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Cruise Views

A Many Splendored Thing


Royal Caribbean Cruises' new 1,800-passenger Splendour of the Seas, complete with an 18-hole miniature golf course and a fast cruising speed of 22 to 24 knots, made its debut from Southampton, England, March 31 for a summer season of European sailings.

While the company has had other vessels in Europe, this 69,130-ton ship is both the biggest and the newest RCCL has positioned there. One of the cruising world's big three companies, in heavy competition with Carnival and Princess, RCCL operates 10 ships around the world, and with the Splendour (note the British spelling) signals its intention to target the growing European cruise market in its rapid expansion. The line will introduce four more new ships by spring 1998.

We joined the ship during its April 21 sailing, along with 1,690 guests from Europe and North America.

The ship is even more attractive than sister vessel Legend of the Seas, with some outstanding artwork, including a dramatic gilded sun sculpture in the atrium that spans seven decks. And a version of the popular 18-hole miniature golf course, introduced on the Legend last year, is also aboard the Splendour.

The menus aboard are fairly predictable, following the line's usual policy of theme dinners--American night, English night, Italian night--but the preparation and presentation was more sophisticated than usual.

Pizza is offered from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily in the Solarium, and a copious (if not delectable) teatime buffet includes hot and cold drinks from hot chocolate to lemonade, soft ice cream cones, hot puddings, finger sandwiches and cookies.

Dining room service, primarily from European waiters, both male and female, is generally quite good, although some of the newer recruits from Eastern Europe are still working on their English skills.

Other pluses: The chance to convert U.S. currency to lira, francs or pesetas at the purser's desk 24 hours a day, and excellent port lectures.

The entertainment includes music for listening or dancing in several venues at the same time--a piano bar in the Schooner Bar, the Vintage trio in the Champagne Terrace playing jazz and standards, ballroom dance music from an orchestra in the Top Hat Lounge and a loud, flashing disco dance floor set in a stylized Viking ship in the Viking Crown Lounge atop the ship.

The remainder of the European season includes 12-night round-trip Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona, calling at Marseilles, Livorno (for Florence and Pisa), Naples, Venice, Messina, Civitavecchia (for Rome) and Villefranche (for Monte Carlo and Cannes). These are scheduled for Sept. 14 and 26 and Oct. 8 and 20.

June 22, July 4 and 16 and Aug. 9 and 21, the ship offers 12-night round-trip sailings from Harwich, England, to Scandinavia and Russia, with calls at Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn and Copenhagen.

A July 28 British Isles cruise, a June 10 Norwegian Fiords sailing and a Sept. 12 Best of Europe cruise round out the summer's itineraries; all are 12 nights. Fares range from $3,499 to $9,099 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare.

Splendour of the Seas sails from Barcelona to Miami Nov. 1 and begins seven-night Caribbean cruises from San Juan on Nov. 30.

For a brochure, call RCCL at (800) 327-6700.

Slater and Basch travel as guests of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears the first and third week of every month.

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