruise was also right there at the harbor at Fisherman's Wharf. Earlier in the summer, we had dinner there and it was packed. The waiting line was about an hour and the patio was a fun place to eat. We chose to eat out on the patio again and it was a little chilly. Service was slow which was unusual because there weren't that many customers. The food was delicious. We had oysters on the half-shell, crab and lobster bisque served in a bread bowl (yummy!!) and grilled fish. After breakfast, we toured the "world's largest military surplus store", Col. Bubby's, for an hour and then checked out of the Harbor House. Drove over to the pier, unloaded the luggage and my husband went to leave the car in the "official" pier parking lot. We had downloaded a $10 coupon so the total parking fee for 12 days was $75. I'm pretty sure it has to be paid in cash. Husband was back in 15 minutes and off we went. Check-in seemed easy to us. We passed a number of people in line because we had a suite. We started the boarding process by 11:30 and were on board by 12 noon.
Our stateroom: We booked the Royal Family Suite (category AA) and were in cabin 8532. This stateroom is right next to the Crown and Anchor study on deck 8. It is also right under the pool deck and many times at night, I could hear thuds, scrapes, and people jogging. If you're a light sleeper, I would not recommend this stateroom. On the floor plan on the RCI website, a large walk-in closet is shown on the right just before the small bedroom. This does not exist. The carpet was faded and the upholstery and drapes looked older. There was a crack in the lower portion of the sliding glass window off the master bedroom. However, the stateroom attendant kept the room neat and clean, so we were not bothered by these aspects. Here's a description--Master bedroom: sleeping for two, smaller TV with cabinets above and below it, lighted vanity area with chair, one large closet and one smaller one, bathroom with tub, sliding doors made out of wood framing with inset opaque glass panels which separate it from the living room and entry hall, large glass sliding doors leading onto the balcony. Smaller bedroom: two twin beds and one Pullman bed in the ceiling, two mid-size closets and lighted vanity area with chair. The door to the smaller bedroom is solid and locks, so it's great for sleepers who want complete darkness. Smaller bath: right across from the 2nd bedroom and has a shower. Entry hall: two small closets and a cabinet with a mirror above it. Living area: one couch which sleeps two, glass coffee table, two cushioned chairs, two end tables on either side of the sofa with storage areas in each, lighted vanity area with center mirror, glass-fronted shelving on either side and cabinets below (the refrigerator is in one of these cabinets), large TV with cabinets above and below it (the safe is located in the cabinet above the TV), sliding glass doors leading onto balcony and large window which does not open but faces the ocean.
Splendour of the Seas staff: I can honestly say that I never encountered anyone on the entire ship who was not friendly, helpful and courteous. Our stateroom attendant, Oleg from Lithuania, was prompt in meeting our requests for extra pillows, blankets, mattress pads, copies of the daily Compass, wastebaskets, etc. Our daughters raced back to the cabin each night to see what kind of towel animal he had left for them. He was a very personable young man. Our head waiter, Kelley from Brazil, was present from the first day and smoothed out many situations at other tables in a very professional manner. She paid special attention to our two daughters and always asked us how our day was. The waiter, Adrian from Romania, was always prompt, made many excellent suggestions and tried hard to please. Robert from Lithuania was the assistant waiter and had us smiling all the time.
The ship itself: I did notice some stains on upholstery and a crack in our balcony window but in general, the condition of the ship is good. You would frequently see staff cleaning windows, handrails of stairways, etc. I never found any area to be unduly messy or uncared for.
Onboard entertainments: My family doesn't drink or gamble and we are not really interested in the late night shows, but the Splendour has all of these and most guests seemed very pleased. I can comment about the destination lectures since I went to 3 out of 4 of them. A very knowledgeable biology professor from Colorado was the speaker and we enjoyed his programs on the Panama Canal, the rain forest and the coral reefs. Another entertainment that most people seemed to be enjoying was the food. There was always food to be eaten somewhere at any hour of the day and I found it to be very tasty. Presentation in the dining room was attractive and I found myself ordering two entrees and sometimes 3 desserts!!
Ports of call: This is the area where most of my frustration and disappointments happened. It was probably due to my inexperience that my expectations were not met in some instances.
Cozumel-We toured the Museo de Cozumel (our 2nd time), shopped at Cinco Soles and other places and ate lunch at El Capi Navegante (which is a great place for seafood). After lunch, we located Sally who runs the mini-golf and had a great time playing 9 of the 18 holes. I made a hole-in-one right at first and never repeated it again!
Belize City, Belize-We had arranged to river tube with Reggie and had a good time. He really takes care of each passenger! The path through the forest was a bit daunting for my older mother but she made it! The caves are actually one long cave, not a series of separate caves as I had imagined. Since it was Christmas Day, none of the restaurants Reggie usually uses were open, so we returned to the pier about 3 o'clock and were starving. The kids didn't want to stay and shop so I left Belize without even a postcard to show I had been there! If I could do it over again, I would have brought sandwiches from the ship just in case and then we could have shopped a little.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman-This was probably the most disappointing port of call of them all. The itinerary was listed as 1:00-5:00 (a change by RCI in October from the itinerary that we originally booked in March which resulted in less time ashore). I had arranged for an independent excursion with Captain Marvin for Stingray City for 1:45, but because of the tendering situation, we didn't make it on time and missed it completely. The line for tender tickets stretched from the Centrum all the way back into the King and I dining room. Many passengers didn't even get onto the island until it was almost time to come back at 4:30. I was told the line to return to the ship was about a half mile long and some passengers were late for the 6:00 main seating for dinner. It was a sad situation!! I had a hard time listening to those RCI commercials on ship where they show all the stingrays after that. I guess the only answer would have been to go ahead and pay the extra money to book a RCI excursion. Those folks got off first.
Panama Canal, Panama-We got up at 5:30 am and got good seats right up front in the Windjammer. It turned out to be a good decision because it started to rain as we entered the locks. It is not a good place to be able to hear the comments about the canal however. I had read somewhere that a calm descends on the ship as it passes through the locks. That person must not have been in the Windjammer! People talking and dishes clanking made it really hard to hear what was being broadcast. After the Splendour cleared the last lock, we had about an hour before we left by tender for our RCI excursion "canal locks by ferry". A nice air-conditioned bus took us to Gamboa. The RCI website says that the passengers will be taken to Balboa and transit back up through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks but we actually did the reverse and thus got to experience being lowered inside a lock. We had a great tour guide named Velma. The bus was stopped 3 times by police checking licenses and permits until Velma made a phone call on her cell. After that, we were not stopped again. This caused us to arrive later at Gamboa than planned and affected our position in the canal. We had to get behind a big freighter and wait for it to be maneuvered into position by a tugboat every time we went through a lock. Our tour got back to the pier at 6:00 pm and we had a little time to shop. If you have any time to shop, check out this place! They have really unusual gift items. We got tagua nuts that had been carved into iguanas and frogs. Molas are a very popular item. They have men's shirts with the molas embroidered on the shoulder areas which another passenger got and we wished we had.
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica-We had originally planned to check out the red tent government taxis and vans (which are green tents now) and take an excursion to the Tortuguero canals or the banana plantation, but we ended up just staying in port all day. We shopped among the venders at the end of the pier and bought pillowcases with molas, lots of beautiful wooden boxes in animal shapes, and all 5 of us had manicures or pedicures (including my husband!!) The cost was $12-$15 per person. A few blocks away in town is a grocery store called Mas x Menos (More for Less) and we picked up some personal items for a fraction of the cost back home. My husband and I had a delicious lunch of steamed lobster, broiled fish, and shrimp soup with 2 Cokes and 2 bottled waters for $30. The restaurant was owned by an Oriental couple and was called M & M.
Roatan, Honduras-Another disappointment! The itinerary said we would be there from 12:00-7:00 pm. However, a Carnival ship was already at the pier and we waited out in the bay until it left. We didn't get off the ship until 3 pm and by 6 pm it was dark. The captain had said we could remain ashore until 7:30 but there is not much you can do after dark. Roatan does not have street lights like the U.S. and most of the activities need daylight. We tried to squeeze a horseback ride in the hills and a swim at the beach at Foster's resort in these 3 hours of daylight. Because we were late, we ended up with a horseback ride down the sandy road to the West End and 45 minutes to swim at Foster's.
Costa Maya-This port of call got cancelled entirely due to weather conditions. We had planned to shop, relax and eat some local food or rent a golf cart and let our girls "drive" us into Mahajual. We ended up coming home with fewer souvenirs and more money (not something we really wanted to do). We also encountered dense fog returning to Galveston and the ship had to blow the horn from about 2:30 am to 5:30 am. I was really tired by the time we disembarked!
Disembarkation-I have never been through disembarkation before, but it seemed very smooth to me. We had our bags out in the hall around 11:00 pm the night before and we ready for breakfast in the Windjammer by 7:30. We left our carry-on luggage in the stateroom and returned for it by 8:00. Oleg was already cleaning our stateroom for the next guests. We waited in the Crown & Anchor study and played a card game with friends until our color was called. Immigration was quick and not too long after, we left the ship. Our luggage was easy to spot because most of the luggage was already claimed. Getting a porter was a little harder but we were on our way home by 10:30 am.
Over all, we did enjoy the cruise but have realized that a ship is not the best guarantee to get you where you want to go if ports of call are an important factor to your vacation enjoyment. As someone else has said before: "Book the ship, not the itinerary". The itinerary can and probably will change.
We are Gary (51), Lisa (44) and David (9) from Brazoria, Texas - about 60 miles from the Port of Galveston. This was our 4th cruise and our 1st cruise on Royal Caribbean. Our other cruises were: - Celebrity Mercury (December 1998), - Carnival Celebration (February 2001), and - Celebrity Millennium (December 2001).
Before we started cruising, we traveled to the Caribbean almost every year since our honeymoon in 1980.
What can I say, the Splendour is just gorgeous. We are so thrilled to have a ship this nice sailing from Texas. She is big, but not too big and very easy to get around. She's immaculate and does not show her age, as far as I can tell. The only thing I saw in disrepair was the glass on our balcony railing, which was cracked.
We had cabin 7130, which is Category D. It's one of the famous aft balconies and was a fun neighborhood, too. The balcony is big enough for 2 lounge chairs and a small table with plenty of space left over. There was hardly any wind, even when the rest of the ship wasabout to blow away. Often, we had a choice of sun or shade
However, if you don't like to walk, don't book an aft cabin on the Splendour. There are no stairs or elevators back there. You have to go amidships to go up or down. I liked getting the extra exercise. I didn't gain a pound on this cruise.
The cabin is long and narrow, with two twins beds pushed together and a full size couch, which looked brand new. The couch folded out to make a futon size mattress. My son had no trouble sleeping on it. The only thing is that once it was made into a bed, it never tucked back in quite right and was hard to sit on at times.
All of the cabin furnishings seemed brand new - except the TV and the lounge chairs. There was more than enough storage space for 3 people on a 10-day cruise. There were plenty of hangers in the closet and shelves everywhere.
The overall service was excellent on this cruise. Our cabin attendant did a great job. Our son really enjoyed the towel animals. I ordered room service every morning and it came on time and was mostly what I ordered. On the last two days, they sent decaf tea (ick). I called and they brought me regular right away.
A note for Earl Grey drinkers: In the Windjammer they only have Lipton's Earl Grey, which I thought wasn't worth brewing. However, for room service they brought Twinings, which is pretty good for tea bags. (I drink loose tea at home.)
Our dining room service was outstanding. We had table 111, on the top level. It was a table for 10. In addtion to the three of us, we had six wonderful tablemates. After the first night, they took the extra place away.
Our waiter was Pedro, our assistant was Thomas, and our headwaiter was Miguel. Pedro was very entertaining, for the kids and adults alike. He showed the kids how to make things out of the napkins. One night he made roses out of paper napkins for the female contingent (3 women and 1 girl) at the table. We saw Miguel more on this cruise than any other headwaiter we've seen. He was very helpful with kids food and the wine.
There were more bar servers around the pool than we've seen on previous cruises. They walked around saying "bar service, cocktails." I don't remember that on Celebrity. I guess that is a difference between Celebrity and RCI.
Now I leave the world of rave reviews to talk about the food. Just to let you know, I'm a picky eater and food - growing it, cooking it and eating out - is my hobby. I had read enough to know that I was not going on this cruise for the food. I was right.
The Windjammer I always found something in the Windjammer to eat. Twice I found something really good - a spicy pasta dish and vegetarian chili. The first day I had breakfast in the Windjammer. The scrambled eggs had a weird taste. They have eggs and omelets to order, but you had to wait in line for them. So, after the first day, I ordered omelets from room service - which were pretty good.
The rolls in the Windjammer were good and they had prepackaged butter that was tasty. The salad bar was the same every day. The lettuce was romaine with some mixed greens. The salad dressings that I tried weren't very good. The blue cheese wasn't very blue cheesy and the ranch was too sweet.
The iced tea on the ship was awful, but I made my own with hot tea and a glass of ice. The cheese was presliced and somewhat bland. That in itself saved me a ton of calories. I could go on, but I won't.
The Mexican Buffet by the Pool They had refried kidney beans! The chips were from a package. The chili con queso was too thick and very bland. The guacamole was prepackaged. But, if you put enough jalapenos on it, it was okay.
The King and I Thank goodness for the King and I dining room. It is lovely and airy. The service was outstanding and the food was good. The garlic soup was yummy. There was no problem ordering multiple entries or sending things back.
There were a couple of great chocolate deserts. I was a little disappointed in the chocolate soufflé. I'm a chocolate junkie and it wasn't chocolaty enough for me. But the flourless chocolate cake was rich and wonderful.
Our tablemates and the food service made the meal special.
Evidently, RCI recently did away with wine stewards. They shouldn't have. Our wine service was confused, to say the least. On the first night, we ordered a wine package. It was 6 bottles for $129 plus tip. This package was a good value and had much better wines than the 10 for $155 package did. However, the service team didn't know about the package, even though we picked up the flier outside the dining room. They eventually figured it out.
We ordered a Barbaresco almost every night. It was regularly $32 on the wine list. There was also a nice French red on the list that our tablemates liked. I liked it to, but liked the Italian better. One night we ordered a Poilly Fusse, which was also on the list. It was also very good.
Pedro kept getting the wine mixed up. One night, he swapped our bottles. We knew it was our bottle since it was the second bottle we had ordered the previous night. We didn't say anything since we were tasting each other's wines anyway and it didn't really matter. This was just one episode of wine service confusion.
Miguel, our headwaiter, picked up a lot of the slack in the wine department. Once we drank our 6 bottles, we ordered off the list. At one point, Pedro got confused and wanted us to pay for an extra bottle. He finally checked with the cellar master and got it all straightened out. I think. I was confused by this time also. Maybe he was right.
Obviously, we are winos and have had a bottle of wine with dinner every night of every cruise we've been on. This is the first time that wine service was so mixed up. The Wine Tasting
Since we were not Crown and Anchor members, we paid $7 apiece for the wine tasting. It was disorganized at first. They didn't have enough cheese or places for everyone to sit. They did rectify that after a while. In addition, we didn't taste in wine glasses, but in those little silver colored, plastic cups that sommeliers wear around their necks. So, you couldn't swirl to get the bouquet or even see the color or the legs. You really need a glass for tasting wine. I won't do another wine tasting on Royal Caribbean, even if it's free. Shore Excursions
We rented a Jeep through LessPay for $60. It was pretty beat up, but it ran. We drove through town and up to the house we like to rent when we go to Cozumel. We ran into one of the caretakers, Rosie. It was great to see her. We will be going back there on our next vacation. After that, we drove to Dzul Ha and went snorkeling. The snorkeling was very good there, although above the water, the scenery is not so great.
We ate at Dzul Ha. The food was okay and we didn't get turista. They had a really, really hot salsa that was incredible.
We were not in Cozumel long enough. I think we had to be back on the ship by 4 and we didn't even get off until 10 or so.
We tendered here. We got a bus to the Holiday Inn beach. It was a nice beach, but too crowded. The day at the beach including the ride there, 2 beach chairs, lunch and 2 beers cost $100. Grand Cayman is expensive and has no soul. I wouldn't be sad if I never went back.
We love Jamaica, but Mobay is depressing. The shops at the port have mostly junk. We didn't go into town, so maybe it was better there.
In the afternoon, we did a ships excursion. It was the catamaran snorkeling and party boat. It was supposed to have rum punch, sodas and beer. All they had was rum punch and regular punch. The boat was a big, 2 story, motorized catamaran. It had viewing windows in the hulls; so, we got a glass bottom boat ride thrown in.
We went to a reef and the snorkeling was pretty good. They were a good variety of fish, and some healthy coral. There was a lot of dead coral there too. After snorkeling, they took us to Margaritaville. We got to stay there a whole 30 minutes, and we had to tender from our boat.
We were not too happy with that. However, I did have time to go down the water slide and it was a blast. Gary got to go down it also. We got a couple of margaritas for the ride back. They were very good. Next time we stop in Jamaica, we'll just take a cab to Margaritaville.
Here we did our own excursion with some fellow cruise critics. We went to Paya Bay resort. It's an unspoiled, rustic resort on the east end of the island. It takes about an hour to get there from the ship.
I loved it. It was remote and uncrowded and the scenery is beautiful. We had a lunch of shrimp and lobster. The shrimp were excellent and the lobster was ok. The sides were rice and potatoes, so I skipped that. (They served rice with everything on the ship.)
The local beer (Salva Vida) was only $2 and very good. The resort filled a cooler with beer and soda for us to take down to the secluded beach. It's a small beach, but gorgeous.
In the afternoon, we went in a small flat bottom boat to snorkel. It was a little rough, but I had no trouble snorkeling. This was the best snorkeling that I have ever seen. The coral was very healthy and diverse. There were many different species of fish. And, the reef was shallow, so the view was wonderful.
Roatan was my favorite port.
We were only here from 7 to 2 and had to be back on the ship at 1:30. Plus, we had to clear immigration before we got off, so no one really got off until after 9.
Here is where we had a bad experience with a shore excursion and it was RCI's fault. My husband and son booked the PT Boat ride for 9:30 am. We had planned to meet after that for lunch, since I wasn't interested in goingon the excursion.
The day before Key West, we got a note that the excursion had been changed to 11:30. They still decided to go.
I went into town by myself to shop. There was an art fair in Key West that day and I bought a flamingo painting. I love it. I got souvenirs for David's class. Key West has some good shops for bulk souvenirs and I had a great time there.
When I got back to the ship, I ran into Gary and Dave. They said they couldn't find their boat. They thought that they missed it. They met at the pier at the appointed time, and the RCI rep told them that they needed to take the tram to town and go to the other dock.
They did and there was no PT boat. They walked around a little and then came back to the ship. Since we were in Key West for such a short time and they spent most of tracking down a non-existent shore excursion, their day there was wasted. Later that afternoon, after we were long gone from Key West, we got a note in the cabin that said the excursion had been canceled. Of course they got a refund, but they didn't couldn't get back their wasted time.
Entertainment and Activities
The entertainment on board was great. We went to most of the shows and they were very good. I laughed so hard I cried at Joey Van's show. I loved the guitar player, Mario. The band was great and so were the dancers. I did fall asleep in one production show, so I skipped the other. Gary and Dave loved it. Marty Allen was funny and his wife was a great straight woman.
I thought Gordon Whatman, the cruise director, was a hoot. He was always cracking me up.
There were too many activities to keep track of. Since the weather was so nice on this cruise, we mostly stayed by the pool or on our balcony. There was a lot of stuff going on at night and we missed it all, I'm afraid to say. It looked like fun when we watched some of it on TV, though.
My son decided he didn't like the kids' activities on this ship. We were surprised, since on our last cruise on the Millennium, we couldn't keep him out of the kids club. Nor on our other Celebrity cruise.
It took a while to figure out, but he didn't hit it off with one of the counselors, Brad. One day, I dropped Dave off and he asked Brad what they were going to do that day. Brad blew him off with "I can't tell you." and went back to what he was doing. Dave looked at me and wanted to leave then. He was the only kid over 5 that was there at that time.
Another time, during the family water balloon event, Brad said, "If you drop it, you'll get all wet and look stupid." If Brad said stuff like that often, then I can see why Dave didn't want to go. Dave's not athletic and he's sensitive about it.
A guy down the hall from us got busted for having marijuana on the morning we were in Key West. We could smell it in the hall every night. He was smoking in his inside cabin. They bring on dogs in Key West and they sniffed it out. They took him off in handcuffs.
In another Key West incident, a woman slapped a teenager that she didn't know, on the crowded stairway when we were trying to get off the ship. Evidentially, the kid cussed and woman slapped him. His mother was a flight up and went ballistic. It was so crowded that she couldn't get down to the slapper. The rest of us were standing there in stunned silence. I heard that later they all ended up at the purser's desk.
We had a great time on this beautiful ship. We'll certainly sail Royal Caribbean again.
The Good, in no particular order: Service Activities Ship People Entertainment Cabin Perfect weather Snorkeling Wine prices Dining room food
The Okay Jamaica shore excursion Windjammer food
The Bad Key West Shore Excursion canceled without notice Ice tea
The Ugly The cracked glass on the balcony The slapping incident
Well, that's all folks! Happy Cruising, Lisa
We left Barcelona on June 30 after 7 days in the city and surrounding area. We found the boarding process quick and friendly, and spent the afternoon becoming acquainted with the ship layout, playing miniature golf on the top deck, and relaxing with "the drink of the day" while leaving the harbor. The Splendour is a nice ship with some excellent public areas, but there were many families with children onboard, which made it difficult for us to use areas like the pool and the pool deck much of the time. Our cabin was comfortable, although the furniture needed to be replaced.
The meals were good, the service excellent, and the ports of call interesting. Due to the distance of most of the major cities from the ports we would recommend using the tour group's transportation at least to reach the sight-seeing areas. We are frequent travellers, but this was only our third cruise. I'm not sure I would recommend this particular cruise unless you want very busy days with very little ship time. We also learned that many of the Europeans received deeply discounted fares compared to the U.S. passengers dueRoyal Caribbean seeing a sharp drop-off in their American clients since 9/11. See if you find a European travel agent to book your trip! The Splendour was nice, but not first class. We enjoyed our trip, but think we might try another cruise line next time.
As there are many reviews available of the Splendour of the Seas herself, I have kept a review of the ship itself to a minimum and accentuated other aspects of the journey. In preface, I spent one week in Berlin, Germany prior to the cruise and flew into Barcelona one night before the voyage to enjoy some of the city. I highly recommend at least one overnight stay in beautiful Barcelona to see the city as well as reduce jet lag. This will allow you to begin enjoying the ship and her activities right from the start. For my review, I'll detail the journey day-by-day including shore excursions and port information therein.
Barcelona itself is a fantastic city to explore on one's own or to participate in an organized tour. There is so much to see that a couple of days barely does justice. I stayed at the Hotel Majestic on the Passeig de Gracia, being very near to the shopping mecca of las Ramblas. I chose to walk from my hotel as far away and toward the water as I could go and then to take the Metro backto my hotel at the end of the day. Being able to speak Spanish helped me in this process but is not necessary to figure out the subway system. When I arrived at the water where cruise ships dock (Port Vell/Port Olypmic), I noticed that the Radisson Diamond was occupying the pier. Upon returning to the Hotel Majestic and having a quick nap, I headed out to a street cafe to enjoy the evening air and watch the passers by. Before heading back to the hotel for the evening, I grabbed a coffee from McDonald's. As funny as it sounds, it still proved to be more of a stronger, typically European coffee blend. Nearly any coffee one orders in Europe is much stronger than in the United States and some prefer to use cream just for that reason.
by about 10:00 p.m. I returned to the lobby of the Hotel Majestic. This is a very beautiful hotel with a clean marble decor and a bright atmosphere. If you plan to book here in the future, be aware that you must insert your room key into a slot near the room door in order for the lights to remain on! If not, they power off after about one minute. For about 1,300 pesetas, there is a delightful European-style buffet available in the morning for breakfast. by this, you won't find much along the lines of French toast or omelettes, but rather a selection of cereals, deli meats, rolls, fruit, and juices. The attentive personnel come around to pour coffee as well. Shortly after breakfast I prepared myself to check out and head to the Splendour of the Seas. I could already see guests entering the lobby who had just disembarked the ship. by approximately 11:00 a.m., I was in a taxi on the way to the port facilities.
Day 1 - Barcelona, Spain - Embarkation
As of this publication, the port facilities are under heavy renovation and there is a lot of industry around the pier. After driving through most of this, the beautiful Splendour of the Seas came into view. As I walked into the terminal building, I was about the 20th person in line before embarkation had even begun. Check-in was very smooth as identification cards are distributed right at the counter and they serve as both your onboard credit card and your stateroom key. Embarkation took place on the deck one gangway so I took the lift up to my stateroom, 6568, just off of the Centrum. The stateroom was very well maintained and very clean. This category offers two lower beds, a vanity/desk, sofa, and table. I requested for the two beds to combine into a larger bed since I was traveling solo. My stateroom attendant, Roger, was one of the best I have experienced in my years of cruising!
For the rest of the embarkation afternoon, I enjoyed the "Welcome Aboard" buffet in the Windjammer Cafe, explored the ship, and met up with staff whom I had immediately recognized around the ship. In exploring the Splendour of the Seas, I decided that this is by far one of the most beautiful ships that I have been on. I have always loved the Rhapsody, Vision, and Enchantment of the Seas but the Splendour pars up - if not exceeds - the others in design. Splendour, like her sister Legend, offers and alternate layout on the entertainment decks than the other Vision-class ships do. Some do not prefer this layout but I took an immediate liking to it and enjoyed it throughout the voyage. After thoroughly exploring the ship, I took a small nap until the mandatory lifeboat mustering. We discovered that we would be sailing late at 7:00 p.m. due to flight delays. I decided to skip dinner in the King and I Dining Room and watch us sail away from Barcelona. Instead, I took part in the casual dining offered in the Windjammer Cafe. Here, there is either an abbreviated dining room menu or a buffet-style meal. We sailed out at exactly 7:00 p.m., directly following Thompson Cruises' Topaz.
There was a single-seating show in the 42nd St. Theatre. This was offered because there were many guests not attending due to having just flown in that day. During the show we met cruise director Parker Cristan and witnessed the talent of the "Gentleman Juggler" Kriztian Kristoff. After the show I headed up to the Top Hat Lounge and enjoyed my usual white wine with some guests at the bar whom I would socialize with throughout the voyage, including bar server Stefan. The show band, Atlantis, performed there in the evenings between organized cruise staff activities. Even later was an "Anchors Aweigh" party in the Viking Crown Lounge and "Dancing through the Years" with d.j. Ricco. Overall, the ship's atmosphere remained quiet from all of the early sleepers this evening.
Day 2 - Marseilles, France
No time was to be wasted to get out and see the beautiful country of France! I woke up to see us pulling alongside the port with a beautiful sunny day ahead of us. Marseilles is a beautiful port city and also the second largest city in France after Paris. This day I took part in the shore excursion «Les Baux». On this tour, there is so much to see in terms of the beautiful provincial countryside and quaint villages. Our first stop was St. Remy en Provence to view the beautiful stone figures named "Les Antiques". We proceeded in our coach for a beautiful photo stop at the wine caves of Sarragon. Marie, our guide, encouraged us to not go into the caves as we'd never be able to return back on our own two feet! After this stop it was time to proceed to the focus of the excursion. We arrived at Les Baux and then had plenty of time to explore this beautiful, quaint village on our own. There are many small shops, cafes, and breath taking views to indulge in. I chose to go to a small restaurant and have an authentic French specialty, a Croque Monsieur. After having this time to wander and explore, the bus awaited to bring us back to the ship in Marseilles, about 45 minutes in length.
That evening was my first appearance in the King and I Dining Room and I met our waiter Ismail and assistant waiter Stefan. I also met the five others who shared the table and made the dining experience so interesting, yet wonderful! In contrary to what the typical 7-night cruises offer in terms of theme nights, the King and I provided a variety of European continental selections changing each evening. The two-level, glass-walled dining room also provides spectacular views of sailing from port. I was fortunate enough to have a table directly next to the window on the main level. This evening's entertainment was Shirley Harmer and Beni Mason. The cruise staff activity in the Top Hat Lounge was Bim Bam Boom - a team activity which pays off if you "think like your fellow passengers". There was some ship's movement this evening in the seas but the rest of the voyage was like sailing on glass!
Day 3 - Livorno, Italy
On this morning we docked bright and early in the port and industrial area of Livorno, the gateway for the city that most guests elected to see - Florence! I took part in the «Taste of Florence» excursion. The tour started with an hour-plus ride into Florence with a stop at an AutoGrill for a restroom break. The AutoGrills are multi-purpose oases that offer shops, restaurants, fuel, and another amenities. When we reached Florence, our bus tour guide turned the show over to Paola who would take us through Florence itself. Paola was one of the very best tour guides that I've experienced this trip. She was friendly, personable, and had a true zest for the material she spoke of. We had about two hours of guided information throughout the city. We were fully explained the history and culture of such places as the Santa Maria Novella Church, Piazza di San Giovanni, Piazza della Repubblica, and the Piazza della Signorina where we could get photos of the copy statues of David and Neptune. We proceeded on to one of the most important sites in Florence - the Piazza di Santa Croce. The Church of Santa Croce houses the tomb of Michelangelo and is representative of Gothic styles of the 16th century reformation and counter-reformation periods.
We then had several hours to proceed off on our own. I walked along the Arno River to find a nice local restaurant to have lunch. It is located just before the Ponte Vecchio and is called La Minga. It was a wonderful opportunity to use my Italian and have a local plate of salad, vegetables, and prosciutto. The rest of my time was spent back-tracking the tour information and indulging in a local gelati. One word of caution in any city in Europe, do not assume that restrooms are readily available! In fact, I found Florence to be one of the most difficult. When one does find one, there may be a fee of at least 1,000 Lire. After our free time, we met back at the Piazza di Santa Croce and proceeded to our coach. Like with many of the tours, this ride back gave us the time for a well-deserved nap! For all of my tours, I either arrived back with just enough time to shower and dress for dinner or decide to eat in the Windjammer Cafe.
That night in the 42nd St. Theatre was singer/entertainer Domenick Allen with his multitude of musical abilities. The activity in the Top Hat Lounge was t.v./movie trivia which I found interesting but only knew a couple of answers to! I truly enjoyed the Top Hat Lounge and believe that she is the most beautiful of the alternative lounges in the fleet. Where this lounge is normally an "aft lounge" on other RCI ships, the Top Hat is located forward just above the theatre. The same is true only for Legend of the Seas as well with the Anchors Aweigh Lounge above the That's Entertainment! Theatre.
Day 4 - Naples, Italy
We arrived early into Naples and I went up to the Windjammer Cafe for an early breakfast. The Windjammer consistently delivered a great variety of items for an American style breakfast. It doesn't take long to discover that many products are brought aboard from Europe instead of the U.S.A. For instance, I noticed the majority of guests trying to figure out which of the milk cartons were non-fat, etc. This is obviously a more sensible approach for the company versus "importing" from the U.S.A. This day, the tour for me was «The Gulf of Campania - with Three Sites». We met our guide, Giuseppe, and headed to our first attraction/washroom stop - a Cameo factory. Some did find some nice goods to purchase but others just stretched their legs. We proceeded to the excavations of Pompeii to explore the fascinating and ingenious city that was once buried beneath thirty feet of ash.
Two-thirds of it is complete but the rest is still being excavated. We explored and learned all about such sites as the Forum, food market, shops, and homes. Perhaps one of the most fascinating sites was the originally preserved bodies on display from when they were originally buried in ash. There was no time to explore on our own but the opportunities to buy souvenirs abounded. We boarded our coach and headed for the breathtaking Amalfi Drive overlooking beautiful beaches and villages. The M/S Saga Rose was at anchor in the harbour, tendering into Sorrento. Our stop at Sorrento began with a full, authentic lunch at La Lanterna. This was a wonderful meal giving us the taste of authentic southern Italian cuisine. We had only 45 minutes to explore downtown Sorrento before walking to our hydrofoil water craft to the beautiful island of Capri. This walk down involved nearly 500 steps and sloping grades. The hydrofoil ride to Capri lasted nearly 45 minutes.
Upon arriving to the island, we took a trolley transport to A Capri at the top of a mountain for some of the most breathtaking views yet to come! Giuseppe gave us the choice to either stay in town or join him for a 25-minute walk to a lookout site. Most of us joined him and we had absolutely no regret! An interesting fact is that absolutely no fuel-powered vehicles are allowed in the streets of the small town. After capturing some fantastic photos, we had the chance to walk back on our own and shop. We then took the trolley back to the hydrofoil and the hydrofoil to the Splendour of the Seas in Naples. To say the least, I opted to casually prepare for dinner and eat in the Windjammer Cafe where I saw two of my other tablemates. After eating I witnessed a fantastic sailaway from deck ten. Locals watched us in awe from the pier and we saluted them back with the resonating ship's whistle. It was a great experience and definitely sent chills all over!
After sailaway I got my close-up seat for the Wave Revue Production of "The Beat Goes On" in the 42nd St. Theatre. This was a very energetic production guiding us through different styles of music and entertainment and the cast did a fantastic job, to say the least! That night in the Top Hat Lounge was the Country & Western ho-down including the legendary "Western Quest" adult scavenger hunt hosted by cruise director Parker Cristan.
Day Five - At Sea
After having had several tour-intensive days, this day at sea was much anticipated! It was a great chance to sleep in, enjoy the sea, write postcards, and have plenty of time to read and write in my journal. This day brought the first formal night with the captain's cocktail party. Since the first few days are busy with ports of call, the cocktail party is done on the first sea day and I found this to be a wonderful idea! I met up with some friends from around the ship to see the captain introduce his staff. The show for the evening was Brooks Aehron, a concert pianist. It was truly a fantastic show and he also performed an encore on the next sea day as a matinee. Photo opportunities abounded this evening for all who were interested in formal portraits - including myself! The entertainment in the Top Hat Lounge that evening was "Name That Tune". As with the other evenings, the fun continued in the Viking Crown Lounge where I saw a much larger crowd than I had imagined for a Europe cruise!
Day Six - Venice, Italy (I)
On this day, the Splendour of the Seas docked at 10:00 a.m. but some of the best scenery was actually viewed before we docked! When arriving into Venice, it is very important to be on the top deck (or even the Promenade deck for that matter) at least an hour ahead of time. As the ship enters the Grand Canal, there is nothing but spectacular scenery to take in! One is able to look into the center of town and down the tiny water ways that make Venice so well-known. During our transit down the canal, the port specialist Graham McCrorie spoke over the public address system to inform everyone of what we were viewing on the outer decks. Shortly after docking, tours began to head off as well as the shuttle service for independent guests into the city. I caught a shuttle at approximately 11:00 a.m. and made it a day off on my own. This is one of the most incredible cities to go off and "get lost" in. The journey begins at the Piazza San Marco and from there the water canals and bridge take you all over the city if you let them! All of the images that one has of Venice came alive such as gondolas, beautiful music, and museums.
I decided to walk as far as I could until I spotted no other tourists and then have lunch there! This journey took me well past the Rialto Bridge into some tiny residential ways until I found a cafe called Jazz Club Novecento. The Rialto Bridge is a beautiful creation housing a multitude of shops and is located nearby to an open air vegetable, fruit, and fish market. At the cafe that I found, I had a vegetarian pizza that was the best I have ever tasted! It appeared gigantic but its thin crust made up for the overwhelming diameter. This quaint back street was wonderful to sit outside and dine while watching native passers by. I managed to find my way back to tourism quite easily and found a small Internet cafe along the way. There are many photo opportunities everywhere you look and the Piazza San Marco is no exception with Doge's Palace and the San Marco Basilica. Many locals and visitors camp out here to dine and people watch even though pigeons flock the area demand most of the attention! Other sites to explore which require extra traveling include the islands of Murano, Burano, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and the Santa Maria Della Salute.
Toward the end of the day I proceeded back to the tender dispatch area and lined up for the shuttle back to the Splendour of the Seas. This was a busy time (approximately 4:30 p.m.) as many guests were heading back to catch dinner. Dinner and shipboard life were very relaxed in that the ship remained docked overnight and many chose to come and go as they pleased. After dinner at 8:30 p.m. I headed down to the pier to catch my first organized excursion for Venice, the «Evening Gondola Serenade». What trip to Venice is complete without a gondola ride, right? This was a wonderful trip and I joined a family of three as we glided through the canals, enjoyed a singer with accordion, and spoke with our gondolier. After the gondola ride, one had the choice of catching the express shuttle to Splendour of the Seas or enjoying the nightlife that Venice has to offer. I stayed in town for about thirty minutes to see the city by night and then elected to head back to the ship. The entertainment onboard the ship was limited on this evening as there were not many guests on board but the movie "Galaxy Quest" ran in the 42nd St. Theatre for those who preferred. I met up with staff on the tender ride back and elected to join them in an organized crew party and catch up with some great friends!
Day Seven - Venice, Italy (II)
Having had no morning excursions, I chose to wake up later on this day and casually have breakfast in the Windjammer Cafe and linger over coffee. My only shore excursion for the day was «The Masterpieces of Venice», meeting at 1:30 PM in the Top Hat Lounge. I was highly anticipating this tour in order to get an alternate view of Italy - through the artwork and pieces of work that create the culture. All shore excursions are highly efficient and punctual. All tours meet in one of three locations: the Top Hat Lounge, 42nd St. Theatre, or on the pier shoreside. It is very difficult to not know exactly where and when your tour meets but it does happen and tours are missed! For «The Masterpieces of Venice», we were lead to the pier and then into our coach for a walking tour of two sites.
Our first site was the Scuola San Marco and is one of the most important in terms of Renaissance art. Our tour guide Antonella did a fantastic job pointing out points such as how man is in the center of the piece and two diagonal lines draw all action around the subject. Most of the focus in the Scuola San Marco is on the ceiling, especially the work of Tintoretto who incorporated humanity and believed that life is drama, not an epic. After our first site we proceeded through a quaint village on to the Basilica dei Frari, a gothic cathedral. We learned of many great artists such as Giovanni Bellini and the details that created religious art such as the use of the precious colours gold and blue. We had the opportunity to ask Antonella any questions that we had outside of the church before we caught our shuttle boats back to the ship. We were able to enjoy a beautiful ride down the Grand Canal and see locals in the windows of their residences before we passed the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.
Just as we had entered Venice with grand style, so would we leave! At approximately 6:00 PM the Splendour of the Seas glided astern and proceeded for the Grand Canal. I secured a spot on the port side aft section of deck 10 with a friend of mine from the staff and had my camera in hand. We commanded the attention of all of the locals as the Splendour of the Seas was definitely the largest and most breathtaking site to see sailing down the channel for some time. I took some of the same photos exiting Venice as I had done just a day before entering but the difference in sunlight created a more unique perspective. by 6:45 PM I headed to dinner to enjoy the rest of sailaway in the comfort of my dining table. I made sure to get to the 42nd St. Theatre very early tonight for the performance of "Starstruck" . I have seen "Starstruck" before on Grandeur of the Seas but that was in 1997 and I was eager to see it again. I recalled the main theme but seeing my friends performing it again was a nice treat. After the show I headed up to the Top Hat Lounge where Stefan had my white wine ready without hesitation! The cruise staff activity in the lounge this evening was "Battle of the Sexes".
Day Eight - At Sea
Once again I thoroughly enjoyed a day at sea giving me the opportunity to stay out later the night before, relax, write in my journal, and view the shipboard events. As I sat in the Windjammer Cafe and imagined in my mind where we were sailing in terms of "the boot", I noticed that we were sailing quite slowly! Captain Grønhaug made an announcement shortly thereafter stating that we would halt for a couple of hours for a medical disembarkation. At around noon, we coasted off of an industrial area of Italy to lower a tender boat and bring a guest ashore. It is always unfortunate to see a medical disembarkation but it is good to know that safety is usually never too far away. The rest of the day was very pleasant even though the Boutiques of Centrum and Casino closed due to our proximity to the shoreline. Pianist Brooks Aehron performed an encore "Classics for your Pleasure" in the 42nd St. Theatre at noon for guests who wanted to see him perform again.
This evening was the second formal night and, once again, there were many opportunities for great photo taking and enjoying everyone in their formal wear - well, most everyone! I do enjoy casual evenings but I never miss the opportunity to dress up and enjoy the formal atmosphere that a ship has to offer. Just before dinner this evening at 6:00 PM we passed the active volcanic island of Stromboli. Many of us were gathered on deck to catch a glimpse of it and take some photos. We could see the smoke pouring from the top and also quite a bit of housing along the side. The entertainment for this evening was Ms. Judy Kolba, a singer/comedienne. She was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed the show, hoping that she would have an encore! The scheduled activity in the Top Hat Lounge was "Call My Bluff", otherwise known as "The Liar's Club" on some other ships. The action continued in the Viking Crown Lounge with "Disco Inferno" including the cruise director and staff performing as the Village People.
Day Nine - Messina, Sicily
On this day we arrived alongside at Messina at approximately 8:00 a.m. Today I planned to meet up with several staff members and we organized a bus ride to Taormina. Before I had left for my trip, I was told that Taormina was definitely to be seen so I did not want to miss out. There was a crew and staff lifeboat drill at 10:00 a.m. so I had breakfast and coffee through that before we were to meet at 11:00 a.m. on the pier. We boarded our bus and the ride took approximately an hour through the scenic hills and roads into Taormina. We all decided to eat lunch at a street side cafe right in the center of town, which was delightful. At that point we all had different intentions of what we wanted to get out of Taormina so we set a time to meet back. Some people, like myself, wanted to get out and see some of the culture where others wanted to experience the Italian shoe culture!
From the center of town I proceeded to find the Greek Theatre that Taormina is famous for. There is a small fee to enter on one's own but it is completely worth it. It is very easy to walk around on your own and take some wonderful photos. On the day that I was there, it was a bit difficult to experience the sight of Mt. Etna but I understand that it is much easier on other days. After walking throughout the theatre, I walked through the small streets of Taormina itself to see what local goods I could find. I was interested in purchasing some local magazines for the practice in Italian but the stores began to close quickly for the traditional lunch break. So, unfortunately, all that I could find was a bottled water before we needed to congregate to catch the bus back to the Splendour of the Seas. I took some photos of the ship before walking back aboard ship as I realized that this could be one of the last days to get easily-accessible views of the ship.
We departed relatively early today from Messina (4:00 PM) and it was quite windy and warm up on deck ten. Tonight's suggest attire was smart casual so many either dressed more formally or just casual. The show for tonight in the 42nd St. Theater was "the physical comedy" of Yacov Noy, who was only moderately funny. A wonderful accent for the evening took place in the Top Hat Lounge afterward with the Splendour Orchestra and their "Big Band Swing Party". It was a refreshing change-of-pace and really struck a chord with many guests on board. It wasn't too much of a late night out in the anticipation of a big day in Rome the following day.
Day Ten - Civitavecchia, Italy
Our arrival into Civitavecchia was quite early and many tours left before 8:00 a.m.. My scheduled tour was to depart at 7:30 a.m. so I elected to have breakfast in the King and I Dining Room along with many others due to the early departure of the most popular excursions. My tour for today was «Imperial Rome» and was slated to last ten-and-a-half hours. We met our guide Giovanni on the bus and he was very humourous and personable, especially for the early hour! We made the obligatory restroom stop at the AutoGrill and then re-boarded the coach for the journey to Rome. Upon reaching Rome we could already see many crowds and tell that it would be a warm day. There is a long stretch of walking to get between all of the sites in Rome and some couples elected to sit out at a cafe and meet up later.
The first stop was the St. Peter in Chains Basilica where the underlying meaning comes from the pope healing an upset woman by touching her with the chains of St. Peter. There is beautiful artwork in the interior to depict this scene along with the Moses statue, an original piece by Michelangelo. After leaving the church we walked about twenty minutes to the Forum for a narration of the political parties that once dominated this area and ironically, that day, there was a strike of some sort going on nearby and the voices resonated throughout. There were many beautiful opportunities for photo taking, including the Triumphal Arch of Titus. A short walk further brought us to the Colosseum at Piazzale del Colosseo - the famous structure best known as the arena of games and gladiators. We received a brief narration about the Colosseum and then we had free-time to explore and take photos.
After all of our adventures thus far, it was time to head to lunch! We dined at Tanagra Caffe Concerto, a lovely restaurant overlooking the Tiber River. We enjoyed authentic Italian cuisine, wonderful espresso, and a fantastic dessert that I'll never forget! After being satisfied with lunch, we re-boarded our coach to head to the Vatican City. I was quite excited to approach this area as I have learned so much about this area but have never seen it. We were dropped off just adjacent to St. Peter's Basilica and then were given about two hours of free time. I elected to head right over to the Vatican Museum which houses eight museums, five galleries, and the Sistene Chapel. After a nominal fee, one has open access to browse through all of the areas even though photography is prohibited in many. I proceeded through the Vatican Museum and approached the Sistene Chapel, which was beautiful and a unique experience. As you enter, the sheer size and beauty take your breath away and guards cover the area to ensure silence.
Unfortunately, there was not enough time to completely cover both the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica, so many chose one or the other to make part of their day. We were supposed to meet Giovanni at 4:30 PM and were held up for about a half-hour from one couple in particular. We proceeded to our coach and were informed that they were on their way via taxi, so we waited another thirty minutes. Being over an hour late, we started to drive back and the cab met up with us and dropped the couple off. We didn't arrive back to Splendour of the Seas until about 6:45 PM which made our tour nearly twelve hours! To say the least, I opted to dine casually in the Windjammer Cafe after showering and dressing for tonight's casual theme. The "Spotlight Showtime" in the 42nd St. Theatre featured Gary Lovini, and international violinist. This was a truly spectacular show and I had the honour to meet up and have drinks with him the next evening, as well! In the Top Hat Lounge that evening was the "Not So Newlywed" game show with the cruise director and staff. After the show was a late night cabaret show with the cruise director and the Splendour big band.
Day Eleven - Villefranche, France
At approximately 7:00 a.m., the Splendour of the Seas dropped anchor off of the coast of Villefranche and there were partly cloudy skies. That cleared up very quickly, though, and the rest of the day proved to be beautiful. Shore excursion guests had priority, of course, to disembark the ship and independent guests could leave the ship by means of tender tickets. After having a casual breakfast I met up with my tour group for the day, «Nice and Eze». We departed the Top Hat Lounge and proceeded to our tender where the ride over was smooth and easy. At the pier we met our tour guide and boarded the coach. Villefranche itself is a small, coastal town in the heart of the French Riviera but is the gateway to spectacular cities such as Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo, and Monaco. To get there, one travels along breathtaking routes called the Lower, Middle, or Grand Corniche. These are narrow, winding roads that never lack for incredible scenery.
Our first stop was at a beautiful church of a Russian theme. We really only had a few minutes to catch a photo of the church and walk up and read about it. We boarded our coach to proceed to Nice. We stepped off of the coach in the center of the city of Nice and walked through a fresh flower, fruit, and vegetable market. We had approximately an hour to explore so I walked the length of the main street and looked for some French reading material. I eventually found my favourite, Paris Match! I truly love collecting foreign magazines in the languages I know and it is particularly exciting to pour through them all in the native countries. We made several photo opportunity stops along the way out and spotted the homes of Tina Turner and Elton John high in the mountains. The drive from Nice to Eze was definitely one of the most beautiful that I've experienced - next to the Amalfi Drive.
The coach dropped us off just outside of the entrance to Eze and we walked up the sloping streets to explore the town. There are many beautiful shops and cafes to explore and purchase local treasures from. There is also an enticing spice stand outside which you'll pass and smell its wonderful aroma. One is able to walk to the very highest point of Eze but we really didn't have the time so I took as many photos as I could throughout the town. The streets are so steep that we witnessed a BMW driving up into town and its engine nearly blew out with smoke pouring everywhere! We felt bad as we could not picture where the driver would get her car from that point to be repaired! Shortly thereafter we met up with our coach to head back into Villefranche where we could stay in town or catch a tender back to the Splendour of the Seas.
This evening was our last formal evening and provided many beautiful photo opportunities both indoors and outside on deck. From the dining room, there appeared to be a beautiful sunset outside so I decided to stroll on deck ten with my camera. I was so happy that I did as it was a gorgeous evening with very little wind and many beautiful seascape views. The Splendour of the Seas did not set sail until 10:00 PM giving guests extra opportunity to spend time in beautiful Villefranche. The entertainment for the evening was "the golden voice" of Hal Frazier whom I have seen on many occasions on the ships in the fleet. In the Top Hat Lounge was the "Name That Tune" championship that was quite popular among the guests. Also very popular was the dance music that followed featuring the Centrum Trio and members of the Splendour Big Band.
Day Twelve - At Sea
It was wonderful to have a sea day just before disembarkation day for a number of reasons. I enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on the wonderful days that we had throughout the voyage and, most importantly, pack throughout the day. I certainly did not want to waste my final evening aboard packing so I had that done well before dinner so that my evening was free for enjoying time with some good friends. During the day were some of the typical final sea day activities such as the final art auction, the guest talent show, and the "Splendour Derby" horse racing poolside.
It was wonderful to review all of the excursions throughout the voyage with friends at dinner and exchange some personal information to stay in touch. The highlight for the evening was certainly the Wave Revue production of "Welcome to Our World" in the 42nd St. Theatre. It was a fantastic melange of culture and music from various countries. Captain Grønhaug also made a farewell address just before the show, which was very nice. In the Top Hat Lounge, the show band "Atlantis" performed one last time even though the ship began to clear very quickly with guests bringing their luggage out into the cabin corridors. This is always the sure sign that the voyage is just about at its end. I made the most of my time with friends on board and stayed up nearly all night long. I figured that I could just sleep extra in my over night in Barcelona, right?
Day Thirteen - Disembarkation Day / Barcelona / Conclusion
I woke up this morning quite early and really didn't feel as if I slept much, as I hadn't! I caught the last few moments of breakfast in the Windjammer Cafe and then had a bit of rest in the Solarium as I waited for my luggage tag colour to be called. The disembarkation process was very smooth and it went much better than the processes I have seen closer to home! A friend of mine from the staff and I decided to spend the day in Barcelona together so we walked off at nearly the same time and proceeded to find transportation into the city. I highly recommend having pre-arranged transportation as I thought that I would "easily" find a taxi into the city but there was an enormous line and it took us well over an hour to get one. Once we did get a taxi, it took about twenty minutes to get where I was staying - at the Hilton Barcelona.
I didn't do quite as much in this day as I had done before the cruise. After I dropped my friend back off to the Splendour of the Seas at 3:30 PM I shopped a bit at El Corte Ingles, took a small nap, and enjoyed dinner in the hotel. My flight was at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning so I was up early the next day to get some breakfast and assure myself plenty of time go get to the airport. The flight home was a long nine-and-a-half hours due to the direction and the jet stream.
Overall, seeing the Mediterranean for the first time on board the Splendour of the Seas was the best way possible and I truly enjoyed this cruise almost more than any other to date. Given the time constraints, I would have surely stayed aboard for the repositioning and/or Baltic/Scandinavia voyages. The Mediterranean itself is breathtaking and seeing it aboard the Splendour of the Seas was fantastic, indeed. Having been on nearly all of the other ships in the Royal Caribbean family, I rate the Splendour as one of the best for sure. Her interior design and colour scheme are very pleasing to the eye and I truly took a liking to her deck layout and public room design. The entertainment lineup was some of the best that I have seen and from speaking to other guests, many agreed. It was great to meet staff whom I am friends with as well as make new friends on board … that always adds to the rich experience of sailing by ship. What better way is there to see the world on a beautiful, sleek ship and enjoying time with good friends and company?