Thursday, December 14, 2006

Review--Splendour of the Seas--December 9, 2006

Splendour of the Seas--December 9-14, 2006

Second part of a b2b cruise. Grand Princess/Splendour of the Seas from Galveston, Texas 12/2 - 12/14. Our first time on Splendour, third RCCL cruise.

Day 1-Embarkation- This was the smoothest embarkation I have ever experienced. We disembarked the Grand Princess almost 11:00 a.m. which was late, but as planned as we would prefer to wait on the Grand than in a waiting room at the terminal. We zipped through customs and our porter took our bags all the way to Terminal 2 to be checked in with RCCL. We just finished when our neighbors and DD pulled into the terminal drop off. We unloaded those bags and then dropped the car at EZ Cruise and walked back to terminal. It was about noon and we proceeded to security and check in. That was no problem as there were no lines at either. We had our choice of agents, got our sail/room/seapass card and was on the ship in minutes. First stop the windjammer for lunch. Our cabins were ready at 1:00 and we dropped off our carry on bags and set about to explore the ship. We enjoyed music and the cocktails in the beautiful Centrum (atrium). We attended the Welcome Show with comedian Greg Otto. The cruise director is Simeon Baker. We have late seating dinner in the King and I dining room. Dinner was good, I had prime rib. We retired after dinner. Seas started getting rougher as we went south.

Day 2-at sea- The seas are choppy and the weather is overcast and windy. Similar to what we just came through last week, but a bit better. I met friends in the dinning room for breakfast. Eggs Benedict were very good. Also check out the windjammer and breakfast looked good in there. DW had room service. They opened the solarium to kids from noon to 2:00 pm because of the bad weather. We set on deck with friends and also had Windjammer lunch there as well. DW and DD went to solarium pool, but they soon closed that because of high seas. Although the pool attendants repeatedly monitored the situation, one by one parents took small children into the hot tub. Finally other adults gave up. The attendants were very busy trying to keep water off the floor as the pool waves were very high and over the sides. Tonight is formal night and the Captains reception was this evening although we didn’t attend choosing to watch the Cowboy game on Latin-American ESPN. We did attend dinner. I had Shrimp cocktail, escargot, sea bass, and Grand mariner SoufflĂ© for desert. There were a lot of people missing from dinner. The weather has gotten worse. The feature show was comedian John Joseph. There were few who attended due to weather, but it was an excellent show. Very funny, one of the best I have seen on a cruise ship.

Day 3-Cozumel- The morning is cloudy and misting rain. We docked about 7:00 am at the International Pier, but not many rushed ashore and several tours were canceled. Breakfast in dining room and off the ship about 9:00 am. Very easy debarkation since there was no rush to shore. We rented a car for five of us and first stop was Dzul Ha for snorkeling. It was overcast, but we made the effort and it was quite good. You can snorkel from shore and there is no cost. While we were there several of the tours brought their groups to this area. There was a wide variety of fish. It would have been ideal if it had been better weather. We proceeded to Paradise Beach for a rest and a couple of drinks. Not crowded at all. We then drove around to the east side of the island and stopped at Playa Bonita which has always been one of our favorite places in Cozumel. The waves and surf were very high on this side of the island. We ordered guacamole and shrimp cocktails which were quite good. We went to San Miguel for some shopping and visited the usual haunts: Havana Blue for a mojito, Mayan Pearl, Cinco Soles, Viva Mexico, and some cafe & Mariachis time on the square. We returned the car and returned to the ship about 4:00. I napped through one of my favorite pastimes, watching the late arrivals, but it must have gone smooth as we sailed away on time before 7:00 pm. Diner in the Dining room. There were many more people than last night. The feature entertainer was Claude Eric a vocalist who was good.

Day 4-Costa Maya- This is the best day so far, but still overcast. We docked about 7:00 a.m. and we have a short stay here. It was interesting watching the Disney Magic dock next to us. A nice ship. DD wants to take a Disney cruise. After a dining room breakfast we went into Costa Maya and took a van to Mahaual. We made the El Faro our HQ for the day. We rented a skiff to take four of us out snorkeling ($15 pp). The water was murky due to recent rains and high waves. Better snorkeling yesterday in Cozumel. We had lunch & drinks and three had a massage while there. A beautiful day on the beach. We returned to the ship about 2:15 for a 3:00 departure. After refreshing and a snack I did my favorite thing, watching late comers arrive back. We actually left two people confirmed to me by the dock master who knew I was keeping a count given to me by the Splendour security. Poor Robert and friend. I rested until the evening show, Los Pampa Gauchos which was very good. Dinner was good, prime rib and lobster for me. I saw our waitress, Nevin, carry the biggest tray of food orders I have ever seen. Soon afterward she was gone and another waiter finished our desert orders. Quest and the Gala buffet was tonight, but I chose to retire after dinner.

Day 5-at Sea- Smoother seas overnight, but interesting news. It seems during the night we have returned to Cancun to debark an ailing crew member at 6:30 am. Yes it was Nevin, our waitress. A good late breakfast in the dining room. The Captains morning update indicated that we are now nine hours behind schedule with expected arrival in Galveston about 4:00 pm tomorrow. Children have taken over the ship. They are in the Solarium ALL the time not just the designated times. Tried the crapes which are located in the Solarium. They are very good. I relaxed all afternoon and watched a movie in the cabin. The fruit plate and cheese plate from room service was better than earlier in the week. Tonight was the debut of the new production show, Dancin’ Through the Movies. This was the first time we have seen the dancers. The new troupe came aboard when we did. I guess that's why we didn’t have movies in the theater as they were rehearsing for the debut show. It was a good show, some bugs to work out, but best (only) show of the cruise. We of course had a new waiter for dinner. I had prime rib and Mahi Mahi. After dinner DD and I spent some time in the internet cafe. They are not charging because of the ship being late, but it had been hard to get in because of the lines to use the computers.

Day 6-at Sea- Our extra sea day! They have scheduled shows and activities and we got a new abbreviated Cruise Compass. Breakfast in the dining room and some time on the internet took the morning. Interesting seeing the all the oil derricks in the Gulf, usually always dark when we go by them. The Captain kept us informed and did say we would meet our goal of docking by 4:00 pm. As we approached Galveston we entered a huge fog bank and we slowed to a crawl. It was interesting and the ship was frequently blasting its fog horn. I thought we’d never make it by 4:00pm, but after about half an hour through the fog the buildings of Galveston were in view. We were home.

Debarkation-I expected a mass rush to deck four and indeed people began camping out down there at 1:30pm. We got separated from our friends as we were several decks apart and agreed to meet only later if possible we do have separate vehicles). We docked about 3:40 and they began unloading baggage soon afterward. I knew the “self/easy-off” pax would be intermingled with the color tag pax, but not as bad as I had expected. The Centrum was packed with people. The first people began leaving the ship right at 4:00. We were observing from the upper decks and thought should we attempt to leave or wait. We developed a game plan and decided to go for it. We retrieved our bags from deck 8, took the rear elevators down and used the outer deck to get to the departure area. We avoided the Centrum and they allowed us to merge onto the gangway. It was orderly considering. We went through customs without any problems and wheeled our luggage to the EZ Cruise shuttle. We got on the bus and as luck would have it they went to Lot #2 first. We were actually at our vehicle by 4:50 pm. I consider it amazing.

Cabin: We have the large interior cabin (8519) on deck 8. We could have upgraded to O/V, but wanted the larger cabin since there were the three of us. A full size couch is in the cabin. In fact it is larger than the BA balcony cabin we had last week on the Grand. We do have the new RCCL bedding. It is nice, very similar to the Carnival bedding system. You can hear deck noise from the lido deck above, especially when the band plays, but it is a great location and the noise is not that bad. There is a video-in and audio-in on the TV. No refrigerator on the I/S cabins even in the larger premium ones. Our cabin steward, Rogie, was very good. He kept the ice chest full and fulfilled some special requests.

Food: Dining room food is good to very good. The service is good, but far below Princess. The best feature of the dining room is the nice piano music during dinner. The room service menu on RCCL is much better than Princess or Carnival with a wider selection and variety; however, service can be hit or miss. One thing I could not believe was the lack of silver for some courses, specifically escargot and shrimp cocktails. The headwaiter said they only had the proper silver in the “elegant” restaurants. I believe she was referring to the premium restaurants, but that indicates to me that the main dining room is not an “elegant” venue. Perhaps so as I saw shorts worn for dinner on some occasions. I must say that the waiters were very accommodating with our selections and offered second entrees or deserts without question.

Ship: The ship itself is beautiful. 'Twas well decorated for Christmas. More decorations than on the Grand in fact. The Centrum, King & I Dining Room, and the 42nd Street Theater are especially beautiful. Housekeeping may be a bit off. I noticed recent rings/watermarks on tables, dirty tables, etc. i.e.--they pick up your glass, etc. but don't wipe the table. There is a Concierge lounge. I loved the 3-D schematic ships in each Centrum lobby. Great maps and details of the ship. They didn’t have enough hand sanitizers IMHO and people didn’t seem to use them either.

Cruise: We would have enjoyed the cruise much more if we had not just come from the Grand Princess. You could not help but compare the two and the Grand is an exquisite ship. We vowed not to compare in front of DD and our friends, we hate to be “one of those” people. I did get a bug by day 3.5 and limited some of my activities. BUT overall I thought this was a wonderful cruise and a great value. It was great to have the family and neighbors together.
A great small ship, a great value and a great cruise.

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