Tag Archives: splendour of the seas

Cruise Critique

I will start off by saying that my family and I had a great time on the cruise aboard the Splendour of the Seas.  There was lots of laughter, great conversation, fun in exploring the ship activities and of course the port stops were fantastic to visit!  However, and I think I speak for my family as well, we will never sail with Royal Caribbean again.

I will start with the positive: the staff were for the most part very nice and accommodating.  The activities on board (Bingo!, Name that Movie Trivia, nightly movies on the main deck, mini-golf, etc) were lots of fun.  In fact my sister and I each won a round of Bingo! (her $25, me $300, a bottle of champagne, an umbrella and a scrapbook package… I got the X, yay!).  Our woman who cared for our stateroom was very nice and often left towels in the shape of very cute animals in our room to come back to at the end of the day.  I loved the little daily itinerary they left each night in our rooms so we could see all the activities and plan accordingly.  I loved that they had a salt water pool instead of using chlorine.

But, here’s the thing… When people pay good money to go on a trip that is supposed to be something of a luxury, it is expected that the staff are nice and accommodating and it’s expected that there will be fun activities on board so people can fill their time up on sail days with something other than staring at the water.  It’s expected that the port stops would be interesting places to see/go.  Otherwise why would people go on cruises to begin with?  So really the only positive items about the cruise were things that one would EXPECT to be positive.

Now for the negative:  1) Booking with them was one of the most painful and stressful experiences we’ve dealt with in planning a trip.  We booked online and everyday it was a new story as to what was owed.  First everything was paid off, then we owed 5 times more than what the cruise was supposed to be, then it was back to almost being paid off, then we still owed more…  Literally everyday there was some issue or another in our booking and I can’t tell you how many phone calls (upwards of 20 at least!!)  were made back and forth to customer service (who were at least patient and nice on the phone) trying to sort everything out.

2) Steak night: my sister decided one night to order a steak… She ordered the temperature medium.  What she got was a very tough piece of medium well steak.  She didn’t want to send it back or make any fuss, but at my parents insistence (they wanting to make sure she actually enjoyed the steak) she told the waiter it was too cooked for her liking.  He immediately sent off for a new one.  Great!  Well done!

No pun intended there, but that’s pretty much what she got for the second try: a medium well to well done steak.  The waiter stood by as she cut into it (as he should) to make sure the cook was correct.  It wasn’t so off it went again.  This time however the manager came over to chat with my sister to fully understand what she was looking for.  She again stated ‘medium’ then described how the cook should look (warm pink center).

Off went the manager and server and a few minutes later out came a VERY WELL DONE steak…. Ummm…… ??????  Seriously????  At this point is was just too comical!!  Ironically it was the most tender piece received so far despite being well done, and my sister was at that point beyond trying to make them get anything right.  She was content just eating the veggies and nibbling on some of the bits of meat.  But no, the server and manager weren’t happy that she wasn’t happy, so they whisked away the plate again and brought back… Lucky steak #4????  No…. a RARE, almost so rare you could still hear it mooing steak… Again, we (my family) were actually quite humored by the whole fiasco and were in good spirits about the comedy of errors unfolding around us…

What wasn’t comical however was the second manager who came by to inform us that next time, if we wanted a piece of meat to be tender when cooked at a medium temperature, we should order the filet mignon for an extra $17…. THAT was condescending and highly rude.  Duh!  Of course the better the cut the more tender the meat!  But that wasn’t the point.  The point was there was a huge miscommunication going on with how to cook THAT particular cut of meat to the correct temperature.  And by the way, we weren’t the only ones having issues with the steak as we overheard several more tables around us raising the exact same issue.

3) On the topic of food, in general it was lackluster whether at the buffets or at the restaurant.

4) Last little bit, I had the worst drink I’ve ever tasted… I ordered a mojito.  Seriously mojitos are made by muddling mint, lime and sugar (simple syrup will do too) then adding in rum, shake shake shake, top off with soda water.  Done.  This bartender put in (I was watching) mint, simple syrup, sugar (yes, regular sugar WITH the simple syrup already put in), she muddled for about 15 minutes.  Then added rum, mojito mix out of some cardboard container, added ice, shook for another 20 minutes then topped off with Sprite… Oh and THEN she added a lime on top…  I could feel a sugar induced coma coming just looking at it!  I hate to be rude though so I took a straw sip (not sipping from the straw but capping the straw and dipping it in for a taste).  I have a very big sweet tooth, but seriously, there was no way to drink that drink!!  It was so sugary and gross.  Nowhere near refreshing as a mojito should be.  I had to refuse it and later had to make sure it wasn’t charged to my account, which it was so I had to have it taken off.

Really the real theme going on behind all the negatives was the lack of…  I’m not sure, knowledge, communication or experience with the staff???  I don’t know for sure but it was frustrating.  Again, the staff were very nice and they tried (except for the condescending manager) but there was some serious link missing there .  And again, the cruise was fun and relaxing and great to get away with my family, but if we ever happen to do another family trip via a cruise, it won’t be with Royal Caribbean.

On to Thailand

Back to Europe

 

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Dubrovnik

What a beautiful place!  Nestled right along the coastline of the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is uniquely located on a very narrow, yet long stretch of Croatia that borders with Bosnia.  They are so close, in fact, that the surrounding mountains are actually in Bosnia.  The Old City is quaint and kept in fashion of how it was hundreds of years ago, and today is the setting for where they film The Game of Thrones.  I’m honestly not entirely sure what that show is all about, but our local taxi driver was very pleased by this little bit of trivia:)

As we disembarked the ship we were all met by a line of taxis.  For 10 Euro they would take you to the Old City, for 50 Euro you would get an hour taxi tour of Dubrovnik… We were on vacation, why not??  Off we went with a very passionate and clearly patriotic older local from point to point around the city getting out to take pictures at the best locations.  Being in the taxi while he navigated the narrow roads was somewhat of a roller coaster ride for me, but he was obviously very used to the ways of the road there and navigated beautifully.  He took us up to the top point of Dubrovnik so we could get a panoramic view and he pointed out the Bosnia mountains.

The history of Dubrovnik, as explained to us by our taxi driver, was quite a tumultuous one.  While they preferred to simply set up a port town where ships could come and go to trade various goods, they were constantly being bombarded by one country or another who were interested in taking them over and involving them in war.  Dubrovnik has bounced back and forth between one power and another but are now free to trade and live as they please.  Hopefully they continue that trend and are able to stay out of the wars, unlike their neighbors…

After our tour, we were dropped off at the gates to the Old City and bid farewell.  We wandered in, stopped for some lunch, sampled some Rosé wine (which Dubrovnik is famous for and apparently is the birthplace of Zinfendel…) then headed down the main street and side streets to shop:)  I of course didn’t pick anything up, since I can only carry so much in my travel backpack, but my sister and mom had a blast!  My dad thankfully tolerated us going into almost every single store looking for things to buy, and would stop to befriend random street cats every so often just to get a little shopping break, lol!

After walking the Old City streets, it was definitely easy to see why this spot was chosen for The Game of Thrones as it is very medieval!  The streets are made of smooth stone, (I’m not 100% sure but they may have been marble) it’s entirely surrounded by original walls and even the old gates that guard the entrances to the city are well intact!  I couldn’t help think when seeing the numerous steep stairways leading from the main road of the Old City to the new area of town, just how great a workout it would be to just walk up and down side streets daily there, lol!!  Random, I know:)

After our walk through the Old Town we grabbed a taxi back to the ship, shopped for a few more last-minute items then headed back on board.  Side Note: I was obviously very trigger happy with my camera on this trip… LOL! 🙂

On to Ephesus

Back to Europe

Venice

Venezia!  I’ve been there a few times before and each time not only love the uniqueness of it, but something new seems to happen every time I go.  This time, it was the flooding of the streets!  While we were able to avoid most of the flooding into the streets, it was still rather wet all around and they even had the planks around on standby just in case.  The second night I spent there we were all woken up at 3:45 by the flood warning siren, joy!!  I adore San Marco’s Square, as well as the church in the square with the most unique multicolored marbled columns and warped mosaic floor!  I adore how a city built hundreds of years ago on water is still standing today!  I adore its romantic history rich with courtesans, beautiful gowns and Carnival!

This trip was unique for me however as it really wasn’t as much for me as it was for my family… Specifically my mom and dad:)  You see, each hit a major birthday milestone this year (70 & 75) so my two brothers, sister and I all chipped in to do something a little extra special for them.  My mom was the one who actually found the trip: a 7 night cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean “Splendour of the Seas” leaving from Venice, Italy with port calls to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Ephesus, Turkey; Santorini, Greece and Katakolon, Greece.  My mom obviously knew all of this information, however my dad was only told that the family had chipped in for a birthday cruise for only him and I to go on.  He had no idea that my sister and mom would be joining too…

For almost 3 months prior to leaving for the cruise my mom, sister and I exchanged probably about a hundred emails going over details and how we were going to spring the surprise on my dad.  There was a ton of confusion at first because the website for Royal Caribbean is absolutely bonkers!!  You would think that they would get it together and create a site that actually works!!  But no… It seemed that just about every day for almost a straight month something was wrong with our reservation because of that idiotic site.  But thanks to some nice customer service operators, things smoothed out well.

So the plan was for my dad and I to go to Treviso (where he has a cousin) and stay with them for a couple nights.  Then he and I would go to Venice where we would stay overnight the night before having to board the cruise.  My mom and sister were to arrive in Venice mid-afternoon) from the States the day before the cruise as well.  Then they were going to meet us “randomly” at a restaurant (one we would pick in advance so I could be sure that my dad and I would be there) and the surprise would be revealed:)

That’s how it was supposed to go… Now how it REALLY went is as follows:  My dad and I did go to Treviso to see family and were dropped off in Venice mid-afternoon.  Now, the WiFi in the family’s place wasn’t quite all there all the time… At some point in the morning before leaving for Venice I just happened to refresh my email and suddenly several emails showed up saying “flight was delayed”; “stuck in Heathrow”; “missed flight due to idiotic security people at Heathrow”; “trying to leave from Gatwick”; “hope to take the 4pm flight out”…

At this point I’m a bit panicked… I’m the only one who knows they are coming, so I can’t say anything to my dad about them being off track… They are supposed to be a surprise… But now I’m a bit worried because I can’t contact them…  I checked the airport site but had no luck with any information there…

We got to Venice where my first move was to get my tablet hooked to the WiFi so I could search for any updates… Nothing, nil, zilch… I still have to play it cool however so I spend the rest of the afternoon acting as if all is well (when really I’m a bit worried on what to do in case they didn’t show, lol!) strolling around beautiful Venice with my dad.  We walked quite a bit and opted to take a canal taxi back to the hotel.

Once there, we started to get ready to go out for dinner.  I shot off a quick email to my sister and mom, hoping they would get it, about where we were planning to go.  At this point I still hadn’t heard whether they had even made it on the 4pm flight to Venice!  Before heading out for dinner, I even filled in the hotel receptionist on what was going on in case my sister and mom stopped by there!

So off to dinner we went…  It was about 8pm at this point, and though Italian meals tend to take a bit of time, I was purposefully trying to drag this dinner out as long as possible.  9pm rolled around… “sure I’ll have another beer”… 9:30 came about… “Dessert?  Why not?”… almost 10pm was upon us…

At this point I was already out of reasons to stay any longer AND I was starting to wonder if they had made that 4pm flight after all??  For, if they had, then certainly they would have been in Venice and would have been able to make it to the restaurant by now!  I thought that I better not drag dinner out any more, but rather I’d better get to my email to see what’s going on…

Just as I went to walk out the door with my dad behind me, my sister came walking in the door!!  We saw each other, our eyes widened and we immediately did an about-face, her out the door, and me toward my dad so I could try to shield him from seeing her, lol!! Unfortunately he just happened to see her face as she was coming in and the gig was up!!  She came back in (on her own as my mom was hiding around the corner as a second surprise) to greet my dad and all the details started to come out as to why she was there.  Then my sister said “you wouldn’t believe the day WE’VE had getting here”… We??? my dad asked… Who’s we???  Lol!!  Ooopppss!!  So out the door we went and my mom came out of hiding, lol!!

So while it wasn’t exactly how we had planned the surprise, it was still a great surprise for my dad nonetheless:)  My dad said after the surprise that he had been feeling tired from dinner, but was now very wide awake, lol!  I’m just glad my sister and mom made it!!

In any event, the next day we all boarded the ship and waved goodbye to Venice as we headed out to sea.

By the way, I do have to make a mention about Hotel Canal in Venice… It’s located just across the street from the train station and both times I stayed there it was a very pleasant experience!  The staff were beyond accommodating, the location was unbeatable in my book, the rooms were very spacious (both times we ended up with a room that faced directly on the Canal) and while it could probably use a tiny facelift, I really enjoyed its old style Venetian charms:)

On to Dubrovnik

Back to Europe