Splendour of the Seas, with sister ship Legend of the Seas, is packed with an endless supply of entertainment and relaxation options. Close to 70,000 tons of fun and adventure for up to 1,800 guests with highlights that include a seven-story lobby, and an 18-hole miniature golf course.
Service and cuisine exceeded my expectations. Having said that let me add a caveat: Royal Caribbean is not a "foodie" line like its sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises. When you order a burger or duck you are rarely offered an option in how it's prepared (i.e. medium rare, medium well, whatever). Still, I found the food to be hearty, good, plentiful if not innovative. Service at dinner was unobtrusive and thoughtful.
For dinner, passengers can choose between assigned early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) dining, or opt for RCI's My Time Dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis or simply walk in when you're hungry. (Note: Those opting for My Time Dining will need to pre-pay gratuities.) The restaurant is open seating for everyone at breakfast and lunch every day.
RCI makes up a "Ship Shape" selection list each night from the regular menu, but fails to include nutritional information. There are vegetarian options on every lunch and dinner menu.
Breakfast and lunch buffets are served in the Windjammer Cafe, and lacked variety. The Windjammer also serves as an alternate, casual dinner venue, for which no reservations are necessary. There's a hot dog and hamburger grill in the Solarium.
Royal Caribbean has introduced a somewhat complex drinks-package on board. Adults and children can buy an unlimited soda card for $33 and $21 respectively (plus 15 percent tip). Adults can buy, for $29.95, twelve 16 oz. non-alcoholic drinks (works out to about $2.50 apiece) or $44.85 for 12 alcoholic drinks (about $3.75 per). You buy the cards (or, in the case of soda, stickers) at any ship's bar.
Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.
Though the bottom-end cabins, at about 150 square feet, are hardly palatial, they are comfortable and practical, and even the smallest cabins feature a small sitting area. Storage space is generous. Cabins feature televisions, phones, hairdryers, safes and toiletries. Robes are only available to those who have booked suites. Nearly 40 percent of the outside cabins have balconies. Cabin service was exceptional, unobtrusive and thorough.
In all, there are 17 grades of accommodation, ranging from three and four-berth family cabins to twin insides, seaview (picture windowed) outsides, balconied staterooms and suites. Top of the range is the Royal Suite, a grand affair with whirlpool bathtub and a baby grand piano (Liberace would have been impressed). In the grand suites (the name is more formal than the cabin, which is just a rung above a junior suite), the interior was roomy, designed in a welcoming red-and-gold color scheme, smart beechwood trim and attractive artwork on the cream walls. And with a triple wardrobe, plenty of drawers and shelves and two cupboards in the bathroom, there was plenty of storage space.
Splendour 's 42nd Street Theater with 802-seats is one of the most functional and intelligently designed we've experienced. Sightlines from either the main floor or balcony are excellent. Seating is on fixed banquettes, which guarantees adequate space to enter and exit rows, and space is maximized by eliminating tables in favor of drink holders on armrests.
On a one-week cruise expect one show featuring a name entertainer, two production shows, three evenings of variety acts, and a farewell show. The casino has slots, dice and all the requisite card tables. We found the casino staff unusually friendly and helpful. I've never had so much fun losing money. The intra-ship television channel features numerous channels of professionally produced promotional videos and a rather scrawny selection of movies.
Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for suite guests). Gratuities can be prepaid or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the guest services desk while onboard. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.
Splendour lives up to her name with gorgeous colors, rich woods, and shiny marble gracing her public rooms in muted soft tones. Not to mention the floor to ceiling glass panels that highlight the Centrum with spectacular views of the sea on sunny days.
The most recognizable public room on Splendour of the Seas is the signature Viking Crown Lounge, which sits atop the ship and is popular with the late night crowd and a great place to watch the ship come in to port.
At the foot of the seven-deck Centrum, is the surprisingly warm and inviting Champagne Bar. I am not usually fond of atrium bars, finding them too open and overly trafficked. Here, though, the largeness of the lounge is carved up by the insertion of curving partitions, the separation accentuated by ample placement of plants. Boutiques of Centrum, the onboard shopping center offers an array of merchandise ranging from perfume and jewelry to liquor and cruise wear.
The art-deco Top Hat Lounge, located at the stern, is the ship's secondary performance venue offering up live music and dancing most nights of the cruise. Another favorite public space is RCI's "Royal Caribbean Online" Internet lounge, which offers real-time access to the Web 24/7 for fifty cents a minute. It's easy to email; computers are outfitted with software from the best known ISPs, from AOL to Hotmail to Yahoo, among others. The room is beautifully designed with three "stations" of four terminals a piece and bordered by floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean and the top-most part of the Centrum (which means you can hear the pianist playing below).
There are no self-serve laundry rooms.
Splendour has an extensive children's program called "Adventure Ocean," for kids from three (or when toilet trained) through seventeen. The children are broken up into four age groups: Aquanauts (3-5), Explorers (6-8), Voyagers (9-12), and Navigators (13-17).
Group baby sitting is available from the youth staff from 10 p.m. through 1 a.m. nightly, and, on port days, from noon till departure. The rate is $4 per hour per child (who must be at least three years old and potty-trained). In-cabin sitting is available through the purser's desk and must be booked at least 24 hours in advance, based on availability. Minimum age is one year; the charge is $8 per hour, in cash, for up to two children within the same family, $10 per hour for a maximum of three children in the same family.
RCI will not accept pregnant guests in their third trimester.
Royal Caribbean typically appeals to couples and singles in their 30's to 50's as well as families of all ages. The median age is in the low 40's on seven-night cruises and in the 30's on three-and four-night cruises, passengers 50-55 and over tend to dominate ten day and longer cruises. Royal Caribbean attracts passengers that are looking for an affordable, active vacation.
Expect two formal nights each cruise. Most men opt for dark suit instead of tuxedo, and women choose cocktail dresses rather than lavish gowns. The remaining nights are casual, with sport shirts and slacks recommended for men, and sundresses and khakis for women.
|Fitness and Recreation|
The main open central outdoor area has a large pool surrounded by four hot tubs. Toward the stern is the Solarium with the secondary pool and another two hot tubs. This area is covered by a retractable glass dome. There is an additional small sunning area in the bow. Splendour has a perfectly adequate gym for a ship this size, with eight treadmills and exercise bikes, step machines, etc. A second room offers aerobics and free weights. Steiner's of London has the usual spa installation aboard. Besides fitness pursuits, the cruise staff conducts a large number of games, competitions and other activities both on sea days and in port. As on other RCI ships, this cruise staff seemed to truly enjoy the activities they supervised and participated in. Splendour of the Greens, an 18-hole miniature golf course has the look and feel of a real course with all the benefits of being on a ship, including a retractable roof for rainy days and lights for after-dinner games.
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