Long Beach embarkation just doesn't measure up to other ports I have sailed out of. Carnival should really fix up the area better to protect cruisers from the elements and give them a suitable area to wait in. It was especially glaring for our trip because we were hit with a very cold windy rainstorm right at embarkation time. The rain was coming in horizontally, so the little bit of cover that the port has really didn't help. Also, some of the boarding zone signs were blowing over, so it was a bit tough to tell where to go. Couple this with a minor delay in boarding (people still coming off the ship close to noon, we had a rather uncomfortable wait. Several people were shivering outside just wearing shorts and t-shirts.
Luckily we had boarding group 1, so we didn't have to wait as long as others. If sailing out of Long Beach, seriously consider staying at the Queen Mary or the Hotel Maya so you can check in early and then return to your room for a while.
Really can't comment on much beyond the MDR as I do not go on vacation to wait in lines, and that is what I would have to do if I wanted to eat in the buffet. We did have lunch in the buffet on embarkation day and there was no line since we were among the first on the ship. The food was fine. Nothing too exciting -- same buffet food that I had previously on Carnival as well as RCI and Princess.
Food in the MDR was good. I was a bit disappointed in the location of the table back in a corner of the Gold Pearl behind a wall, so we couldn't see the rest of the dining room. Table mates were great though, so I didn't want to switch tables. Despite people's complaints about food quality on Carnival, I still believe it is better than RCI and on par with Princess. There was only one miss for me all week -- everything was served hot and promptly. Service was absolutely outstanding. Interestingly, somebody I spoke to who also had late seating, but on the other side was disappointed in their service and pretty much described the opposite. I have no complaints whatsoever -- our waiter and assistant waiter were perfect -- tied for the best MDR service I have ever had across all brands.
I did walk by the buffet to check it out and selections were very comparable to what was offered in the MDR. Lines did appear to be an issue. Seating did not appear to be as bad. Certainly better than the Destiny/Triumph class ships I have been on previously.
Cabins: Typical Carnival (non-Fantasy class) layout. Plenty of room and storage space. We were in 6225 an 8A balcony over the corner of the showroom. I could hear the showroom clearly in the hallway, slightly in the bathroom, and not at all in the main part of the cabin -- even when listening carefully for it.
Room steward was fine. Only one minor mishap -- his assistant took our pool towels and did not replace them mid cruise -- I thought my son took them and left them by the pool. The steward quickly brought replacements and explained his assistant was new. Other than that, no complaints.
Spa: I paid for access to Cloud 9 spa for the week. The various sauna/steam/aroma/tepid/etc. rooms were all nice and the thalassotherapy pool was great for aching joints.
Gym: The gym was generally pretty crowded at the times I went. I did have to wait to get on the cardio and weight machines. A couple of the exercise bikes' buttons did not work. Other than that it was fine.
Cruise Director/Entertainment: Todd Whitmer: meh... He was ok I guess. Seemed a bit like a car salesman. He didn't seem as involved as other cruise directors. For example he was nowhere to be seen for the big deck party he pushed all week. His assistant Brian seemed pretty good.
The shows were pretty good -- no they are not the full on Broadway shows you'll find on other lines, but the dancers, lighting and choreography were very good. The vocalists were a little disappointing, and the sound booth did them no favors. One of their mikes would cut out at least once per show and they would glare up at the sound booth.
Comedians -- too subjective to really judge. They were popular though.
Casino: Spent way too much time here. The dealers ranged from friendly with an attitude (some Romanians) to very very friendly. The slots actually give you a significant amount of play for your money.
Crew: With 2 exceptions with servers in the aft lounge and the main showroom, the crew was simply phenomenal. Carnival is third or fourth in the pecking order of cruise lines for me, but time and time again their crews prove to be the best at sea. If I could have a Carnival crew on a Princess ship or an RCI Radiance Class ship, it would be the perfect cruise.
Ship: Despite having nearly 3700 passengers and 800 kids, the Splendor did a great job of absorbing everybody and never really feeling that crowded. On the third and final sea day, the kids shipwide seemed very restless and were very noticeable -- before that though, you never would guess that there were 800 on board. In additional to the 800 kids, there were large groups of college students from UCLA and Oregon (who inexplicably gambled tons and tons of money in the casino). For the most part, the college students took over the piano bar and the disco.
I have long complained that Carnival ships are over-crowded and offer no quiet spaces. Well, Splendor has disproven that complaint for me. Despite the huge passenger count, there was always somewhere quiet to go to get away from the crowds.
I don't think I like the layout of the pool. I prefer the stadium seating of the Destiny/Triumph/Conquest class. This being said, the dome over the pool really came in handy for some chilly weather for 2 or 3 days. While I didn't really spend much time back there -- I did like the open aft pool. Much nicer than the enclosed version on the Destiny/Triumph class.
Serenity was nice - although the location below mini-golf is a bit silly. I did see a couple of balls bounce down into the Serenity area.
Despite me not really liking the layout of Carnival's ships (Splendor's layout is very very similar to Destiny/Triumph/Conquest) Splendor is a very nice ship -- maybe even my favorite in the fleet. I am not a big ship fan (my preferences are midsized like Spirit Class or Radiance Class). Despite being a big ship, Splendor really gets a lot right. I wouldn't hesitate to sail her again.
As I mentioned above, I do prefer RCI to Carnival, but after sailing Splendor the gap is narrower than ever.