My wife and I booked this trip a few months ago when we knew we could get away. The embarkation port and the ports of call drew us to the Splendor of the Seas. While not new to cruising this was my first taste of RCI (my wife's second). I had read some of the previous reviews that weren't glowing but I just figured that it was just a bit of grumbling. I decided to just see what was in store for us.
This has to be one of the best experiences we have had getting on a ship. We stayed in Venice for three days before the cruise and decided to take the bus to the city and the people mover to the ship. The bus is excellent, don't waste your money on a ground cab and only take the water taxi if you want to experience the views or are mobility challenged. The cost is 6 Euros (5,50 if you purchase it online before arrival) and it takes you right to Piazzale Roma. From there you can walk to your hotel if you are staying in the city or take the people mover to the ship. The people mover is located in Piazzale Roma between the two car parks on the northwest corner of the square. There is a sign out front that says People Mover. There will be a long line in front of the entrance, don't get in the line it is for the baggage check to the airport. Just work your way through the line into the entrance. The cost is one euro and it takes you fairly close to the port entrance. There is still a bit of a walk to the ship but is not obtrusive if you are able to walk (if you stay in Venice you have to be mobile). Once in the port the luggage drop off is not in the building that you go to check into. It is to the north of that building. They don't have any signs saying this and you will find out just before you get to the terminal. Save the walk and just go to the building on the right of the terminal and drop off your luggage.
While not new the ship is fairly well maintained with only some signs of wear and tear. The layout is not what I was used to as the Windjammer buffet is at the front of the ship with no Lido deck at the stern. Not a large problem but I have become accustomed to grabbing a coffee and muffin first thing in the morning and sitting out side by the rail watching the world go by. This is the first ship of all the cruise lines we were on that didn't have this feature. Maybe some of the mega ships from the other cruise lines no longer have this feature in their designs, but I won't be cruising on those. I have not been on RCI before as about the time I started cruising, the Voyager series was just coming on line and I didn't want to be on a ship with 4000 plus passengers. I can guarantee that I will never get on the Oasis class. This ship is much better as its passenger count is around 1800. Not overly crowded but big enough for a good sized theatre. There is a good mix on young to old passengers on this ship with an average around 40. On Holland America or Cunard the average age is close to death and MSC or Carnival it is closer to puberty. On this ship there is a bit of life but no wild loud drunks. The passenger mix is just that, a mix. I heard five or six different nationalities onboard with the largest contingent being British. Most things are announced in English (the shows, general announcements, games etc.) They do make follow up announcements in Italian and Spanish. The activities staff is very fluent in more than one language, at a trivia game our host was flipping between English, German and Italian for all of us playing the game. It hasn't been the pain that it was when we were on a MSC cruise where they had to make announcements in five languages for everything.
Food & Drink-
The ship has many pluses and minuses in this field.
First the good- There are many stations available all over the ship for snacks to full meals during the day. Also the drink stations are placed all along deck 9 and stocked with water, unsweetened ice tea and two fruit juices. The last two are a welcome sight as many ships are not making available other beverages outside of designated meal times. The Windjammer does not employ the irritating practice of serving you everything for the first two days to prevent the Norwalk virus. You are able to serve yourself right from the get go; greatly appreciated. Our dining staff in the King and I dining room were exemplary.
Now the bad- The Windjammer buffet looks good with different food stations but just doesn't work in practice. First there are no trays to put your food on so you end up either walking around with one plate with everything piled on or you make separate trips. Either way, by the time you sit down for your meal it will be cold.
My first meal in the King and I dining room was ok but nothing to write home about. The prime rib had no flavour and was served with a boiled new potato that was served like a baked potato. My wife loves the cold soup appetizers that are offered at dinner. Her first one was a watermelon soup, I asked how she liked it and she responded with a "meh, it was just blended watermelon nothing more." Now I don't eat these soups so I can't comment, but she does and apparently the higher end ship lines do a much better job (HAL, Cunard, Princess etc.). Fortunately the meals improved as the week went on, I did notice that some of the entrees repeated on different days but my wife's cold soup appetizers were much better. I was pleased that escargot was on the first formal night menu, and it was great. The only thing that I missed was the lobster dinner. I would have also liked to have a little more mediterranean fare on a mediterranean cruise.
-The first night in the King and I dining room the wait staff will ask if you would like Evian or carbonated water; they made it sound like this the only choice, it isn't. Just ask for tap water if you don't want to pay for your water. Your waiter won't ask again.
This review is only for our cabin only as we have no experience with any other cabins on the ship.
We booked an inside cabin hoping for an upgrade but without previous sailings we didn't expect to receive one. We didn't, our cabin was #2015. It is by far the smallest cabin we have ever had on any ship. The bed was configured as a double, but unless you really have to sleep with your significant other, ask to have them separated. Together the room only affords one access aisle to the bed and either you climb across the bed if you are on the wall side or you have the aisle in between the two separate beds allowing both easy access to both. The washroom in the cabin was equally small; you end up sitting side-saddle on the toilet as there is no room for your knees if you tried to sit straight on. The shower is also small, on the faucet side it is at its widest but narrows toward the back. With the curtain pulled across you end up with it stuck to your body, there is no way around that. I just stopped using the curtain as there is a drain just on the other side of the shower lip. Not too much water ended up on the floor if you are careful.
The furniture in our cabin was worn, one drawer front was partially detached but it wasn't one we were using so it didn't pose a problem for us. There is a very small table/stool in the cabin, if you like room service this is what you would have to use. My wife generally likes breakfast in the cabin but didn't use it as it would be too cramped to eat in our cabin. There is a nice flat screen mounted on the wall that cantilevers out, probably the best setup we have seen. The selection of channels is limited but it was nice to have TCM for quiet evenings in after hectic days.
There were two things about our cabin that couldn't be resolved. The first is the strong smell of old tobacco. The second was a loud buzzing sound while in motion. Our cabin steward valiantly tried to use spray deodorizers and an electric de-ionizer to remove the smell to no avail. I knew we would get used to the smell but it was still very present right to the end. If you are very adverse to any tobacco smell do not take this cabin. The humming sound can be quite noticeable at night. My wife and I both wear earplugs when we sleep (so we don't have to hear each other) so the noise wasn't a problem for us, but when I awoke and took the plugs out I really heard it.
This cruise is very busy with the ports of call. On the seven day cruise there is only one day at sea with five ports visited. All ports are docked except for Mykonos which is a tender. Most of the ports are very close to the town so transportation is not necessary. The only two that are a bit of a distance are Athens (there is a bus to the metro right at the port) and Dubrovnik is a bit of a way from the old city. The ship offers a shuttle for ten dollars at all ports but it really is not necessary.
The cruise was more than adequate for our vacation. The shows were OK and the ships ports of call were good. For the right price I would cruise on this ship again.