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 the view.
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!