We have only sailed once before and this was our first sailing with Carnival. We didn't want to fly to a port so that limited us to the long beach port or Galveston, TX. Since we were dropping the kids in AZ for some much needed adult vacation time Long Beach was the winner. I would of gone with a different cruise line to begin with but sailings are limited and our time frame was tight. We settled on a 7 day to the Mexican Riviera on the Splendor. We drove to the port and stayed with family. We were droped of at the port and it was really nice not to have to worry about parking the car.
We spent the morning at the beach and having lunch with the family so we got to the port after 1. Porters were plentiful and within a few minutes they had all of our bags and we were off. We took 1 carry on with us filled with the essentials a case of water and 2 12 packs of soda. I saw security shaking single bottles of water but they seemed laid back and I heard many people in line waiting for our sail and signs that they had successfully smuggled liquor through. One guy called for a mouthwash party at 3pm in his cabin I thought that was an ingenious tactic and we saw him hammered by the pool at about 4pm. Lines were not bad at all and from drop off to our first step on the ship it was about an hour.
With all of my research pre cruise I thought I was sufficiently prepared for the loud decor but I wasn't. This ship is LOUD and in your face with the pepto pink and pink zebra print. Not me or my husbands taste. Honestly it kind of reminded me of the acid scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Since it was 2 by the time we got on the ship we headed to our Spa Interior room to check it out. Our luggage wasn't there yet obviously but we were able to ditch the carry on and water which is one reason we like to board later.
This was our first interior room. It was a small box with a bed like we expected. I liked that the room was toned done because it was a spa room. It had some small amenities that were nice smelling and ample closet space. The bed was uncomfortable for us, it was too firm for our taste but were use to that when traveling. We weren't planning on spending much time in the room so we weren't too concerned with it. Our room Steward was freaking amazing WAY better than our last cruise on Princess. This guy anticipated our every need was friendly and engaging A+ to him and his crew. We went up to the Spa got our tour and learned what we could use for free because of our room. We signed up for massages for a port day and I asked if there was a special this day if we could still receive the discounted pricing even though we booked in advance and they said absolutely. We thoroughly enjoyed the spa access and used it every day. It was a great place to get away from the hoards of kids running the ship unsupervised. My favorite were the heated loungers that look out the front of the ship.
Here is one thing no one mentioned in any of the reviews BRING A JACKET!! This is not a Caribbean cruise and it will be windy and chilly on deck most days and especially at night. I'm talking 56 degrees at 11 am COLD not what I was expecting at all.. The dome over the Lido pool is great and I'm sure it saved many of the sea days for people. My bad for not packing warmer clothes I just didn't expect the cold weather and this really bummed us out. I wish we would of know more of what to expect.
The ship is laid out oddly. You MUST walk through the Casino to get anywhere on the ship. The other option that kids LOVED was to walk through the Black Pearl dining room during dinner. We had a really poorly placed table and my husband was constantly being knocked into by kids running through the dining room. We asked why the back doors were open and were told it was because other people had complained that they were closed so they were told to keep them open. We took it to the guest relations desk as well and were told the same thing. This really bothered us as we felt like they just didn't care and they couldn't/wouldn't move us to a different area. The placement of our table and the lack of caring about our issue put a big damper on the dining portion of our cruise. We didn't enjoy our dinners very much but we did enjoy the food. The main floor of the black pearl is reserved for anytime dining and the upper level we were on was for assigned seating. I didn't really understand that but I guess more people are doing anytime dining so they need to account for more tables. I would have preferred the golden pearl dining room or sitting on the main floor of the Black Pearl.
Alternate dining locations were ok. Pizza was good but there was almost always a wait. We didn't try the Tandori but it smelled good. Deli was alright I'm to particular about my sandwiches to say it was good but DH loved them. The Rotisserie was our favorite spot for lunch. The chicken was great most days and they had the most amazing mac and cheese. Breakfast in buffet was ok omelets are the way to go. Crowds really sucked in the buffet so be prepared.
Service was lacking everywhere, dining service was ehh, bar service was mediocre at best, drinks were weak and even my martini in the piano bar was watered down (how do you manage that?) Guest services didn't provide much service. Overall I just wasn't impressed. You can take a mediocre ship and make it amazing all from service. Carnival missed the mark on this one.
The ship is nice size but the public areas feel cramped. Splendor is bigger than the last ship we sailed on but felt much much smaller.
My husband suffered through BINGO a few times with me and we watched some of the shows. The comedians were funny, drink service lacked though. Main theater shows were more akin to a local community show that a Broadway show but they were enjoyable. We loved the last show that included passengers. The 80 year old man singing Frank Sinatra's My Way was the best song of the entire cruise. Pool side activities looked like they were always hoping we didn't participate though. We watched the ice carving and that was cool.
Cabo -- glad I can say I've seen the arches. We were scheduled to dive on our first port day. Front desk called an rescheduled us for the second port day in the afternoon since there were not enough people signed up for the first day. Went to the Spa got massages ate breakfast and went to tender. Water was kind of rough and it was difficult for some passengers to get on the tender boat. I didn't like Cabo at all. The locals are everywhere selling things and pushing for water taxis and tours. We walked around the shops and went out into town. Shop prices in town are VERY inflated on shop keeper even told us of that's the tourist price your young I won't rip you off like the old folks with money. We left his store and went to the pier to get a water taxi after that. 20.00 got us a tour of the arches and beaches he stopped and feed the fish and we watched them. He offered to stop at lover's beach so we could get out and swim but we didn't want to. He then took us over to the beach side and we went and had lunch at one of the beach clubs. Vendor were as bad on the beach as they were on the marina side. We didn't get to go to port the second day because of rough water so they couldn't tender. We missed our scuba diving and that sucked bad it was going to be my first certified dive with my husband and we were both really disappointed. Not sure if I'll book through carnival again because of that. Had we gone private we would of dove the first day guaranteed.
Puerto Vallarta -- LOVE this place. Wish carnival would do 2 days here and 1 in Cabo. Did the puerta adventure tours zip lining through carnival. It's a shame this was our first zip lining tour because I'm not sure anything will ever come close to comparing to this adventure. We took a high speed boat to the location got out took a 4x4 up the mountain. Got on donkeys to take us up to the very top and then zip lined down 12 different lines and repelled down 2 waterfalls. Staff is great and safety is #1. Some ladies in the group were scared and they worked really well with them. They took us back to the ship we got cleaned up and headed into to town. Shops are beautiful and HONEST! Same boots in Cabo were several hundred dollars cheap here. Such a great deal I couldn't even haggle with the sweet shop keeper. Tequila samples everywhere. Everyone is friendly I would go back for a full week vacation here. We headed deeper into town and found a nice little bar sat on the small balcony and drank coronas and people watched. The bar we stopped at didn't have food so we headed back towards the ship and got a massive mound of guacamole at the restaurant right by the ship. Kind of pricey but it was really good.
Disembarkation was a mess. It was about two hours getting off the ship and getting through customs. Some of the custom officers were working fast but others thought they were in Mayberry and needed to talk to everyone and get life stores.
I wouldn't consider another Mexican Rivera cruise even if it was free. I didn't like the weather, I didn't like the ship, and I didn't like Cabo which accounts for the majority of your port days. I think the cruise would have been better as a family cruise if we try for another adult cruise we will probably opt for a different cruise line. That being said we have decided to give Carnival another shot as a family cruise just not the Mexican Rivera we going back to the Caribbean with the warm weather and water.