This was my boyfriend's 1st cruise and my 3rd and now we are both addicted to this way of travelling the globe!We decided to spend some time in Venice before the cruise so we searched on the net before deciding to stay in a really lovely B&B called the Ca Bonvicini in the Santa Croce area of Venice...we caught Easyjet flights from our local airport and we were there in less then 2 hours - impressive! We decided to get the public water bus from the airport to Venice (Which I booked on line) although it would have been far cheaper to get the bus but we figured it would be less hassle to get dropped off at the Rialto bridge and find the B&B which we did relatively easily thanks to the map provided by the B&B. Now going on a cruise does not limit your baggage unfortunately and we weren't sure how the weather was going to pan out... looking at advanced weather reports - it would be a mix of sunshine and showers (well monsoons in our case!)
We enjoyed Venice immensely and would love to go back there again and do some more sight seeing more thoroughly than what we managed to visit in one day but we were still happy with our efforts and one of the joys of Venice is just getting lost....soon it was time to be getting onboard the ship so it was onwards to the Piazzale Roma... getting there was easy but finding the free shuttle bus wasn't... it was only reading CC posts that we knew where to look!!! Anyway some people went past us with luggage labels so we followed them and found the bus!
Embarkation was really easy as we had checked in on line and before long we were on board and having lunch in the Windjammer before then finding our cabin... my boyfriend was very impressed by what he could see/eat and do on board so it was a good first impression of cruising for him. We booked the cruise fairly late ahead of departure and paid a really good price for an outside cabin... I did however miss having a balcony cabin as I had one on the Galaxy last year (maybe a balcony cabin for 2010!) You can tell that the ship isn't new but she is kept in good order....she just needs a little more updating for the 21st century such as having flat screen TV's in the cabins but we had more than enough space to sort out our clothes...maybe a bit more space in the bathroom for toiletries but not too bad.The outside window was pretty large and we were happy with the view. 6118 is right at the back of the ship and you will get quite a severe vibration coming into port at times but all in all a nice cabin.The ship has a gym and a spa and we never got to use these facilities, we did use the putting greens of 12 holes but we avoided the rock climbing wall and preferred to walk round the promenade deck 4 times = 1 mile! There didn;t seem that much to do on a sea day in bad weather which is what we experienced but it was nice to watch a few demos (towel folding lol! and a cooking demo and we attended a cha cha dance class too.....
We did really enjoy the food on board the Splendour of the Seas and we enjoyed the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch and one evening meal and the rest of the time we really enjoyed the main dining room, the King and I.. we had great service even though we were on My Time Dining which we really enjoyed and managed to secure a table for 2 each night. We also managed to have the same waiters apart from one night but even then we had great service so thanks to Honesto and Jeffery our regulars and Rodrigo and Jose Luiz our one night stand in's.Must also mention the head waiter Hans as he was very hospitable and when my boyfriend's steak arrived well done and not medium rare, he swung into action and within 5 minutes a fresh medium rare steak was on our table... that was certainly excellent service.Room Service food was also great, no complaints here at all and in general, we felt the service to be excellent.Much has been noted about the price of drinks and yes they are expensive with the 15% gratuity on top but as long as the pound is strong against the dollar then it's not too bad and we are not big drinkers.If Royal Caribbean bring out an extended drinks package as they have on Celebrity than that will be more interesting.
We attended most of the shows and found the entertainment to be generally of a high standard.. we enjoyed the flown in entertainment such as Jacqui Scott and the Beatles Celebration tribute band especially when they had a great jamming session with Anselmo the piano man in the Schooner Bar on our last night.The production singers and dancers were also good in the Dancing through the Movies show.
We didn't go on any ship excursions but organised our own or did a DIY excursion....we enjoyed Dubrovnik but were a bit shocked to discover RC charged you for a shuttle bus into town so we caught a taxu for 10 euros and walked back, it's about a 40 minute walk. Also we called on Dubrovnik on a public holiday so a lot of places were shut including the city walls which we had planned to walk but no one mentioned this beforehand! At least we had lovely warm sunshine in this port of call! Next was Corfu and we hired a car for 40 euros and drove round the island with our CC friends Tim and Lisa... we called in where the tour buses went but for a fraction of the cost and thanks for Tim for driving so well, in particular the splendid parking in Corfu Town!!!! The weather was so so today at least it wasn't raining and after setting off from Corfu we had our meet and mingle party where we had a selction of drinks and rather nice canapes to mumch on so it was nice to meet people who hadn't attended the unofficial meet and mingle on the Sat night at the Viking Crown Lounge! Next port of call was Athens and we banded together to get to the Acropolis... it's 4 people to a taxi and costs 20 euros....it was good that we got there asap for speed and weather reasons. The weather turned and at least we had just about finished viweing the Acropolis... our plan was to get down to the Agora and then to the Plaka... my umbrella got destroyed so I had to buy a new one and by the time i did this we were like drowned rats so we decided on plan b... get food and get warm in a taverna.... the rain would not let up so by the time we had done some shopping in the Plaka, we had flash flooding with some places up to the knees in water.... we had to wade across the sq to get to the metro where for 1 euro each we got back to Pireaus and walked back to the ship and it stopped raining.... typical but everyone looked totally bedraggled! We got use out of the hairdryer in the room for drying out our trainers! Next day was Kusadasi and we were ruined forever by parking up next to the Solstice... we were just drooling over her.....we had booked a private tour here and thoroughly enjoyed our day despite being rained on yet again.... this was my 3rd visit to Ephesus so at least I had seen all the site before in glorious sunshine..I just felt sorry for everyone else including my boyfriend as the heavens opened just before we reached the Celsus Library... it was again a monsoon complete with thunder and lightning..earlier on we visited the House of the Virgin Mary... yet again after a short while the rain did stop.. we continued onto the Temple of Artemis and then the village of Sirince where we were rained on again! We stopped to eat some Turkish pancakes here and very nice they were too!It seems that every tour private or ship booked ends up with a carpet tour and so did ours... it was interesting but not too heavy on the now then let's part you with some money front....those carpets are very expensive.....and we were quite amused with the Turkish people in the Bazaar where we did a spot of shopping back in Kusadasi.
Our final port of call the next day was Heraklion as we didn't have a lot of time there we decided not to do Knossos and just spend the hours chilling out around Heraklion viewing some of the sights and to do some much needed shopping for presents.. at least we had some very welcome sunshine for our final port of call! Not sure why RC have Heraklion as a port of call apart from the Palace of Knossos, in my view they should either skip this port of call altogether or at least allow more time here or on Corfu. This itinerary (for some reason) is different from the usual one....maybe someone can tell me why?
Our last day was a day at sea which was punctuated by an early morning call into Corfu for a medical emergency.... the forecast was 23c and sunny.... we thought great, on deck and sunbathe... sadly the forecast was yep... more rain and cold!
One of the very best things about this cruise is one of the last things and that is sailing back into Venice... it was 7am but there were loads of people up on deck... we were all rewarded with some great sights including crystal clear views of the Dolomite mountains shimmering in pink with the sdunrise... a truly magical sight and not to be missed despite the cold!
Disembarkation wasn't too bad as we swapped over our colour coded luggage tags for later departure ones.. however, RC need to know that one shuttle bus is clearly NOT enough to off load a lot of people going to Piazzale Roma and the waiting taxi drivers were trying to charge 5 euros per person to do this 10 min or less journey!!!!
In summary, a great cruise obtained for a great price.. shame about the weather... having cruised on the Majesty of the Seas, the Celebrity Galaxy and now the Splendour of the Seas, have to say that I like RC/Celebrity as a product but would like to try out a new/newer ship for our next cruise.
Cabin 6118... at the back of the ship. Great size cabin. Suffers from a lot of vibration when docking (not all the time) but things will shake... a lot!
Venice is a great, beautiful city and probably one of the best places to start and end your cruise! Be warned that it is an expensive place and do your research beforehand as to where to stay and where to eat. You will probably need 3 days to do Venice any justice as there is much to see and do.
Lovely old town area....just try not to visit on a public holiday so you can climb the walls (get fit first though, the climb to the top is steep!) If the ship is moored up in Gruz harbour, it's quite a pleasant 40 min walk to the old towen area. Have a drink at the Buza bar, a very simple bar in the City walls and a hot spot.
Enjoyed Corfu and we didn;t have enough time here to really explore Corfu Town which seemed a lovely Greek island capital (not like Heraklion) Quite a few places to see around the island in a relatively short space of time. Great views from the village of Lakones of Paleokastritsa with the 5 bays.. very scenic.Mouse island was also very scenic.
Athens in the sunshine is great...not so good in a monsoon! Be sure to get to the Acropolis first and beat the bus tours....I would suggest getting 4 people in a taxi for 20 euros.. well worth it! Athens traffic is always horrendous.... Go down to the Agora after the Acropolis, it is included in the admission price (12 euros) check out the temple there, it is very pretty. Go shopping and eating in the Plaka area, it's very pleasant esp when the streets don;t turn into rivers!
This is the port for Ephesus which is a good reason to get off the ship in the first place as they are simply some of the best ruins you will ever get to see.... probably best to try for a private tour. House of the Virgin Mary is very simple and lots of crowds to negotiate....Temple of Artemis was one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world but is reduced to 1 remaining pillar... the village of Sirince was very charming (better when not raining though)
There's no doubt about it as a Greek island capital, Heraklion is pretty ugly (compared to somewhere like Rhodes and Santorini) the rest of Crete is very lovely though. The main draw is the Palace of Knossos... and that's probably about it and a spot of shopping in Heraklion with the short time we had in port.... the Cathedral is worth seeing set in a lovely square and also the Venetian Fortress.