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Sylvain Forest

Age: 36 to 45

Occupation:n/a

Number of Cruises: 3 to 5 Cruises

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Splendour of the Seas

Sailing Date: November 5, 1998

Itinerary: PANAMA CANAL

This was our 3rd cruise with R.C.I. We have always felt that their cruises represented a great value, considering all that is available to you and how little we had to pay. We have been shopping around on the Internet for the last 2 cruises and found a great deal every time. We ended up paying $1629 /person (Canadian) for the cruise and port taxes. These tickets were regularly priced at $4000+/person before they came on sale in June 98. A word to the wise: know your cruise market and keep up to date with it. I can’t rely on our travel agent to find such bargains for us. He is not a cruise specialist and he just doesn’t have the time to do that. I firmly believe one is never served better than by himself in those cases. He’ll sometimes call me to see what’s on sale when one of his customers wants to go on a cruise.

(Editors Note: You should always seek out a specialist when you want excellent service. Sorry your agent hasn't become a cruise specialist as if he had, you wouldn't be facing this issue.)

What can one say about a standard inside cabin? They are small but efficient. There is room to store everything, your beds are comfortable, and the bathroom is ridiculously small. The shower’s size would be fine if it were installed in a day care facility but for a very full grown adult, that is inadequate. No wonder almost every stand-up comic you see on these ships makes fun of the shower. I have to agree with them. My solution: I use the men’s sauna’s shower facilities. These showers are bigger than the whole bathroom back in your cabin. I bring my shaving kit and after a relaxing steam bath, a shower and a shave, I’m a new man. That leaves the cabin’s bathroom available for my wife. She doesn’t seem to mind the cramped space in there.

Our cabin attendant was very sweet. She kept our beds made, the bathroom was impeccably clean but she didn’t dust the wooden moldings and the small wooden bookcase once in the 14 days we were on board. I tested that by making a mark with my finger in the dust the day we boarded the ship and it was still there when we got off. Oh I know I could have asked her to dust, but that was not the point. I wanted to see how regularly that chore was performed and I couldn’t assess it properly.

Public areas are all glassed-in and the furnishings are very comfortable throughout the ship. We did find the breakfast selections at the Windjammer Café to be repeated daily and that was a disappointment to us. A little variety in there would have helped a lot. So would, come to think of it, a few smiles on the part of the staff working in there.

Service in the dining room was OK but our bus boy was notoriously inept at his job and the waiter tried to make up for it, so the section manager wouldn’t notice it too much. There was only so much he could do and service suffered tremendously. Overall that team was the worst we had to date. We had to specify to our inept bus boy that coffee was nice when it was still warm and that tea is usually made with boiling water. Speaking of water, we had to demand some at each and every meal. I heard of conserving water but that was ridiculous. Trying to place a standing order for ice water at each and every meal didn’t register with either the waiter of his dense sidekick.

Bar service throughout the ship was courteous and efficient. We got to know a few waiters who worked in our favorite watering holes. One of them even remembered us from our previous cruise on the Splendour of the Seas. How about that to make you feel special? We couldn’t get over it.

Entertainment gets big two thumbs up from us. We enjoy live performers and unless they really stink, we have a favorable prejudice towards them. Let me assure you stinky shows do not board RCI’s ships. Neither of us cares much for Las Vegas-style reviews with tap dancing, glitter and feathers, so we stayed away from these shows. There is always is plenty other stuff to do on the ship anyway.

Dining was a bit of a disappointment at times on that cruise. RCI has apparently dropped the "theme" for each evening (French, British, Caribbean, oriental, etc.). We also thought the quality of the food had gone down a bit also. Although the large majority of the meals we ate in the dining room were consistently good, few meals could be described as awesome, although beef Wellington, lobster and salmon dishes were consistently exceptional. Some disappointing dishes were presented to us. We returned linguine that had been kept warm too long and had become one solid mass. Four overdone steaks had to be returned to the kitchen; we do not eat shoe leather. The salad dressing choices was much smaller than before and quite repetitive. Also, who needs puréed zucchini in Fettuccine Alfredo? If you’re trying to lose weight, stay away from a dish typically made with butter, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. Adding puréed zucchini to it does nothing for the dish.

day transiting the Panama Canal. Aruba is a beautiful island and I don’t mind going there. Clean beaches, great snorkeling, friendly people, safe surroundings, and great nightlife: I love Aruba. Transiting the Panama Canal was a blast. The only way to see the jungle is from a cruise ship. Punta Arenas (Costa Rica) was a waste of time. It is nothing more than a fishing village with nothing to see nearby, no beach that could be recommended as safe, no shopping, except for a souvenir market at the end of the dock. That place was quite a departure from the ports of call we had visited before with RCI and Norwegian Cruise Line. Anytime you want to do anything in Costa Rica, you have to board a luxury motor coach and drive 1, 2 or 3 hours, depending on what you want to see. I have a deep-seated aversion to travelling by bus, so we didn’t book any shore excursion. I even wondered what prompted RCI to stop there in the first place. I won’t soon visit Punta Arenas again and if a future cruise stops there, I’m not even getting off the ship. Acapulco was very nice with beaches, snorkeling, shopping, and all the trappings of a real city: a nice change from Costa Rica. Cabo San Lucas was another low point, but not as bad as Costa Rica. Tendering was efficient. The town is clean and the people are friendly. No one tries to sell you anything on the street and haggling in the tourist trap souvenir market is always fun. Try offering $1 when they ask for $15 and enjoy the lively bantering that ensues. You’ll end up spending $8 and you will still have been overcharged. We went snorkeling in 74 degrees Fahrenheit water (23 degrees Celsius in Canada) with 3-foot waves (1 meter in Canada). The water was cloudy, we saw very few fishes but we did get a chance to see a 4-foot barracuda chasing prey around. We got out of that water fast. The tour operator also told me that great white sharks had been seen in recent days near where we were snorkeling.

All in all, there were 9 days at sea and these were the best for us. We relaxed, participated in activities on a regular basis, enjoyed ourselves, drank reasonably, ate almost reasonably and brought back very nice memories from that trip, although I am sorry to say they aren’t our best yet. We hope to sail on the Vision of the Seas for our next trip. We’ll see what develops by then.

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