Number of Cruises: 35+
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Splendour of the Seas
Sailing Date: February 12th, 2005
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
January in Cleveland is not pretty and this year was no exception. It had been an exceptionally cold and snowy month and I had been counting down the days, hours and minutes until this cruise materialized. I was eagerly anticipating a respite from the harsh realities of winter in northeastern Ohio. A good friend and former teaching colleague of mine, along with her husband, were joining me on this western Caribbean cruise. Jane and Ralph flew to Tampa with me the day before the cruise, and we planned to stay at the Sailport Resort that night. By the way, I strongly encourage everyone contemplating a cruise, particularly during the winter, to plan to arrive at least one day early. Not only does this eliminate the stress and worry of travel delays that may prevent your arrival at the ship on time, but it allows you the luxury of beginning your cruise relaxed and rested. My roommate, Pat, (yes, “THE Pat” from many of my other cruise adventures) had arrived in Tampa a few days earlier and would be joining us at the hotel. I would be escorting a women’s friendship group from the Detroit area on this cruise and would meet them once onboard.
Our non-stop, Continental flight arrived in Tampa about 3:00 PM as scheduled, and we used the hotels complimentary airport shuttle service to transport us to our waterfront suites. Be aware if you are utilizing a shuttle service, that at the Tampa Airport you must go to the end of either terminal, as shuttle busses cannot pick-up passengers at baggage claim. We were unaware of this, and after waiting for about 45 minutes for a shuttle that never arrived, a limo driver asked if someone had forgotten about me and informed me of my error. Well, apparently the shuttle from the hotel had made 3 trips to look for us, while we were waiting in the wrong place!!!! Once we found the correct pick-up location, it was only a matter of minutes before we were whisked away to the Sailport Resort. It was certainly a good thing that the 3 of us had come from the cold climes of Ohio, because the weather was unusually chilly by Tampa standards. Let’s put it this way, since we had subjected ourselves to standing out in the “cold” for an extended period, I am glad I was still wearing my winter leather jacket! The hotel was reasonably priced, had a nice pool and the rooms all had balconies that offered expansive views of the bay. They were actually apartment size and apparently there were a number of units that were used as long term residences. The rooms were certainly adequate, the shuttle service and location were both convenient, but there was no restaurant or lounge on the premise. Also, since these were suites with full kitchens, there were no ice machines. For a one-night pre-cruise the accommodations were certainly satisfactory, but I am not sure that the term “resort” would be quite apropos. After settling in, we had the shuttle drive us to Landry’s for dinner. The meal and service were both outstanding and a high point of our pre-night stay. After dinner, we called for the hotel shuttle and he was there to pick us up within just a few minutes. By now, my traveling companions and I were all growing weary; so we called it a night and planned to meet the next morning after breakfast. I awoke well-rested, grabbed a few samplings from the complimentary continental buffet and prepared for the short trip to the port. It was still relatively chilly, so I opted for wearing slacks and warmer top. (This was not quite the kind of weather I had envisioned for the start of my Caribbean cruise.) Upon checking out of the hotel at 11:00, once again, the complimentary services of the hotel shuttle were at our disposal; and we were port bound.
Make sure to pack an alarm clock.
Refrigerators are not furnished in standard inside and ocean view staterooms.
The wine packages were a good bargain (if you enjoy wine with dinner).
Catholic Mass was offered every day.
There was a definite lack of public restrooms on the Splendour. There are no restrooms on Deck 4 (The Entertainment Deck) requiring passengers to travel down to deck 3 or up to deck 5. Since in most instances, the use of a public restroom is needed while on deck 4, this was a negative design flaw and particularly inconvenient for the physically challenged.
There are many things to do each day. Make sure to check your Cruise Compass and pack a highlighter to highlight those activities you don’t want to miss.
Having visited the disco on a few occasions this cruise, it is perhaps appropriate to note an interesting phenomenon regarding the ship’s discos. On each cruise the passenger load is different. Although itinerary does play a part in that composition, from week to week, ship to ship, the level of activity in the discos varies. I have been on ships where the age range has been quite similar to this cruise (30’s – 50’s for the most part) and the disco has been empty. Not so, on this cruise. It was packed every night (and not with just the 18-25 yr. set).
Take advantage of the early bird tender special if you have an independent tour scheduled.
Port highlights: Cave Tubing in Belize or plan to snorkel the Belize Reef and Shark Ray Alley; Swimming with stingray in Grand Cayman; Swim with Dolphins in Cozumel or hang out at a beach like Mr. Sancho’s; Get out of the port complex in Costa Maya and visit the town of Mahuhual or visit the ruins on a shore excursion.
According to Pat: Don’t waste your time or money on the City & Sanctuary Tour in Belize. She found it boring and for her it had absolutely no redeeming values. The guides were poorly prepared and their knowledge of Belize was extremely limited. In fact, we will be returning to Belize in April and Pat has already decided that she will definitely be staying onboard.
For those who may have late flights for the return home, a convenient baggage storage service is available at the Tampa Port for $5 per bag.
The Splendour of the Seaqs Anchored
In the final analysis, all things considered, these are the grades that I would assign to the Splendour of the Seas on this particular sailing:
Appearance: “B+” (The Vision Class ships are still quite attractive and the Splendour is no exception. All of the public areas were kept clean and polished, but it lacked a special pizzazz that would give it an “A” grade)
Staff/Service: “B+” (Everyone was friendly and helpful without being overbearing.)
Food & Dining: “B” (My experience in the main dining room was great, but the buffets were only standard fare)
Entertainment: “B+” (The production shows were stellar, the headliners were entertaining and I enjoyed Barry from Boston, but some of the other talent was not what I would rate as “A” material)
Activities: “B” (Although there were a variety of options, I think there were many Baby Boomers onboard who would like to have had more opportunities for enrichment – like computer classes, more than one digital photography class, cultural lectures, even gaming lessons, etc .
Stateroom: “B-“ (The cabin was attractive and well designed, but the shower was only satisfactory, I missed a refrigerator and would have liked voicemail service on the phone)
but this was a pretty standard Western Caribbean itinerary)