Background Information - We are a mother and daughter from Chicago and St. Louis and this was our first trip to Europe. My lucky mom cruises regularly, and Royal is a favorite of hers (she just turned diamond this first leg!) This was my third cruise (second aboard Royal Caribbean) so I had high expectations for great service, fun activities aboard ship, and excellent food. The Splendour didn't disappoint! It was comfortably familiar, and yet a brand new experience at the same time.
Hotel Info (if any) - We spent 2 days pre cruise at the Hotel Tritone on Mestre. The convenience of the hotel is phenomenal! Clean, comfortable, adequately sized room with included breakfast buffet offering a great mixture of English and Italian style foods. The hotel is directly across the street from the train station and bus stop to Venice (each is a ten minute ride). The bus is included in the vaporetto transportation package through veniceconnected.com making it a great value. Dropoff/pick up point in Venice is the Piazza Roma just down the block from the train station.
Ship Info - Simply the most beautiful glass-walled dining room I have experienced aboard a ship! Spectacular views! Clean, comfortable, and spacious, this ship is holding up quite well. It was a pleasant space to spend two weeks. About the only thing I would suggest is to give the wooden balcony rails a coat of varnish to protect them from the elements.
Activities - As expected, there were opportunities for trivia, bingo (European style with pencil and paper), art shows, gambling tournaments, shopping, wine tastings, towel folding demonstrations. We even made some beaded jewelry.
Service - We had awesome waitstaff in the main dining room and plenty of assistance in the Windjammer as well. I will say that it seemed like there were several new crew members in the My Time Dining section -- that experience could have been a bit more polished. Our cabin steward - Dexter - is a breath of pure sunshine: always happy to assist and quick with a smile. He didn't duplicate a towel animal once during our two weeks aboard -- an effort we really appreciated! Constantin is the My Time Dining maitre' d and he was fabulous, always greeting us by name and making us feel like cherished friends.
Port & Shore Excursions - see details of our excursions below. We did take a Royal Caribbean excursion in Corfu (Paleokastritsa, Lakones, and Wine) because we wanted to visit the Paleokastritsa area on the opposite side of the island and sample some authentic Greek refreshments. It was informative, interesting, and we had plenty of time at each stop although it was obvious that the "season" hadn't yet started. Many of the shops were still closed and the hotels were just beginning to spruce up the paint and landscaping. I am still in awe that the buses were able to squeeze through the narrow, twisting streets.
Summary Travel To Port of Embarkation - On the day of the cruise, we opted for a taxi from our hotel right to the port. This was arranged by the front desk of the hotel and cost 40 euro for door to door service at the port(including our 4 large suitcases!)
Stateroom - We had a balcony cabin on the 7th deck portside. What a treat to view sail-away with a cold margarita (drink of the day) in hand: taking dozens of pictures and waving to Venetians and tourists alike in vaporettos, hotels, and canal-side restaurants. Simply stunning scenery. We had ample storage for all of our belongings. We made use of the European style outlets so we were able to plug up to 4 electric items in at once. The TV was an old Trinitron that had seen better days.
Dining - Overall, we enjoyed the My Time Dining as it does give you total flexibility for planning out your evening. It was especially enjoyable to meet new people each night as it definitely widens your circle of new friends on board. It was great to chat with lots of people each day and find commonalities that we would have missed if we were at one table each night for the entire cruise.
Children's Clubs - Did not use
Entertainment - The Royal Singers and Dancers were upbeat and good. It seems like the shows have all been seen before (70's, ballroom, movie soundtracks) yet we still made it down to each one. There was a juggler who was okay. His act would have played better in a smaller venue. Singer Jacqui Scott was a headliner one night and she was excellent! Another headliner - a "rat pack" tribute needed more work and inspiration.
Disembarkation - Since we were staying on board, our new sea pass cards were delivered the night before and we got off the ship early to spend another day sightseeing in Venice. At the end of our cruise - we waited in the card room until our luggage color tag was called for the transfer to the airport. Couldn't have been simpler or more convenient.
Summary - Splendour of the Seas is more than the sum of her parts. The entire crew from the captain to the room stewards, the dining room attendants, to the bartenders all work in tandem to create a remarkable, unforgettable cruise experience. The amenities from the rock wall and walking/running track, the spa, gymnasium, solarium, various nightclubs and watering holes, the shops, entertainment, bingo, art shows, casino, all the different things to do and experience allow you to be as active or as lazy as you want to be. We had a fantastic time and made memories to last a lifetime!