We travelled with our three adult children and picked the Splendour because of the schedule and itinerary. We were looking for a 7 night itinerary which included both Santorini and Athens. Splendour fit the bill. We knew a little about Royal from cruising Celebrity and will include comparisons in this review.
We stayed two nights pre-cruise at the Hotel Gardena, which was very pleasant with a canal view and convenient to port. We took the People Mover and port shuttle and were dropped off right where we deposited our luggage. We were pleased to see refreshments in the terminal and were checked in by 11:30. Our Celebrity level translated to Diamond status.
We hadn't expected to be greeted with a welcome drink, but were offered rum or regular punch.
We headed to the solarium and Park Cafe which would become my "go to" places just as the Aqua spa had been on Celebrity. I did check out the Windjammer in search of honey stung chicken which was not there, but which was available from room service. (I had spent a lot of time on the Cruise Critic RCI and ports boards.)
Cabins were open promptly at 1. First we went to our children's room, a large interior on 8 which had plenty of storage. (This sailing was very popular and triples were scarce.) Our cabin was one of the balconies which had been added to deck 6 (E1). We had booked a balcony guarantee and were quickly assigned this cabin. No other balconies opened up.
Having seen all the storage space in the inside cabin (which was a quad), we were surprised to find only 3 desk drawers and 3 shelves. Fortunately, there was plenty of closet space and we had packed lightly. For a longer cruise, storage space might be a problem but, for us, everything fit.
We asked our stateroom attendant to remove the items from the cash bar to reduce the clutter.
Having only cruised Celebrity, we noted the absence of a refrigerator and toiletries. We did receive plush robes which we had not expected and a coupon booklet and welcome gift. (The coupon book compared with Celebrity's had much less Internet time and no laundry or dry cleaning, but we did get free photos which was great.)
Boarding day and the one sea day of the cruise were our main times on the ship since the itinerary was port intensive. I never had a problem finding a chaise at the solarium and enjoyed the pool and sauna. I was not accustomed to signing up for towels and missed having beach towels delivered to the cabin on port days.
There was much of the ship left unexplored: I never went to the main pool area although I understand there was a bar-b-que and paella demo poolside which I might have liked; we went to the Diamond Lounge rather than any other venues; I didn't have a chance to check out the mini golf or rock climbing. We did go to most shows and I particularly enjoyed the Emperors of Soul.
As the CD kept reiterating, there was a lot of energy on the ship. Cruisers were international and seemed younger than on Celebrity.
We had MTD and ate in the MDR every night except the night we went to Chops. Our waitstaff were excellent. I always found something of interest on the menu although the menu was less varied than Celebrity. I particularly enjoyed the nightly escargot and chocolate sensation. Chops had good quality steak and a delicious goat cheese souffle, but wasn't as special as Murano or Tuscan Grill on Celebrity ( although it was also less expensive.). I also enjoyed food from the Park cafe, Dog house, and cafe Latitudes. I didn't eat at the Windjammer or have a chance to try Izumi. We usually had lunch in port and the one sea day went to the MDR. I used room service twice ( the menu was more limited than on Celebrity), but I did get to try the honey stung chicken.
There were two Crown & Anchor events and the Diamond Lounge was a real plus with a continental breakfast and nightly hors d' oeuvres. The concierge was a help with tender tickets and printing out account info and boarding passes. Unlike Celebrity, cabin mates are not assigned the same level of benefits meaning that one person might be allowed into the Diamond Lounge and the cabin mate not.
We booked independent tours in every port except Santorini which we DIY quite successfully. I was pleasantly surprised to find cool beverages when returning to the ship even though there were no cool washcloths as on Celebrity.
The Splendour was in excellent shape and well maintained. There seemed to be plenty going on onboard. The Venice sail away was spectacular. To my relief, smoking was not an issue. Our cabin attendant and waiter were both excellent. While Splendour lacked some of the touches of Celebrity like cloth towels and fresh flowers in the bathrooms and, of course, pillow chocolates, it provided a solid and enjoyable cruise experience. I found that there were more similarities between
Royal and Celebrity than differences.