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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman

Cruise In Review – Splendour of the Seas
May 17-29, 2000
by Steve Garrod

            As there are many reviews available of the Splendour of the Seas herself, I have kept a review of the ship itself to a minimum and accentuated other aspects of the journey.  In preface, I spent one week in Berlin, Germany prior to the cruise and flew into Barcelona one night before the voyage to enjoy some of the city.  I highly recommend at least one overnight stay in beautiful Barcelona to see the city as well as reduce jet lag.  This will allow you to begin enjoying the ship and her activities right from the start.  For my review, I’ll detail the journey day-by-day including shore excursions and port information therein.

Barcelona itself is a fantastic city to explore on one’s own or to participate in an organized tour.  There is so much to see that a couple of days barely does justice.  I stayed at the Hotel Majestic on the Passeig de Gràcia, very near to the shopping mecca of las Ramblas.  I chose to walk from my hotel as far away and toward the water as I could go and then to take the Metro back to my hotel at the end of the day.  Being able to speak Spanish helped me in this process but is not necessarily to figure out the subway system.  When I arrived at the water where cruise ships dock (Port Vell/Port Olypmic), I noticed that the Radisson Diamond was occupying the pier.  Upon returning to the Hotel Majestic and having a quick nap, I headed out to a street café to enjoy the evening air and watch the passers by.  Before heading back to the hotel for the evening, I grabbed a coffee from McDonald’s.  As funny as it sounds, it still proved to be more of a stronger, typically European coffee blend.  Nearly any coffee one orders in Europe is much stronger than in the United States and some prefer to use cream just for that reason.

By about 10:00 p.m. I returned to the lobby of the Hotel Majestic.  This is a very beautiful hotel with a clean marble décor and a bright atmosphere.  If you plan to book here in the future, be aware that you must insert your room key into a slot near the room door in order for the lights to remain on! If not, they power off after about one minute.  For about 1,300 pesetas, there is a delightful European-style buffet available in the morning for breakfast.  By this, you won’t find much along the lines of French toast or omelettes, but rather a selection of cereals, deli meats, rolls, fruit, and juices.  The attentive personnel come around to pour coffee as well.  Shortly after breakfast I prepared myself to check out and head to the Splendour of the Seas.  I could already see guests entering the lobby who had just disembarked the ship.  By approximately 11:00 a.m., I was in a taxi on the way to the port facilities.

Day 1 – Barcelona, Spain – Embarkation

            As of this publication, the port facilities are under heavy renovation and there is a lot of industry around the pier.  After driving through most of this, the beautiful Splendour of the Seas came into view.  As I walked into the terminal building, I was about the 20th person in line before embarkation had even begun.  Check-in was very smooth as identification cards are distributed right at the counter and they serve as both your onboard credit card and your stateroom key.  Embarkation took place on the deck one gangway so I took the lift up to my stateroom, 6568, just off of the Centrum.  The stateroom was very well maintained and very clean.  This category offers two lower beds, a vanity/desk, sofa, and table.  I requested the two beds be combined into a larger bed since I was traveling solo.  My stateroom attendant, Roger, was one of the best I have experienced in my years of cruising!

            For the rest of the embarkation afternoon, I enjoyed the “Welcome Aboard” buffet in the Windjammer Café, explored the ship, and met up with staff who I immediately recognized around the ship.  In exploring the Splendour of the Seas, I decided that this is by far one of the most beautiful ships that I have been on.  I have always loved the Rhapsody, Vision, and Enchantment of the Seas but the Splendour pars up – if not exceeds – the others in design.  Splendour, like her sister Legend, offers an alternate layout on the entertainment decks than the other Vision-class ships do.  Some do not prefer this layout but I took an immediate liking to it and enjoyed it throughout the voyage.  After thoroughly exploring the ship, I took a small nap until the mandatory lifeboat mustering.  We discovered we would be sailing late at 7:00 p.m. due to flight delays.  I decided to skip dinner in the King and I Dining Room and watch us sail away from Barcelona.  Instead, I took part in the casual dining offered in the Windjammer Café.  Here, there is either an abbreviated dining room menu or a buffet-style meal.  We sailed out at exactly 7:00 p.m., directly following Thompson Cruises’ Topaz.

            There was a single-seating show in the 42nd St. Theatre.  This was offered because there were many guests not attending due to having just flown in that day.  During the show we met cruise director Parker Cristan and witnessed the talent of the “Gentleman Juggler” Kriztian Kristoff.  After the show I headed up to the Top Hat Lounge and enjoyed my usual white wine with some guests at the bar whom I would socialize with throughout the voyage, including bar server Stefan.  The show band, Atlantis, performed there in the evenings between organized cruise staff activities.  Even later was an “Anchors Aweigh” party in the Viking Crown Lounge and “Dancing through the Years” with d.j. Ricco.  Overall, the ship’s atmosphere remained quiet from all of the early sleepers this evening.

Day 2 – Marseilles, France

            No time was to be wasted to get out and see the beautiful country of France! I woke up to see us pulling alongside the port with a beautiful sunny day ahead of us.  Marseilles is a beautiful port city and also the second largest city in France after Paris.  This day I took part in the shore excursion "Les Baux. On this tour there is so much to see in terms of the beautiful provincial countryside and quaint villages.  Our first stop was St. Remy en Provence to view the beautiful stone figures named “Les Antiques.”  We proceeded in our coach to a beautiful photo stop at the wine caves of Sarragon.  Marie, our guide, encouraged us to not go into the caves as we’d never be able to return back on our own two feet!  After this stop it was time to proceed to the focus of the excursion.  We arrived at Les Baux and then had plenty of time to explore this beautiful, quaint village on our own.  There are many small shops, cafés, and breath taking views to indulge in.  I chose to go to a small restaurant and have an authentic French specialty, a Croque Monsieur.  After having this time to wander and explore, the bus awaited to bring us back to the ship in Marseilles, about 45 minutes in length.

            That evening was my first appearance in the King and I Dining Room and I met our waiter Ismail and assistant waiter Stefan.   I also met the five others who shared the table and made the dining experience so interesting, yet wonderful! In contrast to what the typical 7-night cruises offer in terms of theme nights, the King and I provided a variety of European continental selections changing each evening.  The two-level, glass-walled dining room also provides spectacular views of sailing from port.  I was fortunate enough to have a table directly next to the window on the main level.   This evening’s entertainment was Shirley Harmer and Beni Mason.  The cruise staff activity in the Top Hat Lounge was Bim Bam Boom – a team activity which pays off if you “think like your fellow passengers.”  There was some ship’s movement this evening in the seas but the rest of the voyage was like sailing on glass!

Day 3 – Livorno, Italy

            On this morning we docked bright and early in the port and industrial area of Livorno, the gateway for the city that most guests elected to see – Florence! I took part in the "Taste of Florence" excursion.  The tour started with an hour-plus ride into Florence with a stop at an AutoGrill for a restroom break.  The AutoGrills are multi-purpose oases that offer shops, restaurants, fuel, and another amenities.  When we reached Florence, our bus tour guide turned the show over to Paola who would take us through Florence itself.  Paola was one of the very best tour guides that I’ve experienced this trip.  She was friendly, personable, and had a true zest for the material she spoke of.  We had about two hours of guided information throughout the city.  She fully explained the history and culture of such places as the Santa Maria Novella Church, Piazza di San Giovanni, Piazza della Republica, and the Piazza della Signorina where we could get photos of the copy statues of David and Neptune.  We proceeded on to one of the most important sites in Florence – the Piazza di Santa Croce.  The Church of Santa Croce houses the tomb of Michelangelo and is representative of Gothic styles of the 16th century reformation and counter-reformation periods.

We then had several hours to proceed off on our own.  I walked along the Arno River to find a nice local restaurant to have lunch.  It is located just before the Ponte Vecchio and is called La Minga.  It was a wonderful opportunity to use my Italian and have a local plate of salad, vegetables, and prosciutto.  The rest of my time was spent back-tracking the tour information and indulging in a local gelati.  One word of caution in any city in Europe, do not assume that restrooms are readily available! In fact, I found Florence to be one of the most difficult.  When one does find one, there may be a fee of at least 1,000 Lire.  After our free time, we met back at the Piazza di Santa Croce and proceeded to our coach.  Like many of the tours, this ride back gave us the time for a well-deserved nap! For all my tours, I either arrived back with just enough time to shower and dress for dinner or I decided to eat in the Windjammer Café.

That night in the 42nd St. Theatre was singer/entertainer Domenick Allen with his multitude of musical abilities.  The activity in the Top Hat Lounge was t.v./movie trivia which I found interesting but only knew a couple of answers to! I truly enjoyed the Top Hat Lounge and believe that she is the most beautiful of the alternative lounges in the fleet.  Where this lounge is normally an “aft lounge” on other RCI ships, the Top Hat is located forward just above the theatre.  The same is true only for Legend of the Seas as well with the Anchors Aweigh Lounge above the That’s Entertainment! Theatre.

Day 4 – Naples, Italy

            We arrived early in Naples and I went up to the Windjammer Café for an early breakfast.  The Windjammer consistently delivered a great variety of items for an American style breakfast.  It doesn’t take long to discover that many products are brought aboard from Europe instead of the U.S.A.  For instance, I noticed the majority of guests trying to figure out which of the milk cartons were non-fat, etc. This is obviously a more sensible approach for the company versus “importing” from the U.S.A.  This day, the tour for me was "The Gulf of Campania – with Three Sites."  We met our guide, Giuseppe, and headed to our first attraction/washroom stop – a Cameo factory.  Some found nice goods to purchase but others just stretched their legs.  We proceeded to the excavations of Pompeii to explore the fascinating and ingenious city that was once buried beneath thirty feet of ash.

            Two-thirds of it is complete but the rest is still being excavated.  We explored and learned all about such sites as the Forum, food market, shops, and homes.  Perhaps one of the most fascinating sites was the originally preserved bodies on display from when they were originally buried in ash.  There was no time to explore on our own but the opportunities to buy souvenirs abounded.  We boarded our coach and headed for the breathtaking Amalfi Drive overlooking beautiful beaches and villages.  The M/S Saga Rose was at anchor in the harbour, tendering into Sorrento.  Our stop at Sorrento began with a full, authentic lunch at La Lanterna.  This was a wonderful meal giving us the taste of authentic southern Italian cuisine.  We had only 45 minutes to explore downtown Sorrento before walking to our hydrofoil water craft to the beautiful island of Capri.  This walk down involved nearly 500 steps and sloping grades.  The hydrofoil ride to Capri lasted nearly 45 minutes.

            Upon arriving to the island, we took a trolley transport to A Capri at the top of a mountain for some of the most breathtaking views yet to come! Giuseppe gave us the choice to either stay in town or join him for a 25-minute walk to a lookout site.  Most of us joined him and we had absolutely no regret! An interesting fact is that absolutely no fuel-powered vehicles are allowed in the streets of the small town.  After capturing some fantastic photos, we had the chance to walk back on our own and shop.  We then took the trolley back to the hydrofoil and the hydrofoil to the Splendour of the Seas in Naples.  To say the least, I opted to casually prepare for dinner and eat in the Windjammer Café where I saw two of my other tablemates.  After eating I witnessed a fantastic sailaway from deck ten.  Locals watched us in awe from the pier and we saluted them back with the resonating ship’s whistle.  It was a great experience and definitely sent chills all over!

            After sailaway I got my close-up seat for the Wave Revue Production of “The Beat Goes On” in the 42nd St. Theatre.  This was a very energetic production guiding us through different styles of music and entertainment and the cast did a fantastic job, to say the least! That night in the Top Hat Lounge was the Country & Western ho-down including the legendary “Western Quest” adult scavenger hunt hosted by cruise director Parker Cristan. 

Day Five – At Sea

            After having had several tour-intensive days, this day at sea was much anticipated! It was a great chance to sleep in, enjoy the sea, write postcards, and have plenty of time to read and write in my journal.  This day brought the first formal night with the captain’s cocktail party.  Since the first few days are busy with ports of call, the cocktail party is done on the first sea day and I found this to be a wonderful idea! I met up with some friends from around the ship to see the captain introduce his staff.  The show for the evening was Brooks Aehron, a concert pianist.  It was truly a fantastic show and he also performed an encore on the next sea day as a matinée.  Photo opportunities abounded this evening for all who were interested in formal portraits – including myself!  The entertainment in the Top Hat Lounge that evening was “Name That Tune”.  As with the other evenings, the fun continued in the Viking Crown Lounge where I saw a much larger crowd than I had imagined for a Europe cruise!

Day Six – Venice, Italy (I)

            On this day, the Splendour of the Seas docked at 10:00 a.m. but some of the best scenery was actually viewed before we docked! When arriving into Venice, it is very important to be on the top deck (or even the Promenade deck for that matter) at least an hour ahead of time.  As the ship enters the Grand Canal, there is nothing but spectacular scenery to take in! One is able to look into the center of town and down the tiny water ways that make Venice so well-known.  During our transit down the canal, the port specialist Graham McCrorie spoke over the public address system to inform everyone of what we were viewing on the outer decks.  Shortly after docking, tours began to head off as well as the shuttle service for independent guests into the city.  I caught a shuttle at approximately 11:00 a.m. and made it a day off on my own.  This is one of the most incredible cities to go off and “get lost” in.  The journey begins at the Piazza San Marco and from there the water canals and bridge take you all over the city if you let them! All of the images that one has of Venice came alive such as gondolas, beautiful music, and museums.

            I decided to walk as far as I could until I spotted no other tourists and then have lunch there! This journey took me well past the Rialto Bridge into some tiny residential ways until I found a café called Jazz Club Novecento.  The Rialto Bridge is a beautiful creation housing a multitude of shops and is located nearby to an open air vegetable, fruit, and fish market.  At the café that I found, I had a vegetarian pizza that was the best I have ever tasted! It appeared gigantic but its thin crust made up for the overwhelming diameter.  This quaint back street was wonderful to sit outside and dine while watching native passers by.  I managed to find my way back to tourism quite easily and found a small Internet café along the way.  There are many photo opportunities everywhere you look and the Piazza San Marco is no exception with Doge’s Palace and the San Marco Basilica.  Many locals and visitors camp out here to dine and people watch even though pigeons flocking the area demand most of the attention!  Other sites to explore which require extra traveling include the islands of Murano, Burano, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and the Santa Maria Della Salute.

            Toward the end of the day I proceeded back to the tender dispatch area and lined up for the shuttle back to the Splendour of the Seas.  This was a busy time (approximately 4:30 p.m.) as many guests were heading back to catch dinner.  Dinner and shipboard life were very relaxed in that the ship remained docked overnight and many chose to come and go as they pleased.  After dinner at 8:30 p.m. I headed down to the pier to catch my first organized excursion for Venice, the "Evening Gondola Serenade."  What trip to Venice is complete without a gondola ride, right?  This was a wonderful trip and I joined a family of three as we glided through the canals, enjoyed a singer with accordion, and spoke with our gondolier.  After the gondola ride, one had the choice of catching the express shuttle to Splendour of the Seas or enjoying the nightlife that Venice has to offer.  I stayed in town for about thirty minutes to see the city by night and then elected to head back to the ship.  The entertainment onboard the ship was limited on this evening as there were not many guests on board but the movie “Galaxy Quest” ran in the 42nd St. Theatre for those who preferred.  I met up with staff on the tender ride back and elected to join them in an organized crew party and catch up with some great friends!

Day Seven – Venice, Italy (II)

            Having had no morning excursions, I chose to wake up later on this day and casually have breakfast in the Windjammer Café and linger over coffee.  My only shore excursion for the day was "The Masterpieces of Venice," meeting at 1:30 PM in the Top Hat Lounge.  I was highly anticipating this tour in order to get an alternate view of Italy – through the artwork and pieces of work that create the culture.  All shore excursions are highly efficient and punctual.  All tours meet in one of three locations: the Top Hat Lounge, 42nd St. Theatre, or on the pier shoreside.  It is very difficult to not know exactly where and when your tour meets but it does happen and tours are missed!  For "The Masterpieces of Venice," we were lead to the pier and then into our coach for a walking tour of two sites.

            Our first site was the Scuola San Marco and is one of the most important in terms of Renaissance art.  Our tour guide Antonella did a fantastic job identifying points such as how man is in the center of the piece and two diagonal lines draw all action around the subject.  Most of the focus in the Scuola San Marco is on the ceiling, especially the work of Tintoretto who incorporated humanity and believed that life is drama, not an epic.  After our first site we proceeded through a quaint village on to the Basilica dei Frari, a gothic cathedral.  We learned of many great artists such as Giovanni Bellini and the details that created religious art such as the use of the precious colours gold and blue.  We had the opportunity to ask Antonella any questions that we had outside of the church before we caught our shuttle boats back to the ship.  We were able to enjoy a beautiful ride down the Grand Canal and see locals in the windows of their residences before we passed the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.

            Just as we had entered Venice with grand style, so would we leave! At approximately 6:00 PM the Splendour of the Seas glided astern and proceeded for the Grand Canal.  I secured a spot on the port side aft section of deck 10 with a friend of mine from the staff and had my camera in hand.  We commanded the attention of all of the locals as the Splendour of the Seas was definitely the largest and most breathtaking sight to see sailing down the channel for some time.  I took some of the same photos exiting Venice as I had just a day before when entering but the difference in sunlight created a more unique perspective.  By 6:45 PM I headed to dinner to enjoy the rest of sailaway in the comfort of my dining table.  I made sure to get to the 42nd St. Theatre very early tonight for the performance of  “Starstruck.”  I saw “Starstruck” before on Grandeur of the Seas but that was in 1997 and I was eager to see it again.  I recalled the main theme but seeing my friends performing it again was a nice treat.  After the show I headed up to the Top Hat Lounge where Stefan had my white wine ready without hesitation!  The cruise staff activity in the lounge this evening was “Battle of the Sexes.” 

Day Eight – At Sea

            Once again I thoroughly enjoyed a day at sea giving me the opportunity to stay out later the night before, relax, write in my journal, and view the shipboard events.  As I sat in the Windjammer Café and imagined where we were sailing in terms of  “the boot,” I noticed we were sailing quite slowly!  Captain Grønhaug made an announcement shortly thereafter stating we would halt for a couple of hours for a medical disembarkation.  At around noon, we coasted off of an industrial area of Italy to lower a tender boat and bring a guest ashore.  It is always unfortunate to see a medical disembarkation but it is good to know that safety is usually never too far away.  The rest of the day was very pleasant even though the Boutiques of Centrum and Casino closed due to our proximity to the shoreline.  Pianist Brooks Aehron performed an encore “Classics for your Pleasure” in the 42nd St. Theatre at noon for guests who wanted to see him perform again.

            This evening was the second formal night and, once again, there were many opportunities for great photo taking and enjoying everyone in their formal wear – well, most everyone! I enjoy casual evenings but I never miss the opportunity to dress up and enjoy the formal atmosphere that a ship has to offer.  Just before dinner this evening at 6:00 PM we passed the active volcanic island of Stromboli.  Many of us were gathered on deck to catch a glimpse of it and take some photos.  We could see the smoke pouring from the top and also quite a bit of housing along the side.  The entertainment for this evening was Ms. Judy Kolba, a singer/comedienne.  She was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed the show, hoping that she would have an encore! The scheduled activity in the Top Hat Lounge was “Call My Bluff,” known as “The Liar’s Club” on some other ships.  The action continued in the Viking Crown Lounge with “Disco Inferno” including the cruise director and staff performing as the Village People.

Day Nine – Messina, Sicily

            On this day we arrived alongside at Messina at approximately 8:00 a.m.  Today I planned to meet up with several staff members and we organized a bus ride to Taormina.  Before I left for my trip, I was told that Taormina was definitely to be seen so I did not want to miss out.  There was a crew and staff lifeboat drill at 10:00 a.m. so I had breakfast and coffee through that before we were to meet at 11:00 a.m. on the pier.  We boarded our bus and the ride took approximately an hour through the scenic hills and roads into Taormina.  We decided to eat lunch at a street side café right in the center of town, which was delightful.  At that point we all had different intentions of what we wanted to get out of Taormina so we set a time to meet back. Some people, like myself, wanted to get out and see some of the culture where others wanted to experience the Italian shoe culture!

            From the center of town I proceeded to find the Greek Theatre that Taormina is famous for.  There is a small fee to enter on one’s own but it is completely worth it.  It is very easy to walk around on your own and take some wonderful photos.  On the day that I was there, it was a bit difficult to experience the sight of Mt. Etna but I understand that it is much easier on other days.  After walking throughout the theatre, I walked through the small streets of Taormina itself to see what local goods I could find.  I was interested in purchasing some local magazines for the practice in Italian but the stores began to close quickly for the traditional lunch break.  So, unfortunately, all I could find was a bottled water before we needed to congregate to catch the bus back to the Splendour of the Seas.  I took some photos of the ship before walking back aboard ship as I realized that this could be one of the last days to get easily-accessible views of the ship.

            We departed relatively early today from Messina (4:00 PM) and it was quite windy and warm up on deck ten.  Tonight’s suggested attire was smart casual so many either dressed more formally or just casual.  The show for tonight in the 42nd St. Theater was “the physical comedy” of Yacov Noy, who was only moderately funny.  A wonderful accent for the evening took place in the Top Hat Lounge afterward with the Splendour Orchestra and their “Big Band Swing Party.”  It was a refreshing change-of-pace and really struck a chord with many guests on board.  It wasn’t too much of a late night out in the anticipation of a big day in Rome the following day.

Day Ten – Civitavecchia, Italy

            Our arrival into Civitavecchia was quite early and many tours left before 8:00 a.m..  My scheduled tour was to depart at 7:30 a.m. so I elected to have breakfast in the King and I Dining Room along with many others due to the early departure of the most popular excursions.  My tour for today was "Imperial Rome" and was slated to last ten-and-a-half hours.  We met our guide Giovanni on the bus and he was very humourous and personable, especially for the early hour! We made the obligatory restroom stop at the AutoGrill and then re-boarded the coach for the journey to Rome.  Upon reaching Rome we could already see many crowds and tell that it would be a warm day.  There is a long stretch of walking between all the sites in Rome and some couples elected to sit out at a café and meet up later.

            The first stop was the St. Peter in Chains Basilica where the underlying meaning comes from the pope healing an upset woman by touching her with the chains of St. Peter.  There is beautiful artwork in the interior to depict this scene along with the Moses statue, an original piece by Michelangelo.  After leaving the church we walked about twenty minutes to the Forum for a narration of the political parties that once dominated this area and ironically, that day, there was a strike of some sort going on nearby and the voices resonated throughout.  There were many beautiful opportunities for photo taking, including the Triumphal Arch of Titus.  A short walk further brought us to the Colosseum at Piazzale del Colosseo – the famous structure best known as the arena of games and gladiators.  We received a brief narration about the Colosseum and then we had free-time to explore and take photos.

            After all our adventures thus far, it was time to head to lunch! We dined at Tanagra Caffé Concerto, a lovely restaurant overlooking the Tiber River.  We enjoyed authentic Italian cuisine, wonderful espresso, and a fantastic dessert that I’ll never forget! After being satisfied with lunch, we re-boarded our coach to head to the Vatican City.  I was quite excited to approach this area as I have learned so much about this area but have never seen it.  We were dropped off just adjacent to St. Peter’s Basilica and then were given about two hours of free time.  I elected to head right over to the Vatican Museum which houses eight museums, five galleries, and the Sistene Chapel.  After a nominal fee, one has open access to browse through all of the areas even though photography is prohibited in many.  I proceeded through the Vatican Museum and approached the Sistene Chapel, which was beautiful and a unique experience.  As you enter, the sheer size and beauty take your breath away and guards cover the area to ensure silence.

            Unfortunately, there was not enough time to completely cover both the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica, so many chose one or the other to make part of their day.  We were supposed to meet Giovanni at 4:30 PM and were held up for about a half-hour by one couple in particular.  We proceeded to our coach and were informed that they were on their way via taxi, so we waited another thirty minutes.  Being over an hour late, we started to drive back and the cab met up with us and dropped the couple off.  We didn’t arrive back at Splendour of the Seas until about 6:45 PM which made our tour nearly twelve hours! To say the least, I opted to dine casually in the Windjammer Café after showering and dressing for tonight’s casual theme.  The “Spotlight Showtime” in the 42nd St. Theatre featured Gary Lovini, and international violinist.  This was a truly spectacular show and I had the honour to meet up and have drinks with him the next evening, as well!  In the Top Hat Lounge that evening was the “Not So Newlywed” game show with the cruise director and staff.  After the show was a late night cabaret show with the cruise director and the Splendour big band.

Day Eleven – Villefranche, France

            At approximately 7:00 a.m., the Splendour of the Seas dropped anchor off of the coast of Villefranche and there were partly cloudy skies.  That cleared up very quickly, though, and the rest of the day proved to be beautiful.  Shore excursion guests had priority, of course, to disembark the ship and independent guests could leave the ship by means of tender tickets.  After having a casual breakfast I met up with my tour group for the day, "Nice and Eze."  We departed the Top Hat Lounge and proceeded to our tender where the ride over was smooth and easy.  At the pier we met our tour guide and boarded the coach.  Villefranche itself is a small, coastal town in the heart of the French Riviera but is the gateway to spectacular cities such as Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo, and Monaco.  To get there, one travels along breathtaking routes called the Lower, Middle, or Grand Corniche.  These are narrow, winding roads that never lack for incredible scenery.

            Our first stop was at a beautiful church of a Russian theme.  We really only had a few minutes to catch a photo of the church and walk up and read about it.  We boarded our coach to proceed to Nice.  We stepped off of the coach in the center of the city of Nice and walked through a fresh flower, fruit, and vegetable market.  We had approximately an hour to explore so I walked the length of the main street and looked for some French reading material.  I eventually found my favourite, Paris Match! I truly love collecting foreign magazines in the languages I know and it is particularly exciting to pour through them all in the native countries.  We made several photo opportunity stops along the way out and spotted the homes of Tina Turner and Elton John high in the mountains.  The drive from Nice to Eze was definitely one of the most beautiful that I’ve experienced – next to the Amalfi Drive.

            The coach dropped us off just outside of the entrance to Eze and we walked up the sloping streets to explore the town.  There are many beautiful shops and cafés to explore and purchase local treasures from.  There is also an enticing spice stand outside which you’ll pass and smell its wonderful aroma.  One is able to walk to the very highest point of Eze but we really didn’t have the time so I took as many photos as I could throughout the town.   The streets are so steep that we witnessed a BMW driving up into town and its engine nearly blew out with smoke pouring everywhere! We felt bad as we could not picture where the driver would get her car from that point to be repaired!  Shortly thereafter we met up with our coach to head back into Villefranche where we could stay in town or catch a tender back to the Splendour of the Seas.

            This evening was our last formal evening and provided many beautiful photo opportunities both indoors and outside on deck.  From the dining room, there appeared to be a beautiful sunset outside so I decided to stroll on deck ten with my camera.  I was so happy that I did as it was a gorgeous evening with very little wind and many beautiful seascape views.  The Splendour of the Seas did not set sail until 10:00 PM giving guests extra opportunity to spend time in beautiful Villefranche.  The entertainment for the evening was “the golden voice” of Hal Frazier whom I have seen on many occasions on the ships in the fleet.  In the Top Hat Lounge was the “Name That Tune” championship that was quite popular among the guests.  Also very popular was the dance music that followed featuring the Centrum Trio and members of the Splendour Big Band. 

Day Twelve – At Sea

            It was wonderful to have a sea day just before disembarkation day for a number of reasons.  I enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on the wonderful days that we had throughout the voyage and, most importantly, pack throughout the day.  I certainly did not want to waste my final evening aboard packing so I had that done well before dinner to have my evening free for enjoying time with some good friends.  During the day were some of the typical final sea day activities such as the final art auction, the guest talent show, and the “Splendour Derby” horse racing poolside.

It was wonderful to review all of the excursions throughout the voyage with friends at dinner and exchange some personal information to stay in touch.  The highlight for the evening was certainly the Wave Revue production of  “Welcome to Our World” in the 42nd St. Theatre.  It was a fantastic mélange of culture and music from various countries.  Captain Grønhaug also made a farewell address just before the show, which was very nice.  In the Top Hat Lounge, the show band “Atlantis” performed one last time even though the ship began to clear very quickly with guests bringing their luggage out into the cabin corridors.  This is always the sure sign that the voyage is just about at its end.  I made the most of my time with friends on board and stayed up nearly all night long.  I figured that I could just sleep extra in my overnight in Barcelona, right?

Day Thirteen – Disembarkation Day / Barcelona / Conclusion

            I woke up this morning quite early and really didn’t feel as if I slept much, as I hadn’t! I caught the last few moments of breakfast in the Windjammer Café and then had a bit of rest in the Solarium as I waited for my luggage tag colour to be called.  The disembarkation process was very smooth and it went much better than the processes I have seen closer to home! A friend of mine from the staff and I decided to spend the day in Barcelona together so we walked off at nearly the same time and proceeded to find transportation into the city.  I highly recommend having pre-arranged transportation as I thought that I would “easily” find a taxi into the city but there was an enormous line and it took us well over an hour to get one.  Once we got a taxi, it took about twenty minutes to get where I was staying – at the Hilton Barcelona.

            I didn’t do quite as much in this day as I had done before the cruise.  After I dropped my friend back off to the Splendour of the Seas at 3:30 PM I shopped a bit at El Corte Inglés, took a small nap, and enjoyed dinner in the hotel.  My flight was at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning so I was up early the next day to get some breakfast and assure myself plenty of time go get to the airport.  The flight home was a long nine-and-a-half hours due to the direction and the jet stream.

            Overall, seeing the Mediterranean for the first time on board the Splendour of the Seas was the best way possible and I truly enjoyed this cruise almost more than any other to date.  Given the time constraints, I would have surely stayed aboard for the repositioning and/or Baltic/Scandinavia voyages.  The Mediterranean itself is breathtaking and seeing it aboard the Splendour of the Seas was fantastic, indeed.  Having been on nearly all of the other ships in the Royal Caribbean family, I rate the Splendour as one of the best for sure.  Her interior design and colour scheme are very pleasing to the eye and I truly took a liking to her deck layout and public room design.  The entertainment lineup was some of the best that I have seen and from speaking to other guests, many agreed.  It was great to meet staff whom I am friends with as well as make new friends on board … that always adds to the rich experience of sailing by ship.  What better way is there to see the world than on a beautiful, sleek ship while enjoying time with good friends and company?

Steve Garrod --

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