Three years ago, my husband and I (in our early 50's) sailed to the Med/Greek Isles aboard Celebrity to celebrate our 25th anniversary. It was nothing short of perfect. We loved it so much that we were eager to return to the area to revisit our favorite ports as well as explore some new ones. The Royal Caribbean cruise on Splendor the Seas fit the new bill in terms of ports, but fell short in terms of overall cruise experience.
We arrived on July 15th and took the ATVO Flyer Bus to Piazzale Roma and then walked approximately 10 minutes (and across the new bridge) to our hotel. There were options to avoid the hassle of the bridge (waterbus/vaporetto), but chose to walk. I ended up tipping an eager Venetian man to help us since we had 2 MAJOR rolling duffles to drag over the bridge. We highly recommend Hotel Abbazia for both convenience to the cruise ship terminal (via the shuttle) and the close location (less than 5 minutes) to the vaporettos. The hotel is a restored monastery and is lovely. The staff is welcoming and very helpful. Since we arrived on a VERY hot day, the a/c had difficulty keeping up, but eventually did. We walked around the area close to our hotel and had dinner on the canal. Prepare yourself for sticker shock in Venice!
The Hotel had a fabulous breakfast and after we ate, we zipped around the Grand Canal on a vaporetto to St. Mark's. Summer crowds and stifling heat zapped our spirits a bit, but who can complain when one is in Venice!
We left for the cruise ship terminal around 1:00 pm, walked back over the bridge and headed to the bus terminal to catch the shuttle. Let me say now that it was only through reading and asking a lot of questions on tripadvisor that I was able to determine IF there was a shuttle and Where exactly to catch it. I had even emailed RCL about this and did not receive a response. Others shared the same complaint. I believe we waited approx. 30-45 minutes to catch the shuttle in the blistering sun as there was quite a line. Embarkation was easy, although people were rather beat down by the heat, which reminded me of one difference from Celebrity...they had cold cloths for us and champagne as we waited to board every time we got on the ship (both initially and after an excursion)....which was a nice touch!
Our ocean view cabin was a nice size and the stateroom attendants were great. The ship appeared to to be in good shape. The bars, in my opinion, had cheesy entertainment and the shows at night were definitely substandard compared to the shows on Celebrity (which were FANTASTIC). One night there was a "Rat Pack" show and was embarrassingly bad to me! An enthusiastic female Latin Singer was "ok" but very "night club" type performance. The magic show was probably enjoyed by the kids but was average to me. The ship singers/dancers were very good but typical--they didn't wow me but I appreciated their efforts. The only redeemable show was a violinist who was very good! Events by the pool seemed to be enjoyed by the younger set,and the contests in the Schooner Bar and the Top Hat bar that we attended were kind of fun, but we didn't partake of the activities every night.
We ate most of our evening meals in the King & I dining room and the best way to describe it would be "fair" or "bland". The menu had a variety of choices that seemed appealing but just didn't do much for anyone at our table. The Windjammer was consistently good for breakfast. In some ways, we enjoyed the food there more than at the King and I. One comment that I have to make is that I was really surprised at the informality of dress in the dining room. Even on the formal nights, people were dressed somewhat casual. Again, this was a major difference from Celebrity where people seemed to adhere to the suggested dress code. But, food and entertainment were not the main reasons why we chose this cruise. The ports were wonderful and we did go on several excursions.
Dubrovnik: We chose the excursion to Cavtat and the old town as an excursion since it was so hot that day and I thought it would be a good idea to enjoy the a/c and view from the bus! We enjoyed the drive along the coastline to Cavtat since it gave us a better sense of Dubrovnik. Cavtat was a quiet yachting area that was picturesque but somewhat uneventful. The old town was beautifully preserved and charming. The crowds and the extreme heat made it tough to really enjoy our time to the fullest.
Ephesus: We chose the excursion to Ephesus from RCL since three years ago we went with a private group who REALLY pushed the rug factory. Besides the ruins of Ephesus, we also went to the Terrace Houses and were pleased that they had furthered their excavations so we were able to see some new things. I love Ephesus! Great tour. We ate lunch at an area close to the ship and were annoyed by the watch salesman who threw his watches all over our table. In addition, I had a very uncomfortable experience with our waiter as I came back from the bathroom of the restaurant. We went back to the ship after lunch since both of us are put off by the high pressure sales in the market area and I was shook up by the waiter.
Mykonos,Santorini and Corfu: We did Mykonos on our own. We just shopped and took pics and then went back to the ship. Mykonos is a charming island but it doesn't take a tour guide to enjoy it, nor does it take a lot of time. Some people enjoyed it as a beach day. However, Santorini is our favorite port. We took the tour to Oia and the Santos winery since we enjoyed it so much on our last trip. The time given in Oia was plenty to take great pics and walk around (and shop). We LOVE the Nykteri wine at Santos winery and so that was high on our "to do" list. The scenery from the winery is breathtaking. We walked around Fira (shopped some more) and took lots of pics. Long lines at the cable car to get back to the tender since there were several large ships in port at the same time, so we went and had a snack at a very scenic restaurant till the line died down, which it did; it only took around 20 minutes to take the cable car to the tender at that point. Some people walked down to the tender and regretted that choice. Corfu was a new port for us and we were pleasantly surprised at how much we liked it. Much "greener" than the other Greek islands. We did a ship excursion again because I wanted to see the island and not just the town (to shop some more!), so we did the Paleokastritsa, Lakones and Wine tour. It was great to see a lot of the island and Paleokastritsa (also called the "Capri of Greece" was beautiful. We went out on a small boat to see the caves and that was cool.
Departure was easy and organized. However, information about the shuttle was difficult to obtain. I don't understand why RCL doesn't make this clearer for people! Most people (including us!) were unsure where to catch the shuttle; when we found out there were long lines. It just seemed that RCL was done with us now that the cruise was over and we were on our own. Not great customer service in my opinion.
Summary: We had a wonderful time and the cruise met our overall objective--to enjoy Med ports which we did! The customer service, food and entertainment maybe would have seemed better to us if we had not had something to compare it to! The informality of the cruise reminded me somewhat of a Carnival Cruise that we went on in our 20's, but had just a little more class.