Arrived at Manchester airport at 5am to absolute chaos at the Jet2 desks. Had checked in on line, so presumed it would be plain sailing ... wrong! The line stretched back almost to the doors. There was no indication as to whether the queue was for check in or baggage drop off. It finally transpired that checking in on line was the worst thing to do, as the baggage drop off line was 4x as long as the check in queue. After finally dropping off my bag I saw an RCL rep standing at the bottom of the escalator but all she did was point me towards the next nightmare ... security. This was so busy that people with flight times of 6.20am or earlier were being 'fast tracked'. When I finally got to the desk I said to the security officer 'You're busy today' to which she replied 'This is a good day, if it was bad you'd be in the car park'. I got to the departure gate just in time for boarding at 6.20am, a full hour and 20mins after arriving without any time for using the Ladies, having a sit down or look round duty free. The flight was as pleasant as could be for someone who doesn't enjoy the process and after a late take off (25 mins) we arrived in Venice on time, courtesy of a helpful tail wind. The RCL reps at Venice airport were friendly and well organised and we were soon on our way to the ship. You had to unload your own luggage at the port though, which I'm not used to. Anyway, went towards the Emerald check in and was soon being processed. The last time I cruised (2yrs ago on Jewel to the Baltics) I used my debit card for onboard spend. However, this time they wouldn't accept it, so set up a cash account for me, didn't make any difference really as I didn't intend spending anything on board, but just couldn't understand the change. Boarded the ship and as the cabins weren't ready went up to the Park Cafe for lunch. There was a good selection of sandwiches, pre-made salads, choose your own salad ingredients, fresh whole and chopped fruit and cakes/cookies. I ate most of my meals there throughout the trip, as the Windjammer is far too small, (capacity 500 when the ship holds almost 4x that). There isn't much variety and the quality wasn't as good as Jewel (can't understand wny Splendour earns a 'best food' mention on CC - presume it must be for speciality restaurants?) After lunch I found my cabin without too much trouble (there was a time when you used to be escorted there, though that's long gone, along with lots of other touches that made the experience just that little bit more special) I was lucky enough to be in a Junior Suite and was pleasantly surprised. I had a little a parquet floor just inside the door, carpet in the rest of the room, a bathtub with a shower over, complimentary Vitality toiletries, a coffee maker, flat screen TV, iPad, sofa and 2 chairs, and a table and 2 chairs on the large balcony. Overall the decoration and cleanliness were good, though there were signs of wear and tear (laminate coming off one of the drawers and bathroom mirror losing some of its silvering) As I was travelling alone there was more than ample room and must say it has spoiled me for future trips, I usually have a balcony cabin but appreciated the little touches and extra space. As it was hot I had a shower and relaxed until the mandatory safety drill at 4.30pm. In between I met my cabin steward (Bablee from Mauritius) The drill was held on deck in the blazing sunshine yet on Jewel it was held in the Theatre, a much better option. When we were dismissed by the Captain I returned to my cabin until dinner. I was on a table of 10 and thoroughly enjoyed the company. The Head and Assistant Waiters were both from the Philippines. Service was competent if a little lacking at times, due to the workload RCL expects of its staff. I wouldn’t consider myself a fussy eater but was frankly disappointed by the standard of food in the MDR. There was also no regional food, which I had particularly been looking forward to as I enjoy Greek and Eastern Mediterranean dishes. Lobster and filet mignon are still available but at an extra cost, rather than being on the standard menu. This is yet another example of declining standards, it’s just a pity the overall cruise cost hasn’t reduced to reflect the downgrading. A table mate went to Chops Grille one night but said the standard of food was not appreciably better than the MDR and certainly not high enough to justify the extra fee. There was not enough to do onboard the ship during the day. There was no guest lecturer, which on a cruise around the Greek Isles is frankly laughable and a missed opportunity. Neither were there any local entertainers. The ship spends 6 months of the year in Brazil and I felt this was reflected in the timings of events. On the last 2 nights there was an aerial display in the Centrum. However, it took place at 10.45pm. This was especially baffling as on the last night your cases had to be outside your cabin door by 11pm!
There was also an issue regarding timings in port. On the occasions when we had to tender it seemed as though the crew had never done this before. They had guests who were not on tours waiting in one of the lounges. Then they started giving out tickets at the door, meaning that people sitting down for sometimes up to an hour were now at the back of the queue. When we were cleared by the authorities it took up to an hour to get off, and you only had a finite number of hours there anyway. Overall the process was very poor. I didn't do any organised tours as I had thoroughly researched the ports (courtesy of CC member reviews) Kotor was OK. Walked up the city walls for 3 euros. The path was uneven, with loose stones, no safety rails and a gradient of at least 1 in 10 (health & safety nightmare). Would have preferred to miss this port and have an overnight in Athens instead, as there was far more to see there and not nearly enough time to do it in. Corfu was lovely. Piraeus is 45mins from Athens which isn’t RCL’s fault but as I said I would have preferred an overnight there. Mykonos was spectacular, though the ferry back from Delos was horrendous. There was a very strong wind and the boat bobbed around like a kitten in a washing machine on the fastest spin cycle. I’m not religious but made sure to light a candle when I arrived back on dry land, seeing as how I didn’t think I would live to see it again! Kefalonia was also lovely, very hot but offset by a strong breeze. The sea day back to Venice was tough as there wasn’t enough to do onboard. Early disembarkation (7.30am) with efficient baggage claim and transportation to airport. However, we arrived there at approx 8am for an 11.25am flight and the check in desks don’t open until 2hrs before the flight so a lot of sitting around on cases as there aren’t enough chairs and sweating as the air con didn’t seem to be working. The flight took off late and we arrived back to torrential rain and thunderstorms in Manchester.
All in all I had a good time, met some lovely people and saw some wonderful places. However, overall I was disappointed in the ship's food and entertainment and feel perhaps it’s time to look at another cruise line as on this occasion RCL certainly didn’t justify the cost of my cruise (over £2,500)