I recently returned from a 7 night Mexican Riviera cruise aboard the Splendor during Thanksgiving week. I went with my husband and 2 children (ages 10 and 12). We had a good time but I wouldn't say it was great.
Embarkation: We arrived at the port at 11:00 and checked in quickly and easily. We were in boarding group 2 and were on the ship by noon. Our rooms was ready so we were able to drop off our carry on bags and head straight up to the Lido for lunch. I had received an email asking me to board after 1:30. I was glad I ignored that advice. From the Lido deck, we could see long lines waiting to board after 1:00. We were happy that we chose to arrive early rather than wait until later. Our luggage didn't arrive to the room until after 5:00.
Ship: I have been on several cruises with different cruise lines and I have to say that this was by far the hardest ship to navigate. Many floors don't have through access from front to back. We ended up using deck 5 a lot to go from one end to the other. The bad part of this is that it takes you through the casino which can be smoky at times. I finally went down to guest services and got a little deck plan map which I carried with me to help me figure out how to get to wherever I was going. This helped a lot. They have the deck plan maps out right in front at guest services. If you are directionally challenged like me, I recommend getting one of these on Day 1.
Dining: We did anytime dining which we really liked. It was nice being able to go down to dinner whenever we were hungry rather than a set time. We went as early as 5:45 and as late as 8:30 and only had to wait once in line and even then it was only for about 5 minutes. Food was good and I appreciated that they served my kids their meals quickly. On the 2nd night we were seated at Xue Yin's table. He was wonderful and we requested to sit in his section each night after that. Just as a side note, Anytime dining guests are seated in the Black Pearl dining room. The early and late seating were in the Gold Pearl dining room.
The buffet on the lido was pretty much a nightmare. Lunch time was ridiculous no matter how early or late we went. Anytime between 11-2 had extremely long lines. We tried the grill by the pool and pizza station as well and still the lines were very long. I found going on the aft to the deli was the quickest way to get food in the afternoon. On the last sea day there was a chocolate buffet. It was chaos. There were no bussed tables to sit at, no cups for water/lemonade. The lines were so long that we just skipped lunch altogether.
Room: We had 2 connecting balcony rooms 7414 and 7418. I had read that the balcony divider could not be opened between these rooms but that was inaccurate. The one drawback with Carnival for us is that they allow smoking on the balconies. Our neighbors were chain smokers and we often left our balcony to avoid the smoke. Our room steward was very good and kept our rooms clean and re-stocked. The room had plenty of closet space/storage as well. One thing that surprised me was that the rooms only have one outlet plug. I had heard that before but had assumed it had a place for 2 plugs. This was not the case. You only have one plug. We wished we had brought an powerstrip. The bathroom was stocked with shampoo and shower gel (no conditioner though).
Entertainment: The only shows we saw were the comedy shows. Since we had kids we went to the family friendly ones. They were entertaining. We went to the casino a couple of times. It was pretty smoky when we went. You can use any Classic Cocktail drink receipt to get a 5 dollar match play. I did that a couple of times and used it on the blackjack table. That is a great deal that a lot of people don't seem to know about or utilize.
Kids Clubs: My son who is 12 was in the Circle C group. He liked the activities and the autonomy he had. Since it was Thanksgiving week there were kids everywhere. My daughter who is 10 was still in the Camp Carnival group. Although she selected many activities to participate in, she did not like the camp. She said the counselors seemed overwhelmed and yelled at the kids often. She did not have fun there and after several attempts she opted not to go to any more activities which was disappointing since she had liked Camp Carnival on our last trip aboard the Carnival Spirit a couple years ago.
Ports: We have done this itinerary several times. Our first day in Cabo we took a water taxi ($3 per person) to Medano beach and spent the day at one of the beach front restaurants. The kids played in the water, we all had lunch and drinks. It was a fun way to spend the day. Day 2 in Cabo we booked a 4 hour snorkeling tour through Pez Gato. I booked it on-line rather than through Carnival. It went from 10-2 which gave us plenty of time on each end to arrive and return. The Pez Gato boat is right at the pier so we literally walked off the Carnival tender and right around the corner was the boat. I highly recommend this tour. Fun and inexpensive. Puerto Vallarta- we took a cab into town to walk around the Malecon boardwalk. Ended up walking in old town over the bridge and found another beach restaurant to spend the afternoon.
Debarkation: We opted for self-disembarking. We were down on deck 3 at 7:15 and walking off the ship with our luggage at 7:45. Very quick and easy. Our flight out of Long Beach had been bumped up from noon to 10:00a.m. We were nervous about making the flight but ended up at the airport 2 hours early. Couldn't have gone more smoothly. I highly recommend flying in and out of Long Beach rather than LAX if at all possible. Airport is close and very small and easy to navigate. Cab fare is a fixed price to the pier for $30.
Overall, we had a good time on this cruise. It was a very full ship with lots of kids so it seemed very crowded in most of the public spaces. Perhaps during a non-holiday week it wouldn't be so crowded.