Let me start of by telling you this was our first cruise with Royal Caribbean. This was my husband and my eighth cruise, but only the second with our children. We took a 10 year break in cruising to have our kids, currently ages 8 and 4. Our first cruise with the kids was on HAL, to the Norwegian Fjords, in Jul.
Overall, we had a great time. We had great ports; great weather and the kids loved the kids club. That said, we did encounter a few problems along the way, mostly with our cabin.
Transport: While we are Americans, we are currently living in Germany and chose to drive to Venice. We drove out the afternoon before the cruise and spend the night at a small hotel just outside of Venice. Saturday morning, we left the hotel about 1000 and had an easy 45 min drive to the cruise terminal. RCCL had a drive up luggage drop and then directed us to parking. Venice Port Authority has four parking lots around the terminal and offers parking for 95 Euro’s for the week. We parked the car and had a very short walk to in process the cruise. There was almost no line, so we had our pictures taken and were on board within minutes. A quick stop to get wrist bands for the kids and we were off to the Park Café for lunch. After lunch, we had a short wait until our cabin was ready.
Our Cabin: I had splurged this trip for a Deck Seven (7638) Cat D1 Aft Balcony. I was really looking forward to our cabin and our balcony. Unfortunately, our cabin turned out to be a major disappointment. We found the cabin easily, open the door and were immediately hit by the strong stench of what I thought was mildew. My husband thought it was more a cigarette smoke smell. This presented a major problem. I suffer from allergies and asthma. We immediately opened the balcony door and tired to air the cabin. We reported the problem to the steward, who promised to reclean the cabin and spray down all surfaces. When his efforts did not help the situation, we reported the issue to guest services, who organized having the cabin deep cleaned while we were in Split . Over the next 5 days, the smell dissipated (we kept the balcony door open at all times), but I was forced to use my inhaler quite frequently and had breathing difficulties throughout the trip. I loved our balcony, but other than that the cabin was a great disappointment.
Split (Tender Port): Tender dropped us about a 10 min walk from town. The old city was beautiful and fascinating. I wish we had more time. The kids loved having an ice cream, while walking the promenade and the fortifications were very interesting. Our only purchase was some fresh lavender balls we used to try to control the stench in our room. We hope to visit again.
Kudasasi: We arraigned a private tour to Ephesus. The company picked us up about 30 mins after the ship docked. We had a private van for the four of us and the company provided carseats for the kids. Ephesus was amazing and the Terrace Houses were a must see. Being on a private tour allowed us to keep our own pace, not have our kids annoy other folks and saved money. We were also able to avoid the craft display. Our tour lasted 3.5 hrs and that was the right amount of time. Our 4 year old fell asleep in the van on the way back. After a quick Turkish coffee and some Turkish Delight, we returned to the ship.
Mykonos: We really wanted to visit Delos, but not with the ship. We were quite disappointed when we docked to find out that we were on the far side of the port, with no sidewalks and a 35min walk to town. RCCL arraigned buses to run from the ship to near the city (still a 10 min walk) for $8 a person, but failed to tell anyone there was a Sea Bus that ran on the hour for 2 Euro per person that would drop you off in the middle of town. After our bus ride, walk, we purchased Ferry tickets to Delos and had a short wait for our ferry, which let us walk around Mykonos and buy some pastries. The Ferry was fun and Delos was amazing. Delos is very different from Ephesus, but well worth the trip. The kids elected to stay on the ship, having seen enough ruins the day before. We hired a local guide on the island for $10 per person. He was very informative on the history of the island, excavations, and lifestyle of the previous inhabitants. I just wished we had more time, 2.5hrs was not enough.
Argostoli: The weather was a bit cold and rainy, so we chose to make a short venture of this port, while the kids had a short break in kid’s club sessions. We hoped off and found some hot chocolate, croissants, and coffee. The main part of the town is about a 15 min walk from the ship. It is not nearly as pretty or as historic as the other stops.
Dining: We really enjoyed the main dining room. We had My Time Dining but had made a standing reservation at 1800 for a table for four. We had a wonderful waiter and steward, who provided great recommendations and extra options for the kids. The food was good, better than we had expected. The staff also sped up dinner for the kids, who do not really enjoy long events, and would give us a short break to run them up to the kids club before our main course. In addition, to four nights in the MDR, we had one night in Izumi, one night with Chops and one night at Chef’s Table. I would do the Chef’s Table again in a heartbeat. The meal was wonderful and the company exceptional. It was a true treat. As for Izumi and Chops, for me Izumi was just ok, nothing exceptional. As for Chop’s, the steak was excellent, the venue nice, but the rest was only ok. On HAL, we had used the Pinnacle and Tamarind, almost every night, if we did Splendor again, I would return to Chef’s Table, but skip the other two.
Other impressions: The Windjammer Café is poorly designed and does not have enough seating. Also, being forward, it is a logical place to want to sit and watch the water, when raining or cold, but can only seat 500 of the 1800 on board. We also felt the ship lacks indoor quiet areas to read and relax. This might not be a terrible issue in the summer or warmer climates, but our cruise was in November. We missed a "crow’s nest” type location where we could read or watch the water. It also presented a challenge to find someplace to hang out when the smell of our room was too much for me.
Disembarkation: Was easy, we were in Group 4, we had to wait a few minutes in the Theater before being directed off the ship. The first groups departed about 0735, we left about 0745 and had our bags and were at our car before 0800.
Adventure Club: My kids love the Adventure Club; so much so, they begged to go to the sessions. My daughter passed on swimming in favor of staying at the kids club. Our daughter would watch the clock, counting down the minutes until the activities started and demand to have one of us take her. They both really enjoyed the games, arts and crafts, toys, movie nights and other activities. Additionally, the staff was excellent and very engaging.
A few annoyances we had were with baggage delivery, strollers in the hallways and diapers in the pool. Maybe it is RCCL, but I’m used to my bags being delivered to my room, on this cruise, all the bags for our area were piled near the elevator and we were expected to identify them and drag them to our room. We also had several parents that chose to store their strollers in the hallways (passageways), one family with a double stroller, made it impossible to pass and presented a hazard. Lastly, is more of a policy enforcement, there were several families with children in diapers using the pool. There are signs posted indicating that diapers were not allowed in the pools and it was in the daily bulletin, but the policy was never enforced.
Cruise Critic: We had a nice get together on Day 3. It was lovely to meet Ship’s Cat and several others. RCCL put on a nice spread of snacks and drinks. The Cruise Director hosted the event and had a small gift for each of us.
Overall: We had a good cruise. If our cabin had not smelled so bad, I would have called it a great cruise. Splendor is a nice ship, with a good staff and is not showing her age. The few things, I dislike about Splendor would likely be different on another RCCL ship. The kids loved the kids club, which gave us time to relax and enjoy the sights. I would consider RCCL again, mostly because the kids loved the activities.