We were in a rarified world on this cruise because two weeks before departure to Venice, we were offered an upgrade from an owner's suite to the Royal Suite for an additional cost per person that we didn't consider exorbitant. How could one resist? My description of the Royal Suite can only be superlative. Imagine 1,200 sq. ft., including balcony, with a white baby grand piano!
There were, however, quirky things. For example, our cabin attendant, while very friendly when we chanced upon him in the hallway, didn't stop by once to see if we needed/wanted anything. When we required more ice, we had to track him down. The bathroom in the Royal Suite is actually two rooms, one of which has a two person shower and Jacuzzi tub. There are three sinks in total. Yet, there were only amenities like shampoo, etc., for one person. When I asked the cabin attendant for additional, he scooped up a bunch from his cart and handed them to me. I'm certainly not a fussy type, but I thought that he could have just deposited them in the suite...as in "service." The living room drapes were missing hooks so they didn't close properly, but the suite supervisor had them repaired promptly. My traveling companion resolved the player piano situation (missed keys at lower volume settings) himself, after the tech staff tried and couldn't figure it out. The suite had one toilet flushing issue which was quickly resolved. These are minor things and hardly worth mention, except they indicate a lack of attention to detail -- something RCI needs to focus upon.
The room service staff was exceptional. They provided first class service for breakfast on the balcony each morning, a dinner party and a cocktail party. We were impressed with the attractiveness of the public areas, the overall cleanliness, and found the informational touch screen panels for navigating the ship quite useful. We can't comment about on board activities or entertainment because with the exception of the aerialists, we didn't do/see a thing. We looked at the offerings and they had no appeal. As a previous reviewer said, there wasn't anything for thinking people. Why not offer some first-run movies, stimulating lectures or practical seminars, such as using computer software programs? Cunard does.
The Great Gatsby dining room food was a huge disappointment in comparison to our March, 2011 cruise on Explorer of the Seas. The limited menu this time leaned heavily on Asian and vegetarian dishes and thus, we had a difficult time choosing appealing entrees. While the presentation was generally attractive, the preparation was dreadful, particularly the dry, overcooked beef and seafood. And how many times can you send it back? The appetizers and desserts were far superior to the entrees. We only had lunch in the Windjammer a few times, but there is a heavy emphasis on ethnic cuisine and fewer choices than on Explorer. The unremitting pressure to buy packages for the specialty restaurant dining was irritating and we didn't opt for them.
Our sole ship's excursion was in Athens to the Acropolis and it was fine. We chose this cruise for the seven ports of call, which we thoroughly enjoyed, and because it was round-trip Venice. We will continue cruising with RCI, perhaps not exclusively, because they do offer good value for the dollar. The Santa Chiara Hotel in Venice is an ideal overnight-before-cruise location. Take the AVTO bus from Marco Polo airport (buy ticket in the arrivals hall outside baggage claim; the bus is just outside) direct to Piazzale Roma (20-25 minutes, six euros). The hotel is just around the corner with no steps to navigate with heavy luggage. The next day, reverse steps back to Piazzale Roma, ride the People Mover (one Euro) to the Marittima Basin in three minutes and it's a short, flat walk to the embarkation area. The Santa Chiara, a former palazzo, has true Venetian ambiance (gleaming marble floors, gigantic mirrors, high ceilings and original beams), is impeccably clean and reasonably priced (for Venice). The substantial complimentary buffet breakfast caters to both American and European tastes.