I don’t apologize for it – Jordan and I like to go on cruises. We actually like to go anywhere together. Crazy like that.
Anyway, we have a 4 night cruise to The Bahamas coming up, and it was practically free since there was a major wi-fi issue on the last cruise went on. Since I’m online a lot, this was a b i g deal, but one that Royal Caribbean handled with class.
This vacation really couldn’t come at a better time. Ever have one of those weeks where everyone in your family is the hospital, cars break down, work is swamped, and “pets’ heads are falling off” (that’s a movie quote, y’all)? Well, that’s the kind of week we’ve had. And that’s when a plethora of miles & points comes in handy.
So, here’s what we’re using to make this trip happen…
Jordan is dropping our precious dog off with her folks in Dallas and meeting me in Miami after I’m done with some weekend traveling. Her flight from DFW-Miami was 7,500 Avios and $2.50! That’s also what I paid for my flight from D.C. to Miami. I love Avios.
[Don't forget about the 35% transfer bonus with American Express Membership Rewards points. Plus, topping off a British Airways account is made even easier because Ultimate Rewards is a transfer partner and they have their own British Airways Visa Signature® Card.]
We will be staying Sunday night in Miami, so I looked for a Hyatt. Shocker, I know. But I only need one more stay to complete my Diamond Trial Status Match. Killin it. I went with the Hyatt Regency, since it’s fairly close to the cruise port.
I paid cash for the stay, which is pretty rare for me. But maintaining Diamond status for another year is well worth it. The room was $175 – steeper than I like, but it’s Miami.
We had a couple hiccups with our plans on the way back, but ended up deciding on utilizing our Southwest Companion Pass. Southwest is always my first place to look when traveling domestically. The issue was, Southwest flies out of Fort Lauderdale, which is a 45 minute ride from the Miami cruise port.
But, the longer taxi, bus, or shuttle (haven’t booked that yet) ride is worth it in this case because we’re getting a direct flight fro FLL-AUS! Rare, indeed. And the grand total for our tickets was 11,400 Southwest Rapid Rewards points for BOTH of us. Thank you, Companion Pass.
This is just another example of why I love miles and points. They enable me to travel more, and affordably. It’s no secret that I earn most of my miles & points through rewards credit cards’ sign-up bonuses and by using them for all my purchases. But there’s nothing special about me – other than that I pay off all my bills in full and monitor my credit to make sure it stays in great shape. Point being – anyone with good credit can travel like this. Ok, back to the trip.
The cost of this trip will be:
- 15,000 Avios points and $5 for the flights to Miami
- 11,400 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points and $5 for the flights back to Austin
- $200 for the cruise, since I upgraded us to a better room (imagine that). I had $800 in credits.
- $175 for the Hyatt Regency, my final stay for the Diamond Trial Status Match
- $50 for transportation to the FLL airport from the Miami port
Total= 26,400 points/miles and $425.
Of course, this doesn’t include any spending that we do. Overall, I feel like the value I’m getting is pretty solid. I don’t enjoy paying for hotels unless I’m using a suite upgrade, but this time it’s worth it. And I also plan on turning this trip into a profit by killing it at the blackjack tables.
— Noob MasterRead More
Last week, I wrote about my recent Mediterranean cruise out of Venice on Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas. It was great, except for one minor detail…there was NO wi-fi!
I understand internet on cruise ships is generally spotty AND uber expensive. But a big reason we chose the Splendour of the Seas was for the highly advertised wi-fi. It was a big selling point for me and the mom-in-law, since we both spend a lot of time on the internet for work (maybe too much).
But, we soon realized there was NO internet AT ALL on the ship. No wi-fi, no ethernet, no dial up…nothing. This was a huge blow, and meant I would have to spend precious time at the ports searching for free wi-fi. Sure, I enjoy chilling at cafes with internet while traveling, but this seriously ate into my limited time at the ports and left less time for venturing off the touristy path. And it was worse for my mom-in-law, who was planning on working remotely from the ship.
I’m not one to complain, but I really don’t like when companies advertise something that they don’t even have, or can’t deliver on. Come to find out, the ship was undergoing a wi-fi “update.” This is something that was planned, and that Royal Caribbean knew about ahead of time. Kick to the groin. They could’ve easily put on their website that the Splendour of the Seas was not going to have internet access for this sailing. But, they didn’t. Fail.
Anyway, when I got back to the States, I contacted customer support through their website. I was gracious and didn’t b@#$% too much. Two weeks later, I received a phone call from a representative.
I was kind of shocked that they even called (I was expecting an email), but the rep was very apologetic and understood my frustration. His offer: a $150 statement credit on my next sailing to cover the internet on that trip. I knew this was his low ball offer, so I didn’t flinch. I then asked him if he thought that was fair, considering that I had to spend time at ports instead of with my wife seeing new parts of the world. I also let him know I wouldn’t have booked the cruise if I knew there wouldn’t be internet at all. Things I’d already said that now just meant, “I’m not accepting your crappy offer.”
I honestly was expecting him to up the statement credit to $200 or something, but he shocked me with his next offer of $400 credit (each) towards our next sailing, AND the $150 statement credit. Boom goes the dynamite.
A much more generous second offer. It goes to show that it NEVER hurts to ask, AND ask again! This definitely helped make up for the lack of internet on the last trip.
If you have an issue where an airline, hotel, or cruise fails to provide a service promised – it’s worth it to let the company know. You don’t have to be an arrshole, but if you’ve spent your hard earned $$$ or miles, you deserve to receive what you paid for.
He was actually grateful that I contacted him, because I was able to give him feedback on the customer support of the Splendour of the Seas staff. And he even admitted to now knowing that they needed to update wi-fi connections in between sailings. Seems obvious to me.
I’m definitely happy that I took the 10 minutes to email in (almost didn’t), because I now have a free cruise (or close to it) for me and the wife.
Thank you Royal Caribbean, for owning the mistake and handling the situation with class! Now we just need to pick out our next cruise. Any ideas?
— Noob MasterRead More
A month ago, Jordan and I went on a 7 night Mediterranean Cruise out of Venice on Royal Caribbean’s newly renovated Splendour of the Seas. We had originally planned on driving through Italy and then making our way to Croatia, but plans changed when the couple we were going with backed out. Life happens.
We played around with the idea of doing the trip ourselves, but ended up deciding that a cruise out of Venice would be fun. We wouldn’t have to worry about renting a car, booking so many B&B’s, gas expenses, and we could relax more (or fight less).
We like cruisin, but we also knew that it would have its downsides- like porting at very populated touristy spots, and missing out on driving through the country side. But, it actually ended up working out perfectly, because the in laws joined us. It’s ok, I actually like my in laws. But I can’t imagine driving through Croatia with them, so a cruise was a better fit.
Plus, we were pumped about the ports. They were Bari, Corfu, Athens, Mykonos and Dubrovnik. OMG, the views sailing into these ports were amazing, especially Mykonos and Dubrovnik. Just breathtaking.
Splendour of the Seas
This Royal Caribbean beauty was renovated earlier this year, so I was excited to see how nice it was. It didn’t disappoint. The updates were very noticeable. The Centrum, pool area, lounges, and restaurants were all stellar. I loved the comfortable seating options.
The Centrum inside was especially cool, and there was even an aerial show a couple nights from above.
There were two pools on the Splendour of the Seas, one outside and one inside the Atrium. The Atrium was an adults only oasis with salt water and two hot tubs. Also, the lounge chairs were twice as comfortable than the seating outside. I enjoyed the Atrium pool more than the outdoors one, because it was more relaxing due to it being secluded. Not that there were a lot of kids on this trip (actually it felt like Jordan and I were the youngest people on ship), but there was just never anyone in the Atrium.
The pool outside was nice (a little small), but it had two hot tubs as well, and there were lounge chairs a plenty.
I was very happy with the room we had on the ship. It was your standard deluxe ocean view room on the second level. I was worried about space, but it was actually more room than I thought we were going to have. I was expecting noise from being near the bottom of the ship (closer to the water and mechanical equipment), but it was quiet. Except for the loud group of Aussies that stayed next to us. Really nice people, but they really knew how to party. At 2am. Every night (or morning, I should say).
There was a Samsung (da best) LCD TV, but the programming wasn’t anything to be desired. The shower and bathroom were tiny, but it’s a cruise ship. I enjoyed the extra seating that the little blue couch provided. Yeah, I’m a sucker for seating options.
Things to do
Now this is really where they failed, in my opinion. There weren’t too many entertainment options, and if I can be honest, the live music was pretty pathetic. Maybe I’m a snob, because I live in Austin (the live music capital of the world), or because my wife is a working musician, but these people shouldn’t be paid to sing and I don’t even have an ear to hear these kinds of things. It was obvious.
The silver lining was that Jordan wanted to dance less than normal, so I had more time in the Casino. Which was really the only thing to do past 9pm on the ship besides eat and drink. Jordan even played black jack with me a couple nights (and she hates it), but we had a great time. She stayed with the $1 hands, so she didn’t win or lose anything.
I enjoy sitting at the tables and meeting other cruisers. There’s a camaraderie built among players. During the day, I was giving out high fives and sharing inside jokes with people I met at the tables. Jordan was like, “Who are you?” and “What happend at the tables?” I also enjoy chatting with the dealers and asking about the upcoming ports. They have all the inside knowledge, since they go to the ports often. Don’t worry, there will be a separate blog post on the ports.
There were also plenty of dance lessons that Jordan and her mom enjoyed. Salsa, ballroom, tango, two step, and even a Lady Gaga dance lesson. I passed on the Lady Gag lesson, but I did take a few pics of the ladies.
Begrudgingly, we usually spend a lot of time doing karaoke on cruises, because Jordan’s mom loves it. But they only had karaoke 3 nights on the ship, so it was kind of a lose-win situation. There were a few parties that were mainly an excuse to sell you an expensive drink in an exotic cup. We had fun at a couple of these parties, (maybe one toga party, and maybe there’s a photo, but I’m not sharing).
I did love the touch screen monitors the ship had everywhere, so you could easily find out what was going on and how to get there. Even though the ship was easy to navigate, I kept getting turned around the first couple days.
We had some good times playing miniature golf and shuffle board. Actually, shuffle board caused a few fights, but we have a competitive family. We ended up letting the girls win for the sake of our marriages. There was even a rock climbing wall, but we never tried it because the line was always too long.
We did go to the gym a couple times, so we felt better about ourselves. We ate and drank a lot (some of us more than others), but it’s vaca, right? But the gym had everything you needed- all the cardio equipment and open spaces for those new crazy cross fit extreme trainers. The free weights were sufficient and there were enough machines to work out to your heart’s content.
There are 5 complimentary dining experiences on board and 5 paid experiences. Lets just say there was food everywhere! You had your buffets, cafes, room service and sit down restaurants. The buffets were on par with what you would expect from a cruise ship- some good, some bad. Our favorite complimentary food was actually from the hot dog stand, and we don’t eat hot dogs or bratwurst often. However, the stand had a wide variety and they had a helleva lot of flavor.
The room service selection was a little limited, and they even charged a fee after midnight. Nickle and diming us. Jordan and I enjoyed ordering breakfast room service, so we could have our coffee and eggs as we were getting ready to get off and explore that day’s port.
The complimentary dining was kind of a let down. I heard from many other cruisers aboard that they were disappointed with the dining room food as well. We ended up not even messing with it 3 of the 7 nights.
However, and this is where they get you… the “paid” dining restaurants were awesome. Our favorite was the steakhouse “Chops Grill.” It was well worth the $25 a head. We don’t usually pay more $$ for food once we’re onboard, but this was the right decision, and I highly recommend it.
Of course, there were bars and alcohol everywhere you turned. You can bring a bottle of wine on every carry on, so we did. That’s most of the alcohol we drank, but you know, there’s just something about drinking a beer at the black jack table.
We had a great time on the Splendour of Seas. Going on this cruise made the trip easier for us to manage, and I may have paid for some of it at the black jack table. We still saw Croatia (briefly), Italy, and Greece, so we were happy about that.
The ship was really nice, since it was newly renovated. We just wish there would’ve been a little more in the entertainment department, but that’s just us. Also, the internet was down on the whole ship. You couldn’t even get the spotty wi-fi they usually have. This was a big deal, since I usually email with readers every day and Jordan’s mom was also planning on doing work on the ship. We ended up spending time at the ports on the interent, which was a bummer since we wanted to explore the port, but not the end of the world.
The cruise was $1700 for the two of us. But we put 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points towards the cost, which brought the price down $625. Balling. We would’ve definitely spent more cash renting a car, paying for gas, B&B’s, and more food for 7 nights.
In the end, I can definitely recommend the Splendour of the Seas for a slow paced, relaxing ship, that puts you on the doorsteps of Greece, Italy, and Croatia.
— Noob MasterRead More