Let me preface this review by telling you a little about myself. I am a 23 year old male traveling with my 25 year old girlfriend. We are from Monterey, CA and we have no kids, are not married and were not traveling with any family. If your traveling situation is different. Adjust accordingly. :)
Arrived in Long Beach around 11:00a, parked at a high school friends house who now lives in Long Beach so we were able to be dropped off and avoid the 15$ a day parking fees. Arrived at the cruise terminal around 12:15p and it was some serious controlled chaos. This was definitely the busy time to arrive, but nonetheless we had our luggage checked with porters and got in the first of a series of lines needed to check-in. (Security, Check-In, Boarding Zone, Embarkation Pictures, and Sign & Sail Swipe) We made it on the ship by 1:30 and our room was immediately ready. Lunch was being served at the buffet. An overall pleasant experience. (Luggage arrived at the room by 6pm)
We had an interior "Spa" class cabin on the 10th deck, near the front of the ship. For the extra 50$/ pp you receive unlimited access to spa facilities(150$/pp cost otherwise) including a Thalassotherapy pool (Ionized, dead sea salt infused water heated slightly above body temp) and thermal suites (4 different styles of heated rooms based on Roman, Asian, and Aromatic types of therapy.)Also upgraded robes, and a few samples of Elemis Spa Products. Cabin was not much space but plenty for us. 3 Closets, 3 Drawers, abundant bathroom shelving and space under the bed allowed for a nice neat room even once all unpacked. I was very pleased with the comfort of the beds and pillows. Very soft, especially considering its a cot style box spring. Yul our steward was very attentive making sure we always had ice and even remaking up our room after a daily nap. (Relaxation can be tiring) I get motion sickness very easy and the bit of occasional rocking was not a problem at all. TV in the room is small but more then sufficient, with an interactive menu allowing you to see the main dining menus and check on the balance of your Sign & Sail account. Overall very pleased with the cabin quality.
Didn't attend any of the seminars given on-board, however noticed that many were themed towards art appreciation and spa/fitness education. Always included some sort of freebie for attending. Like I said, wasn't too interested so I cannot comment too deeply.
Public rooms are pink as advertised however I never felt overwhelmed by the decor or as though it was tacky. I am a guy and decor has little effect on my overall experience but still it was not anything ridiculous. My girlfriend described it as "Very Las Vegas on water" feeling. Public areas were always very clean and orderly. Smoking areas smelled as such, but never suffocating (neither of us are smokers) or disturbing to our vacation. Casino was fun and exciting. Lobby area always had entertaining musicians, trivia and other sorts of activities. The Lido deck was the center of attention for the ship, containing a large outdoor video screen, pool area (pools and water slide are salt water except Jacuzzis and thalasso pool), 2 bars and most of the buffets. Plenty of outdoor lounge space, never found getting a couple chairs to be difficult. A fair amount of annoying children but much less then I was expecting which was nice. (Perhaps they all were in the Camp Carnival Children's Program). Enjoyed the Moroccan Lounge comedy venue and Spectacular Theatre for shows and things. There is an adults only pool area at the rear of the 9th deck called the lido liner pool and jacuzzi. It is adjacent to the tandoori grill and deli and contains a pool, 2 Jacuzzis and a bar. Children would occasionally find there way back there but the crew was good about keeping them away. Overall the Public areas were exceptional. Far better then described in previous reviews and vastly exceeded my expectations of what I thought would feel like a crowded Disneyland vibe.
Fitness and Rec Areas:
Great gym setup in spa area. More then you really need for a week long cruise and plenty for a maintenance workout. I don't believe you have to have purchased the spa package to use the gym facilities but I could be wrong. Ship also included fun 9 hole mini putt course, full basketball/volleyball court(rim is a little bent), jogging track and 2 ping pong tables. I loved the putt putt course at the top of the ship, but other then that and the gym I left the rest untouched. I did check it out though, great shape and perfect for staying active on a boat.
Entertainment was amazing. Absolutely amazing. I cant say that enough. From a bevy of different trivia, Vegas style stage shows, art auctions, karaoke, a very friendly gambling atmosphere,to hilarious comedians. The staff was amazing, Skyler and Matt stood out for being exceptionally outgoing, approachable and most importantly ENTERTAINING! We particularly enjoyed the Sports and "guess that song" trivia, the Game of Love show with Asst. Cruise Director Brandon, and the Comedy Shows in the Punchliner comedy club. All four comedians(Russ Nagel, Doug Williams, Rob Little, and John DiCrosta) were top notch, recognizable from comedy central, BET comic view, etc., and kept us laughing the entire time. I have heard great things about the stage show called "Vroom" but regrettably did not get to see it. :( My girlfriend did participate in the "Master Mixologist" contest, and while her cocktail got 2nd place it was still awesome being involved in the entertainment each day. Overall the highlight of the cruise for us was the entertainment.
Dining was great on this ship. I read many reviews about how horrible the food is and once again was pleasantly surprised at my experience. I did have 1 negative dining experience on my first day of room service, my toasted bagel came ice cold and hard as a rock. Not a big deal, still made it to the open seating and enjoyed a nice breakfast. We ate breakfast in the restaurant each morning. Hashbrowns, eggs, bacon, pancakes and french toast all excellent. I do recommend to order your eggs 1 level more towards well then you usually would. (Medium for easy, hard for medium, etc.) Lunch options were limited to the buffets. The grill served burgers, dogs, fries, etc. All average. Burrito bar was excellent and we found it to be better then a comparable service like chipotle. We ate 3 lunches at the Burrito bar and in NO WAY was it disgusting, unappetizing, or "gross". Chefs choice buffet line changed daily from "all-american" to Italian to Caribbean style. 24 hour pizza bar and soft serve machines were delicious as well. We did not try the Rotisserie, Tandoori Grill, Deli or Sushi Bar. Dinner in the main dining room was superb every evening.(I live in Monterey, CA and work in hospitality so I've had many 5 star dining experiences before.) Each time felt like eating at an upscale dining establishment. Service was attentive and professional and I never found my food quality to be substandard or not cooked to my request. BTW the Warm chocolate melting cake is as good as advertised!! TRY IT. We did dine in the Pinnacle Steakhouse. They really put on an exceptional fine dining experience for only $35 extra/pp (grat not included) We had Lobster Bisque, Ahi Tartare, myself a Fillet Mignon and my lady a fine cut of Chilean Sea Bass. Prepared and seasoned perfectly. Wine list was slightly limited but more than adequate. Had a giant piece of cheesecake and a glass of VSOP Cognac for desert. The Icing on the cake.
SUPRISINGLY AFFORDABLE!!!! I went into this thinking to be gouged for drinks being I was a captive consumer however we found all types of drinks cheaper then your average hometown bar (At least in California). $5 beers, 8$ mixed drinks. Nothing shocking or surprising. My VSOP Cognac was under $10 which is always a great surprise. We did bring rum-runners on board so purchasing the "Bottomless Bubbles" program for mixers proved valuable, and while I believe the crew knew what we were up to, once the liquor has made it on I really don't think they care anymore.
Cabo San Lucas (2 days) and Puerto Vallarta (1 day)
Cabo was beautiful both days. Sunny, humid but not anything too bad.We got a priority tender the first day due to having an early morning Carnival organized Shore Excursion. We spent the first day snorkeling Santa Maria and Chileno bay, then walking around the downtown streets. Everything you have read about obnoxious vendors is true however MOST know when to quit. Some don't and you literally have to just look away and ignore them. Do be open to the locals though because a few are actually just genuinely trying to help you and are quite friendly. The second day in Cabo was open tender and took maybe 20 minutes from cabin to Cabo. We found a vendor named the "Little Crab" from whom we rented a scooter for only $15USD for an hour. (Carnival highly discourages this but we do own one at home so no big.) If you do rent a vehicle in Cabo be aware the locals pay little attention to stop signs so be VERY VERY CAREFUL at intersections and as a foreigner do obey all posted signage despite the poor example of the locals. After the scooter rental the same company offered us a round trip water taxi to nearby lovers beach, agreeing to pick us back up at a time we stipulated. (also only $15USD for the both of us)
Puerto Vallarta was another story for us.....Where you dock is not a very interesting part of town...a nearby flea market has you covered for souvenirs, but the historic downtown and beach areas are all a taxi ride away. i recommend walking into town a bit for a cab, as all the ones waiting at the pier are more expensive. It was horribly humid, we didn't go too far from the dock. Bought a tee shirt, took some pictures and was back on the boat in 2 1/2 hours. Still a beautiful day back on ship and was able to get some pool time while everyone else was in port.
We only had 1 planned shore excursion. We did the Santa Maria and Chileno Bay eco snorkeling through carnival. Excellent Choice. We were on a smaller 20ft-ish glorified dingy-boat. Only 12 people in each of the two boats. After a short tour of the Arch and "Pacific Window" we headed on a 25 minute trip to the first snorkeling spot. The water was for the most part clear, not Caribbean but still saw many species of fish and underwater life. Jose the tour guide was knowledgeable of the area and even caught a puffer fish for us to hold. After 45 minutes at spot number one we piled back on the boat and headed 5 minutes to the next spot. More of the same followed including another 25 minute boat trip back to the Marina. This was really a great excursion and I highly recommend it.
The service was overall very good. I was really amazed at how quickly everyone from our room steward, wait staff and casino manager (maybe that's a bad thing) knew our names. Like I said before much praise for Yul our Steward and also Skyler and Matt from entertainment. The lady from St. Thomas who did the karaoke was also very personable and kind. The only downfall to my service experience was the staff in the cruise terminal upon arrival. At many times they were very brash and downright rude. I understand they have a stressful 8 hour turnover but being literally herded like cattle and spoken to as such didn't set the best first impression. This was quickly forgotten once we were in the company of the receptive shipboard staff. Overall well Above Average.
Overall this was a unforgettable experience with fun being had from waking up to passing out, I mean going to sleep. I plan on cruising carnival again and am very excited for planning my next vacation. It really is the perfect blend of fun, comfort, and price. I understand this is my first cruise, so I don't have much to compare it too, but I really do feel like carnival provides an above average experience. I can see how older folks wouldn't care for this line, it does seem geared for folks from 18-45, but there is no way anyone could rate this a 1 star experience.
I recommend the splendor, and carnival. HIGHLY