When we started cruising over 23 years ago, Carnival worked for us with two young teenage boys for a few years. After that we started going on other cruise lines and have completed many, many cruises with lines such as Royal Caribbean, Princess etc. After a long absence we decided to go on a 7-day cruise to Mexico on the Carnival Splendor with our oldest son and his girl-friend. We have never had what you would call a 'bad' cruise since we are the types who will have a good time even if everything is not perfect. Our expectations going in were that Carnival had good food based on various reviews and that there would be lots of activities on the ship. After much discussion, we decided to try the 'My Awesome bar' package which was on trial on the Splendor. You can find the details on Carnival's web site.
Unfortunately our expectations were not met in many areas. Rather than write lengthy prose every experience on this cruise, I will try to keep it as short as I can
We arrived around mid-day (we live 40 minutes from the Port) and after giving our cases to a porter we checked in and were on the ship in around 40 minutes. No problems with embarkation.
I keep hearing about the Splendor being described as the Pink ship so knowing how outrageous their designer Joe Farcus can be, I expected some awful gaudy shades of pink throughout but in fact it wasn't that bad. It was more salmon shades and light brown colors. The cabin hallways were quite pleasant but as usual with Carnival, the decor in general was somewhat over the top and in some cases downright cheesy. The open oysters with pearls all over the ceiling in the dining room comes to mind -- they look more like fried eggs stuck to the ceiling. Clearly Joe Farcus had outlived his welcome with this ship -- he is no longer with Carnival! Didn't like the fact you could not get all the way to the bow of the ship. Didn't like the door to the balcony which was a regular (and heavy!) door -- much prefer a sliding door. The balcony was quite small. The ship layout felt a bit dated compared with other cruise lines.
There really wasn't much going on despite various irritating announcements encouraging you attend something which usually required you to spend additional money! As with most cruise ships now, the photographers are particularly annoying with cameras constantly being shoved in front of you as they ask aggressively if you would like your picture taken. No thank you! On the promenade deck they were constantly set up every night (not just formal night) and actually blocked the thoroughfare to some extent. We tried one of the late-night adult comedy shows. He was not funny and not particularly 'blue' and he kept apologizing in case he offended anyone. If you go to an adult comedy show you should expect to be offended! The crew member who introduced the comedian was funnier with a couple of vulgar jokes! The introductory show with the cruise director was pathetic. The dancers were competent and professional but the choreography was amateurish. The cruise director was not funny. He was silly and irritating. The production show 'Vroom' fared a bit better -- good singing, dancing and choreography but got a bit tedious after the first 20 minutes or so with no changes in tempo and similar dance routines as well as no real storyline. Our second attempt at the late night adult comedy show was much better -- the comedian was very funny and the time passed quickly.
Sorry to say, the food was absolutely dreadful apart from a few notable exceptions. Top marks go to the Tandoor station which had outstanding Indian food. A toasted sandwich at the Deli wasn't too bad either. Breakfast and lunch buffet was the usual fare but I was curious as to why the bacon was dished out by a server behind the counter as if it was some kind of delicacy that had to be rationed (it was actually quite greasy!). Everything else was help yourself. Breakfast in the dining room was the same fare as the buffet. My wife ordered eggs benedict and it was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen! Clearly, they had been left under a heat lamp so long that the Hollandaise sauce had a brown skin on it and the custard had completely separated to the point of crumbling. No chef in their right mind would ever serve that to a customer! Tried the late night Mexican buffet -- worst Mexican food I have ever tasted! The Mongolian Wok was just OK. Flavor was there but the beef was a little chewy. Also, because it was cooked in a wok and not on a flat grill, there was an excess of liquid. Dinner in the restaurant was generally disappointing. Our main waiter who we hardly ever saw was efficient and friendly -- the rest were a surly bunch. The lamb shank (one of my favorites) was good but where was the bone? Prime rib was good as were a few other things. The rest was terrible. One evening I decided to have 3 appetizers and then go for one of the everyday menu items. The crab cakes had so much dressing in them they were soggy and vinegary. The frog's legs were tasteless and tough. The portabella mushrooms were soaked in vinegar and to top it all, the southern fried chicken coating was soggy and the chicken so overcooked it was completely dry. They couldn't even get that right! I'd eaten all those things before so I knew what to expect. Some of the dinner menus may be good for the meat and potatoes crowd, but on a cruise I expect a bit more.
Verdict on the drinks package. I think it worked quite well. Despite us all being sick from a heavy cold and a hacking cough the last few days, we averaged around $5.50 per drink for both of us including gratuities. Considering we were buying all sorts of cocktails, brandy, and malt whisky as well as wine at the dinner table some of those drinks being close to $10 (there is a $10 individual drink limit) I think we did quite well! Oh, and by the way, we didn't get drunk!
Balcony deck 8. Nice warm decor. Good size room, large sofa, comfy bed. Small balcony with a regular door rather than a sliding door. Shower good. Size good. Plenty of wardrobe space and drawers. Cabin steward was excellent. Always friendly and did a great job.
Disembarkation: No problems there.
Cruising with Carnival has always been cruising at its most basic. The problem is, the basic bar has been lowered so much it's 6 feet under! Our first cruises with Carnival did not have any of the issues highlighted in this review. The food was good, plenty to do, good shows etc. On this cruise, Carnival did not even enforce their own dress code with many guests turning up for dinner in T-shirts and shorts. To be honest, most of the passengers had not the slightest hint of elegance about them, even on formal night! Bottom line is -- back to Princess, Royal Caribbean etc. maybe we will come back to Carnival again in 10 years time for another reality check!