We were in a rarified world on this cruise because two weeks before departure to Venice, we were offered an upgrade from an owner's suite to the Royal Suite for an additional cost per person that we didn't consider exorbitant. How could one resist? My description of the Royal Suite can only be superlative. Imagine 1,200 sq. ft., including balcony, with a white baby grand piano!
There were, however, quirky things. For example, our cabin attendant, while very friendly when we chanced upon him in the hallway, didn't stop by once to see if we needed/wanted anything. When we required more ice, we had to track him down. The bathroom in the Royal Suite is actually two rooms, one of which has a two person shower and Jacuzzi tub. There are three sinks in total. Yet, there were only amenities like shampoo, etc., for one person. When I asked the cabin attendant for additional, he scooped up a bunch from his cart and handed them to me. I'm certainly not a fussy type, but I thought that he could have just deposited them in the suite...as in "service." The living room drapes were missing hooks so they didn't close properly, but the suite supervisor had them repaired promptly. My traveling companion resolved the player piano situation (missed keys at lower volume settings) himself, after the tech staff tried and couldn't figure it out. The suite had one toilet flushing issue which was quickly resolved. These are minor things and hardly worth mention, except they indicate a lack of attention to detail -- something RCI needs to focus upon.
The room service staff was exceptional. They provided first class service for breakfast on the balcony each morning, a dinner party and a cocktail party. We were impressed with the attractiveness of the public areas, the overall cleanliness, and found the informational touch screen panels for navigating the ship quite useful. We can't comment about on board activities or entertainment because with the exception of the aerialists, we didn't do/see a thing. We looked at the offerings and they had no appeal. As a previous reviewer said, there wasn't anything for thinking people. Why not offer some first-run movies, stimulating lectures or practical seminars, such as using computer software programs? Cunard does.
The Great Gatsby dining room food was a huge disappointment in comparison to our March, 2011 cruise on Explorer of the Seas. The limited menu this time leaned heavily on Asian and vegetarian dishes and thus, we had a difficult time choosing appealing entrees. While the presentation was generally attractive, the preparation was dreadful, particularly the dry, overcooked beef and seafood. And how many times can you send it back? The appetizers and desserts were far superior to the entrees. We only had lunch in the Windjammer a few times, but there is a heavy emphasis on ethnic cuisine and fewer choices than on Explorer. The unremitting pressure to buy packages for the specialty restaurant dining was irritating and we didn't opt for them.
Our sole ship's excursion was in Athens to the Acropolis and it was fine. We chose this cruise for the seven ports of call, which we thoroughly enjoyed, and because it was round-trip Venice. We will continue cruising with RCI, perhaps not exclusively, because they do offer good value for the dollar. The Santa Chiara Hotel in Venice is an ideal overnight-before-cruise location. Take the AVTO bus from Marco Polo airport (buy ticket in the arrivals hall outside baggage claim; the bus is just outside) direct to Piazzale Roma (20-25 minutes, six euros). The hotel is just around the corner with no steps to navigate with heavy luggage. The next day, reverse steps back to Piazzale Roma, ride the People Mover (one Euro) to the Marittima Basin in three minutes and it's a short, flat walk to the embarkation area. The Santa Chiara, a former palazzo, has true Venetian ambiance (gleaming marble floors, gigantic mirrors, high ceilings and original beams), is impeccably clean and reasonably priced (for Venice). The substantial complimentary buffet breakfast caters to both American and European tastes.
The Royal Suite on Grandeur of the Seas is, in a word, "Grand" and well worth the cost if you want to make the cruise truly memorable.
We hired a private guide in advance, but it wasn't necessary. The wonder and beauty of Split is wandering on your own. Poke around through the back streets, you can't possibly get lost; just head for the water. Have lunch in a local spot, off the main drag.
We rented a car which enabled us to get away from Corfu Town into the countryside. Don't miss the Achilleon Palace! We took a quick walking swing through Corfu Town and were happy we'd not spent the day there because while architecturally charming,it is largely shops.
We arrived in the port of Chania (Souda), took the city shuttle bus from the port, and spent the day just wandering. It was very pleasant, enjoyed a relaxed lunch on the water. Like all the Greek islands, the people are very friendly.
We anchored out, tendered in and spent the day exploring all the cobblestone byways, taking in the windmills and panorama of the port and sea. I was once again pleased by the attitude of Greek island shopkeepers. They are friendly, but not pushy to get a sale. The quality of their merchandise is excellent.
I give Santorini a high rating because of Oia, not the port of Fira. There are only three ways to get into Fira,hiking up on the donkey trail,the cable car or riding donkeys. When we got off the tender, the line for the cable car was tremendous (the cable car takes 36 people at a time...imagine that with three cruise ships in port..how many thousand?) and since our primary goal was to see Oia and have lunch there, we took a 35 E/pp boat ride direct to Oia...a visual jewel...and a private bus back to Fira (included in the boat fare). The cable car line in Fira was three times the size of the morning line so we decided to walk down the donkey trail. Big mistake. It's essentially a 600 step ski slope covered with slippery donkey manure and no handrail. Despite being sure footed,I skidded around a turn and bounced down several steps on my backside.It took nearly an hour and was dreadful. Don't miss Oia, but take the cable car down from Fira, no matter how long the line!
We rented a car with two other cruisers to visit Olympia and had arranged for a private guide recommended by Rick Steves. Sadly,due to a series of delays on our part and the difficulty communicating when you don't have a cell phone, we didn't hook up with her,as had been planned for weeks. It was entirely our fault and we were very disappointed. So, with Rick Steves guide to Olympia in hand, we made our way through the site. However, it would have been much more meaningful with a private guide. Olympia, the town is charming and we enjoyed lunch al fresco before returning to Katakolon which is largely touristy shops along the port's main drag.
We spent the night before the cruise in Venice and returned for a four day stay - which wasn't nearly long enough. Having tasted Venice, we didn't want to leave. I recommended a pre-cruise hotel in my review. Cruise Critic members who are interested in excellent/reasonable post-cruise accommodations can read my review of Residence Corte Grimani on the Trip Advisor web site. There's an old saying, "see Venice and die"...meaning once you've seen Venice, you've seen it all. Even though the original phrase was not about Venice, but Milan, it is true...Venice is like no other place in the world.
One of those "must see" sights of the world.View All 390 Acropolis Reviews
We opted for the cruise line tour because it seemed like the simplest way to visit the Acropolis, our primary interest, and get an overview of the city. The experienced guide knew the ropes for moving us around the Acropolis before it was mobbed. It was a perfectly fine experience, nothing superior, but our goals were accomplished.View All 164 City Tour Reviews
Worth seeing as part a bus tour through Athens.View All 40 Old Olympic Stadium Reviews