Mediterranean 8 night cruise on Splendour of the Seas
My husband and I were on the May 26th sailing of the Splendour. A little about us - we are professionals in our early 30's - no kids yet - 2 prior cruses in the Caribbean on Celebrity. This was also our first time to Europe. With frequent flyer miles we arranged a free flight into Venice.
We boarded the Splendour about 11am on the 26th. We had every intention of checking in, dropping off luggage and going back into town but since we love cruises, we found ourselves by the pool bar and meeting friends from San Francisco. First impressions of the Splendour - nice, but no Celebrity Galaxy or Century. Not as clean or nicely maintained as the Celebrity ships. We quickly made friends with our pool staff bartenders - Lukas from South Africa, Allan and Marcio. We met another couple and looked forward to the next week ahead!
We were seated at the late seating - 9:15pm. We prefer the late dinner so when we get home from the day ashore we can relax or have a drink before rushing to dinner. One note, all the brochures and info stated 2 formal nights, 4 casual and 1 smart casual. There were actually 2 smart casual nights, not 1. Dinner was OK for the week. Again, hate to compare but not nearly up to the standards of Celebrity. We had to hail down the drink server and always ask for water instead of the ass't waiter just re-filling. This was the only disappointing part of our trip and because of it, we will probably not sail RCCL again. To give a glaring example, my husband ordered two appetizers on the final night of the cruise: risotto and soup. Only the risotto came. I'm sorry, but if you can't get the orders right ON TIP NIGHT, something is very wrong.
Anyway, we spent most of the evening in the casinos and exploring and making friends. There is no craps table but we were more than happy with the slots, roulette, blackjack and Caribbean poker. We did purchase the RCCL 12 drinks for $39.99 card which was very easy and a good deal. Also, we found MANY Americans. We thought it would be mostly Europeans and were pleasantly surprised. The ship is considered an American ship and accepts USD in the casinos. You can cash in Euros for USD but you cannot exchange USD for Euros as they are not allowed to carry. All tipping was in Euros for the tours so be sure to get some at one of your ports or before embarking. The tours are all day and long and barely time to find a cash machine.
Day 1 - Dubrovnik - Beautiful Port. Very hot. A tip, the steps around the wall were quite slippy, and very steep for the unfit to negotiate.Watch out for queue at entrance to walled city as this can become congested.
Day 2 - At Sea - where do I start? We went to bingo (and picked up a $150 jackpot!)..Then I entered and WON first place the slots tournament (another $150 and T-Shirt, oh and a trophy) .My husband entered the blackjack tournament and made it the final round and didn't end up on top but did win another T-Shirt. Then went to the Art Auction and finally sat by the pool having drinks (I am Swedish and very fair so the sun is not my friend - need to have other activities to keep me from burning). We packed and went to our final dinner with our wonderful table and then headed off for 'farewell' drinks with friends from the week. I believe about 2am we were winning more money at the casino as they were getting ready to 'close'. Most of the ship was asleep but you have to make the most of it while away!
Day 3 - Mykonos - Loved the cobbled streets with the blossoms overhanging buildings which were all beautifuly maintained.
Day 4 - Kusadasi - before starting the cruise we booked a tour from a local company called Trans Balkan Tours. we can't say enough great things about them and the tours they provided. guide was waiting for us at the port, ready to begin our day. i requested that we try to avoid the ship's buses, and they did everything possible to make sure this occurred! it was a pleasure to enjoy the same places that the ship offered at our own pace, staying as long or as short as we wanted for a fraction of the cost! the fact that we were "alone" made it much more personalized. Our guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. we will most definitely use them on future cruises and from comments made from our group, i can assure you they will also!
Day 5 - Santorini - because this route arrives here on monday, the ruins at akrotiri are closed. the only tour available takes you to the picturesque town of ia (or oia in some books). visit the town on your own --- don't bother with the tour. this is one of the two big regrets of our cruise. this tour took us to the highest point of the island, the profitis illas mountain, where you can see both sides of the island,
Day 6 - Corfu - Waterpark experience awsome if you are young at heart.We did this on our own as cruise company cancelled due to lack of numbers.
Day 7 - At sea - we needed this time off at this point. we were just about "ruin-ed out" and needed a break. we took the tour of the galley that the chef offered and had massages in the beauty salon. the dinner that night included beef tenderloin and lamb chops --- both were excellent and we celebrated over a bottle of champagne our last evening on board with two other couples we had become fast friends with.
Day 8 - Headed home from the ship. We decided to get transfers from the ship to the airport at the last minute through our travel agent - what a GREAT decision! I am amazed at the organization and speed at which we were taken off the ship and onto the waiting coach buses. So worth the $19/per person cost. We checked out bags at Venice and since we were connecting in Heathrow, they actually checked our bags through to Newark! This was British Airways and we were then getting on a Virgin flight. Apparently, that is standard now to avoid having to re-claim your bags in London and then re-check. Saved so much time since we had to get from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3. Our flight from London was delayed an hour but they upgraded us to Business Class for no good reason so no problem with that!
All in all, the trip was beyond our expectations! We made some wonderful friends and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Unfortunately, having cruised in Celebrity a few times, we are spoiled and RCCL did not even come close to the service and cuisine that Celebrity provided. We are very, very 'low maintenance' people but in the future, will spend the extra couple of bucks and sail on Celebrity. We heard too many complaints from other people about the dining room so it was no just 'us'. Our stateroom attendant was EXCELLENT! The bar and casino staff were wonderful and really made this an adventure we will never forget!