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Charles Vassel

Age: 62

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: Two

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Splendour of the Seas

Sailing Date: December 10th, 2005

Itinerary: 7 Day Western Caribbean

The trip from Hell! This was our second cruise with Royal Caribbean, the first was for 7 nights on the Rhapsody of the Seas and we just loved the experience. This short 5 day trip on the Splendour of the Seas was to be a break from the stress of the Christmas season. We left Galveston on the 10th of December 2005. In this review I want to be as fair to Royal Caribbean (RC) as possible because some things were beyond their control.

First, the good. The check in and embarking was excellent. Passengers were allowed to start boarding a few minutes after 11:00 a.m. The Windjammer Café started serving lunch just after noon, but coffee and tea was available shortly after 11:30. Most of the staff in the Windjammer were very helpful and pleasant to passengers. We talked with some of the other passengers who agreed the staff in the Windjammer and in general throughout the ship did not seem happy – few smiling faces on this ship.

The outside wall of our cabin was glass so we had a beautiful view of the water and ports from the cabin. The stateroom was very comfortable and our attendant, Ranea Edwards, kept everything in perfect order. The cabin had more than adequate drawer space but as usual the hanging of clothing is a little tight. The bathroom was small but very nice.

In “The King and I” main dining room the food was excellent and the service was very good. Our waiter was “Chander” from India and his assistant was “Emil” from Bulgaria. Chander and Emil were without a doubt the class of the main dinning room. In looks no one in Hollywood can compare with Chander and Emil and all of the ladies definitely notice them. The only problem was the number of staff members was short and all of the waiters and assistants were handling two or three tables. However, they keep up with everyone and we could not have asked for better service. We were seated at a table of eight and our tablemates were from Texas. Don and Jane had their son, Dan, and his girlfriend Tabitha with them. Dan’s friend Heath and his girlfriend Michelle, who just happens to be Tabitha’s best friend, rounded out our table. The staff performed a song on several of the evenings and did their best to keep us entertained. One thing that bothered me was the failure to enforce rules on the night of the formal dinner. Many of the diners were dressed the same as other nights – this was the same on the Rhapsody of the Seas. I believe it is time for RC to enforce the formal dining or go with casual dining during the cruise. While many of us look forward to formal night it may have out lived it time?

Several of the shows were very good but their headliner was Elaine Lesley, who seems to want to be a cross between Tina Turner and Tom Jones – I walked out on the third song. She had just finished touring Europe with Willie Nelson. No one I talked with seemed to care for the show. On the first night they had a comedian named Tom Briscoe who was very good and the ship talk was that everyone enjoyed his show. He was followed on stage by “The Amazing juggling of David & Diana Dillon” and they were just great. The best show was done on the 2nd night by the RC singers & dancers when they did a big band show called “Jump Jivin’ Swing”.

The ship had a number of entertainment events throughout the days and evenings. However, due to weather the outdoor pool, spas, and other outdoor areas were not used as much as would normally be the case. The casino appeared to be larger than on the Rhapsody, which is a larger ship. There were a number of bars or other places on the ship for drinkers and I can say that I saw more drinking on this ship than on the Rhapsody. Maybe it was the cold weather.

Now for the bad. The Sun did not really shine until the last day of the cruise – not something RC could control. Most everyone wore sweaters, jackets, or sweat-suits during the first two days.

The food in the Windjammer was simply, terrible. I talked with a large number of people during this cruise and only one person said the food was good. Everyone else said it was the worst they have encountered on any cruise, with any cruise line. Many of the passengers started going to the main dining room for breakfast and lunch. It is really bad when everyone agrees about the coffee being really below par – actually it was some of the worst coffee I have ever had the displeasure of drinking.

In Cozumel it rained at mid-day but was pleasant otherwise. As for Cozumel it should be avoided if possible. The hotels fronting the beach were destroyed as was some of the shopping plaza located at the pier. To say the least this did not look like the same Cozumel we visited on our prior cruise in March 2005. The piers were destroyed by Wilma, thus, requiring passengers to be tendered into the port. The waters were quite rough and really caused some problems getting passengers from the ship to the tenders and back to the ship. Many of the shore excursions were not an option at Cozumel since the reefs have been rendered useless for snorkeling. We met a couple who were extremely unhappy and demanding to see the Captain of the Splendour due to a shore excursion. The man stayed on the ship to care for their small child and the lady took the Dolphin Encounter trip. The Cozumel Dolphin area was also destroyed by Wilma so the Dolphin Encounter is now on the mainland 45-minutes from the pier. However, when the lady was returned from the mainland she was put off in downtown Cozumel (much of the town was destroyed) and having spent all of her money buying items at the Dolphin area she ended up having to walk 3 miles back to the Splendour. We heard a few other such horror stories from other passengers.

The photography area really needs help on this ship. They failed to get everything set up and many of us missed the pictures normally taken while embarking in Galveston. The same thing happened in Cozumel. Then to make matters worse the photographers lost some of the rolls of film taken during formal night and from what I heard another photo session. During the Captain’s reception we went in the right door and pictures were being taken, with the Captain, inside the left door – supposedly we were to be told but were not. When people inquired about the pictures not displayed from formal night the staff lied and said their machine was broken but would be repair before arriving back in Galveston. On the last night they started telling people the rolls of film were lost. How about telling the truth to start with?

On the last day I noticed that I had a “bar tab” charge and since we did not drink I talked with the desk and they had two people spend 28 minutes trying to prove that I purchased the drinks, but could not. They finally agreed to remove the charge but would keep checking after getting other passenger problems cleared up. The amount was just under $5, which I would have paid just to stop the confusion – they seemed to waste a lot of time for the small charge. The lady behind me said “remember if everyone was over charged a small amount the ship could make a great deal of easy money”.

The debarking was a nightmare. We left the ship an hour and a half later than expected and then stood in line for another 30 minutes waiting to clear customs.

As a total review I would give an “A” rating to the main dining room, staterooms, and embarkation personnel. A generous “B” for ship staff and things to do on board. Entertainment a “C”, food “C” because of the high quality in the main dining room. The photo staff, excursion staff and pursers staff, as well as the debarkation procedures “F”. The total package of Cozumel and Costa Maya “C” and the shops on the ship “B”. The total cruise I would be generous in giving a “C”.

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