On Board with Royal Caribbean

Splendor of the Seas

Onboard Experience:
The second of what are now called the Vision-class ships, also including Legend, Enchantment, Grandeur, Rhapsody, and Vision of the Seas. These ships are all nearly identical with many things in common, the only difference being that each iteration gets a little bigger and carries more passengers. The all have the distinctive Royal Caribbean “Centrum”, seven decks high on these ships, atop of which one finds the Viking Crown Lounge. The decor is light and contemporary, and mostly in good shape because the Royal Caribbean keeps it that way, though it isn’t unusual to see some wear and tear in pockets.

Decor: All of the ships of the class have public rooms full of large expanses of glass to let in glorious sunshine and sea views. She was hailed in her day as a large ship that still preserved the sense of being at sea. Today, she’s an older ship, and actually considered small, but still elegant and classy enough to attract a younger clientele looking for sea escapes and action at night.

Public Rooms:
You’ll find the Champagne Terrace at the bottom of the the Centrum, where live palm trees and a string embellish the ambiance of brass, marble & glass. This is also the shopping area, where three large duty-free stores offer plenty of browse time. There are light woods and marble set fountains throughout the ship, which along with the live foliage and open expanses of outside windows, give the entire ship a feeling of aliveness.

High atop the Centrum, on deck 11, is the ever popular Viking Crown Lounge, perfect for watching the scenery go by (a near 360 degree field of vision near the very top of the ship) in Alaska or the Panama Canal. It is also the place to be at night when it becomes the ship’s late-night disco. There’s more dancing in the evening in the Anchor’s Aweigh Lounge, albeit at a less frenetic pace, while another popular bar is the nautically-inclined Schooner’s. Vegas-style floor shows are presented in the That’s Entertainment Theatre with generally good sight lines from all seats. And as if all that is not enough, Casino Royale has all the table games and slots a non-professional gambler could ever need.

There is a library as well as The Crown and Anchor Study, with computer assisted visual aids to show the ship’s position and more information from the bridge. Nearby is a card room and conference center.

Breakfast in the Windjammer Lido cafe includes cooked to order omelets, or scrambled eggs at the buffet, but fried eggs are not available. Lunch in the Lido is equally pleasing albeit a simple selection. More interesting is the afternoon tea bread pudding or cobbler along with sandwiches, cakes, cookies and ice cream. Overall, passenger satisfaction ratings for the dining room meals are good, as well as for the Windjammer buffets for lunch and and afternoon teas. The option for a late night snack seems to vary on a nightly basis.

The two-story restaurant, amidships, with great views, features a raised platform for pianist or small ensemble. While large enough to handle a thousand people per seating, tables are far enough apart to preclude a feeling of crowdedness. The Windjammer, forward end of Deck 9, also has floor-to-ceiling windows.

It’s obvious that the multinational staff and crew enjoy watching their passengers enjoy themselves. They’re uniformly cheerful, knowledgeable, and eager to help. The wait staff in every restaurant is noticeably solicitous and conscientious.

Cabin service staff is efficient but unobtrusive. The purser’s desk is notably responsive, especially in view of how much troubleshooting they must have to do on a ship this size. Room service, though, can be pretty slow.

Royal Caribbean suggests a per person per day gratuity of $3.50 for the stateroom attendant ($5.75 if sailing in a suite); $3.50 for the waiter; $2.50 for the Assistant Waiter; .75 Head Waiter. These gratuities may be paid in cash or charged to your onboard account. For children sailing as third or fourth passenger in the stateroom, tipping is at the parents’ discretion.

A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Gratuities for room service, spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.

Royal Caribbean is one of the few cruise lines to offer “name” performers, and comedians. Lounge performers are also seasoned and polished.

Splendour’s cabins are cleverly designed to make them feel larger than they actually are; even the smallest feature a small sitting area, and there’s a lot more storage space than you’d have any right to expect. Inside cabins start at a tiny 135 sq.ft up to 172 sq.ft. while Oceanview staterooms measure 154 sq. ft.. Family Ocean View Staterooms (237 sq.ft.) can accommodate up to six people. Standard amenities include TV with pay-per-view movies, CNN, safe, lighted vanity, individual temperature control, hair dryer; bathrooms have showers and medicine cabinets; minibars and tubs are found in the highest category stateroom.

Superior Oceanview with private balcony are 195 sq. feet plus a 41 sq.ft. balcony. The five categories of suites include the Junior Suite (241 sq. ft. 64 sq.ft. balcony) and the Royal Family Suite, accommodating up to eight people, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms (463 sq. ft., balcony 55 sq. ft.).

The gym’s awfully small for a ship this size. The main pool on Sun Deck is adjacent to the Solarium, a stunning glass- enclosed second pool with whirlpools and comfortable lounge chairs. In the “ShipShape” fitness center, you’ll find a spa operated by Steiner’s of London (they of the notoriously pushy staff). A rock-climbing wall has also been added to Vision.

Children’s Facilities:
In addition to separate play areas for kids aged three to 12, there is also a teen lounge that converts to a disco, making Vision an excellent choice for families with children of many different vintages. The “Adventure Ocean” youth program has age-specific facilities and programs supervised by youth counselors for Aquanauts (age 3-5, must be toilet trained), Explorers (age 6-8), Voyagers (age 9-11), Navigators (age 12-14) and Teens (age 15-17). The program runs year-round in the Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas, Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska. Parents can leave their children at Adventure Ocean while they take shore excursions. For this purpose, the facilities open 30 minutes ahead of morning shore excursion departures. Otherwise, organized activities are offered from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with group babysitting from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. for a fee. Teen centers are now open past 2 a.m. Teens will find their own private coffee house and disco.

A new program for infants and toddlers 6 months to 3 years, in partnership with toy maker Fisher-Price, offers 45-minute playgroups for children accompanied by an adult, involving storytelling, creative arts, music and a variety of Fisher-Price learning toys and games. Aqua Babies are six months to 18 months old while Aqua Tots are 18 months to three years old.

Private babysitting is offered from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., provided sitters are available, for children from one year old. The rate is usually between $8.00 and $10 per hour depending on the number of children in the family. Cash payment is made directly to the sitter. Arrange through Guest Services at least 24 hours in advance.

There are two formal nights per cruise. Maybe it’s this ship’s particularly festive reputation that induced most men to don tuxedos for formal nights, even though a dark suit would work fine. In general, though, this ship offers so much to do that you’re likely to see fellow passengers dressed every which way.

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About Donna Beasley

Donna is a romantic travel expert who encourages couples to create memorable romantic moments, honeymoons, vow renewals and other special romance occasions in travel locations throughout the world. She is the founder and publisher of Romance Travel Magazine. A romantic at heart , she hopes to inspire everyone to find love in their own special place.

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