This is my third cruise with Royal Caribbean. The first was on Legend of the Seas (Western Europe), the second was on Radiance of the Seas (Alaska) and now Splendour. There was 6 of us traveling in 3 staterooms (2 people in their 70s, 2 people in their 50s and 2 people in their late 20s) The Splendour is an older ship which means that it is smaller and certain areas show wear and tear. However overall, it is very well maintained and exceptionally clean. With European cruises, most of your time is spent ashore and when you get back to the ship, all you want to do is relax and unwind. The cruise was in mid October. We were lucky that it was sunny and warm in most of the port cities outside of Venice and Split. However the seas are rougher in the October/ November but we only felt it on our cruising day.
Here's my take on some of the ship amenities and ports of call:
Room - We stayed in an outside cabin on the 2nd floor with a window and no balcony. There was a single person sofa in the room, small table and vanity desk. The room was a good size and we were pleasantly surprised by the number of drawer space for all of our clothes. If you are picky about shampoo and body wash like I am, make sure you bring your own. Only bar soap and low end shampoo is provided. No conditioner. There is a hairdryer in all rooms. Irons are a fire hazard so they don't allow them. You can have your clothes pressed and washed for a fair price. There were 2 formal nights.
Food - The food is okay. Better on other ships. There is always one good thing on the menu. I highly recommend the early dinner seating because most of the excursions get back around 3pm and after having dinner at 6:30pm, you can watch the show and not go bed stuffed or have to wait until 9pm for dinner. If you book the 6:30pm seating, you can always come at 7pm. Their service is very quick
Spa - Everyday there are spa specials. I had a 20-20-20 special with a mini facial, back massage and foot massage. My mom had a facial. Both facials were mediocre. My back massage was very good (I wished I had booked a full hour) but the foot massage was horrendous.
Excursion - The only excursion that we went on was in Corfu. Our grandparents and parents went on an excursion in Athens (more about this later). In general, we like to do everything on our own and most of the time, we will "bump" into the Royal Caribbean tours and they never hassle you about listening to their tour guides describe the sites.
The staff really make the ship however. They are nice and overly accommodating. As for the ports of call, here are some of my tips:
Embarkation - Venice: We were actually one of the few people who braved a flight on the same day as embarkation. This is definitely a risk since your flight can be delayed and if you miss the departure time, the ship will leave without you. Even though the ship sails at 5pm, they want you on the boat no later than 3:30pm. Anyhow, we took Delta from JFK with a connection through Rome. Everything worked out very smoothly, no delays. Our plane arrived in Venice at 12:30pm and we were at the port for embarkation by 2pm. The taxi charged us 10 euros per person (60 euros) to the port.
Port 1 - Split, Croatia: We were pleasantly surprised by the quaintness of Split Croatia. We did this city on our own because the ship docks in the center of town and it is a 5-10 minute walk to the main sites. This is a very easy city to walk through with restaurants and cafes pouring out of the streets. We had lunch at one of the local restaurants. Their grilled shrimps were delicious!
Port 2 - Corfu, Greece: This is the only city that we took an excursion because after extensive research, we found that it is not a very easy place to do on your own. We booked the Acheilles Palace, Paleostrakan and Old Town Tour. The tour first brings you to an old monastery in Palesotrakan that offers amazing views of the water. Then off to the Palace which is very nice and then to Old Town. However by the time we got to Old Town, there was no time to walk through the streets so we decided to stay in Old Town by ourselves and not take the excursion bus back. We had a really nice lunch at the cruise ship recommended restaurant (Cafe Rex), walked around and then took a taxi back to the boat for 8 euros. I highly recommend spending a bit of time walking through the streets of Corfu.
Port 3 - Athens, Greece: The older people in our group took an Athens and Plaka excursion which they said was a rip off because they did not get much time at the sites and spent most of the time in the bus. Two of us decided to brave it and take the subway. It is not difficult and hard to get lost because there are many people from the cruise heading in the same direction. The only caveat is that the subway is a healthy 30 minute walk from the pier. Make sure you budget enough time. Otherwise if you take a cab to the subway it costs approx 20 euros. Once at the train station, it costs 1 euro to get into Athens and the ride on the subway is 15 min. Although the cruise material tells you to get off at a stop known as Malesokrian (I think thats the way it is spelled), we read online that it is much more scenic to get off 1 stop earlier at Thiossis. I HIGHLY recommend this because you will walk on a smooth path up this tree filled road towards the Acropolis. Great photo ops. The stop afterwards drops you off in the middle of town which is a bit chaotic, with lots of people, cars and buildings. By the time we climbed the Acropolis, there were a number of Royal Caribbean excursions there and we just latched onto one of them and listened to the guide talk about the history of the Acropolis. Afterwards, we walked to the New Acropolis Museum which is a must see if you are in the area. Finally, we went to Plaka for lunch and took the train from Malesokrian back to the pier
Port 4 - Mykonos, Greece: Mykonos is by far the prettiest port that we visited. The boat tenders near the pier and it is very easy to get on and off the boat and make multiple trips to Mykonos. We slept in this day and left for Mykonos around 9:45am compared to 7am on previous days. This still gave us plenty of time to explore. This is definitely a walking city so all we did was wander around. Definitely check out the Windmills and if you are lucky you will get to meet Pedro the Pelican. We had lunch at one of the restaurants by the pier and it was delicious. Although I have never been to Santorini, Mykonos is post card perfect. Since we went in Oct, which is consider the low season, it was crowded but not as crazy as the summer where 900,000 people will visit.
Port 5 - Katakalon (Olympia), Greece: Katakalon is the port city that gets you the closest to Olympia Greece, the city where the first Olympics was held. We were extremely lucky because on this day, the Olympic torch ceremony was being held for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and we were able to see the Olympic torch go by in Olympia Greece. Some of our fellow cruisers even got to see the entire ceremony! In terms of getting to Olympia. There are 3 options. First is to take the cruise ship transfer which is very expensive. The second is to take a taxi which costs between 40-50 euros roundtrip. However the cheapest way is to take the train. It was easy, our whole family did it including our grandparents. The train station is a 7 minute walk from pier through town. The only catch is that the train comes every 2 to 3 hours depending on the time of the year. The first train usually leaves around 8:30am. The train that we took, which was the next one left at 11:11am. It might be worthwhile to look at the train times online. The 11:11am train got us into Olympia at 12:00pm which was plenty of time. It is 5 min to walk from the Olympia train station to the archeological site. When we got there, we sat a cafe and waited for the Olympic torch to go by. We then proceeded to the archeological site at 1:45pm and leisurely walked throughout the site (which is quite large). Please bear in mind that it is very hot at the site with no shelter so make sure you bring hats! We were completely done by 3:20pm and took the 3:42pm train back to Katakalon. The train arrived at 4:30pm, with an hour to spare before we had to be back on the boat.
Hopefully this information will help you plan your cruise. We had a great time and hope you do so as well!