The May 5th, 2012 sailing of the Splendor of the Seas was our first cruise on RCCL, as well as our first cruise in Europe. The cruise ports of call were Bari, Corfu, Mykonos, Athens and Dubrovnik, and we choose it for price and the itinerary.
We flew into Milan and took the train to Venice. Venice is lovely, but not easy to get around since there are no roads. We took a water bus to St. Mark's Square from the train station and had to drag our bags through the very busy square and down a four foot wide "street" to our hotel. Venice was jammed with tourists since there were a number of ships in port. To get to the port the next day we dragged our bags to the Blue Line water bus which took us to the port. The walk to the check in area was long and there were no porters or luggage carts. Check in took about 45 minutes.
The ship - The ship seemed in good shape but did feel like an older ship. We have been on some of the older Carnival ships from the 1990s and it reminded us of one of those. I did not see any wear or tear or dirt anywhere. We loved the solarium, although since it was chilly outside it was often crowded. Unfortunately, the no children under the age of 16 policy in the solarium pool was not enforced. The other areas of the ship were pretty standard. The interactive flat screen TVs around the ship were great and lead you to the nearest restroom and provided access to the Cruise Compass. There is no self-service laundry.
Fellow passengers - The passenger makeup was about 70 percent European with a lot of Brits, Italians and Germans. The balance of the passengers were Americans, Canadians, Brazilians, etc. Most people were over 45 years old. The announcements were given first in English.
Our cabin -- We had an outside on deck two forward. It was not huge but it seemed like the carpet and drapes had been replaced and perhaps the bathroom had been updated. The bed was fairly comfortable. The flat screen TV had a station that showed some CBS programs. There were no IPads, nor interactive TV. I never even knew what the room service menu was. The bathroom was nice and I loved the little drawer to store small toiletries. Water pressure in the sink was very weak but the shower was fine. There was plenty of storage and we did not even fill all the drawers. The lack of a refrigerator was a major downer and the drapes could have been more light blocking.
The main problem we had with the cabin was the lack of soundproofing. We could hear the people next door, people in the hall and doors slamming all night long. On Toga Party night the people next door came in at 4am and continued to talk for over an hour! This was the day before the 8am arrival in Corfu. In another review someone said that the air conditioning was too loud. In our cabin we found the fan to be too soft to block out the noise. Thank goodness we brought a sound machine.
A note about cabin locations: The cabins anywhere near the Centrum are very noisy due to the music, aerial shows and dance parties that go to midnight. In addition, they rehearsed the aerial show in the afternoons. The music was so loud it drowned out the trivia questions in the Schooner Bar. If you like to nap or go to bed early avoid these cabins.
Dining -- We were so tired from jet lag and touring so we only ate in the main dining room a few times. Dinner was nothing special and the portions were fairly small. The buffet food was not too bad and they did have theme nights (Indian, Chinese, Mexican, etc.) to add some variety. As with any buffet some of the selections were poor such as the ribs I tried to eat but gave up due to the lack of meat. The problem with the Windjammer Cafe is that it was too crowded at peak times and it was difficult to find a seat.
The Park Cafe was a good place to grab a wrap, salad or sandwich and we went there many afternoons to get a drink and cookies or cake. The hot dog house was underutilized. Maybe Europeans do not like hot dogs? We did not try any of the specialty restaurants.
Entertainment -- I thought most of the shows in the main theatre were very good, particularly the Three Tenors and Ballroom Fever. At the end of the week the shows are at 7:15pm and 9:15pm, the earlier time is a pre-dinner show for the late seating people but we went to the buffet and attended the early show even though we were main seating. The rest of the entertainment was pretty standard. We did not go to any late night game shows or parties as touring Europe was tiring and we were asleep by 11pm.
The Aerial Shows in the Centrum were not that great because the performers did not do much, the music was too loud and it was hard to see.
Service and staff -- Service in the dining room was good and we even found it too attentive at lunch. The waiters tried to keep up with the dirty dishes in the Windjammer Cafe but did not succeed at times due to the crowded conditions. Our cabin steward never introduced herself the first day but kept the cabin tidy. There was a wonderful lady who was always at the entrance to the Windjammer who wore a themed costume every night and smiled and said hello to everyone.
The cruise director seemed a little "too corporate" in his tone but we did have a nice conversation with one of his staff members who was from Croatia. The port lecturer had terrible delivery and it seemed like he had never even been to the ports. He kept saying the same phrases, such as "once again", over and over and gave no personal recommendations.
Ports of call -- Our favorite ports of call were Corfu and Dubrovnik. I highly recommend the panoramic tour of Corfu since it is very scenic. We never saw Corfu town due to lack of time. In Dubrovnik we took the cruise shuttle to the old town and walked the city walls (not free) on our own. In Bari we took the ship's tour to Alberobello, which was interesting. From Piraeus we took the hop on bus to the Acropolis which was very crowded. In Mykonos we just looked around on our own. There is an internet cafe just as you enter the waterfront which we used.
The end -- Disembarkation was stress free until we got off the ship. We had a late morning train ticket to Milan from the Venice Santa Lucia train station. There are two ways to get to the station; walk a mile to the people mover (1 Euro) which lets you off at Piazzale Roma then cross over an arched bridge with a number of steps, or take a taxi (18 Euros) to Piazzale Roma and then cross over that same danged bridge. We choose to take the people mover and were worn out when we got to the train station. I was longing for the easy access that the port of Miami provides at that point!
Milan was buzzing with activity near the Duomo but the highlight was a trip to Bellagio and Lake Como. This was actually the most scenic location of the entire trip. Highly recommend.