We booked a 7 day cruise on the Carnival Splendor as a economical winter getaway. It turned out to be a colossal waste of money, and an exercise in frustration and disappointment. We love cruising and usually cruise on Princess, our favorite. I had misgivings about going with Carnival after a 4 day disaster about 10 years ago, but my optimism convinced me that perhaps it had improved. I was wrong.
Embarkation in Long Beach was actually great. Although lines were long, they moved swiftly and we were on board much quicker than I would have imagined. However, the process was overseen by loud, barking women who acted like holdovers from concentration camp staff. Jaws set, voices more like growls; they shouted out orders and scolded passengers who were flowing into the wrong lines. A surly female explained to one first time cruiser that VIFP meant Very Important FUN Person. Somehow, this was not convincing. Once on the ship, we knew we were in trouble. The ship was nowhere near full, but the walkways were already crowded and noisy, and travelers were forced to walk single file around pillars and chairs to reach their destination, which for most, was the Lido buffet. Being hungry, we, like sheep, followed the masses to the madness of the buffet. Finding a table was difficult, and servers made no effort to assist. many talbes were dirty, but the wait staff were not making any haste to clean them. When we finally found a clean table, we sank into the filthy upholstered seats and ate what we could of the bland, boring fare. The high point was the lemonade, so you can sort of see where this was going, can''t you?
I used to love the color pink. since being on the Splendor, I am almost sickened by it now. the ship is awash with pink leather furnishings, pink dots on the elevator doors, pink carpets, pink trim on doorways, pink flourescent signage. Not even a lovely pink, but more of a fleshy, raw pink.
Rather than easy to read signs, there are "chasing" color changing signs everywhere, very "Las Vegas-y." To me, so tacky and undignified, but this is Carnival, you know. Cheap, cheesy and flashy. I should have known.
Cabin was quite nice, really. A good size with plenty of storage. The room stewards were friendly and outgoing and did a splendid job of keeping the room clean and pleasent. They were the ONLY staff who exhibited true friendliness and concern for our comfort. The oft advertised "Carnival Comfort Bed" had good quality linens, but the mattresses were tired and uncomfortable, making a truly good night's sleep quite elusive. Other than that, I have no complaint about the cabin.
The food was absolutely ridiculously mundane and poorly prepared. Now, we may be a bit snobbish about food, having a young Chef in the family, but we expect excellent food on a cruise ship. Carnival, apparently, feels that the obligation ends at providing quantity. Quality is quite another story. One can sort of count on buffet food to be mediocre and prepared to please the masses, but this buffet food was rank, and in fact, some items tasted as though they were very close to spoilage. Beef items were grossly tenderized and grainy with a foul under-taste. Breakfast items were nasty, lukewarm, and often inedible. Eggs tasted powdered, so we opted for omelettes, but those weren't much better after the cook sprayed a thick coating of PAM into his saute pan. The omelette was covered with thick, greasy residue once it slithered onto our plates. The main dining room food was boring and often unpleasent. Menus are very dull, making it difficult to choose a meal......nothing sounds good. The shrimp cocktail, an "anytime" offering was slimy and soft, and the Ceaser salad had a rancid fishy flavor. Even the lobster and shrimp was a bust. The lobster tail was tough and stringy and the tiger prawns were most likely frozen. Dinner rolls were hard and tasteless pellets of dough, and desserts always had a powdery chalky consistency, very odd.
Staff on the Splendor are anything but accomodating. Besides the fact that many of them appeared to have very little command of English and very poor communication skills, they also appeared haughty and callous. From the desk staff to the bar staff, these folks acted almost annoyed when approached, and wait staff seldom made eye contact. Often, bar staff would seem to almost ignore passengers who were obviously wanting service. Shop staff were equally lackluster and rather snooty. Unbelievable for an industry that can enhance profits by being friendly!
We dislike assigned seating for meals, so we opted for the free choice dining. The consequence of this choice was to wait in lines that sometimes circles completely around the 3rd deck, literally hundreds of potential diners standing in line, then receiving pagers. With only two main dining rooms for 3000 plus guests........... well, you get the picture. All of this just to get into a place with low quality, poorly prepared food served by indifferent and unfriendly servers. Had we lost our senses???
We had one shore excursion planned, which was part of a package deal from Orbitz. Unfortunately, we lost this because the propulsion system on the Splendor was in trouble and the itinerary changed. We went to the Customer Service desk to see , ha ha ha ha ha, if Carnival would comp us with "something," but their only advice was to call Orbitz and "complain??????" Huh? wasn't this the ship's problem?
Unless one loves to drink alcohol and/or watch others drink alcohol, there is little to do on the ship. Very, very few activities except an occasional trivia game. The focus on the Splendor, as with Carnival as a whole, is on selling alcohol. I assume that the point of the "Fun Ships" is that people only have fun when they're drunk or on the way to being drunk, because that was the only activity that was promoted. The watered down "cocktails" being $8 or $9 were ridiulous, and we're really not drinkers anyway. The "shows" were silly and cheap, simply another way to herd people together and lull them inot thinking they were having fun by selling more drinks. The music venues were hosted by musicians (I use that word liberally) that had very limited repetoires and appeared to not have as much talent as some of the garage bands in my neighborhood. The caliber of "entertainment" was shockingly absurd and insulting.
By the second day of this cruise, we were longing to be home. We knew we had made a horrible mistake, and we lamented the fact that we could have saved that money for a descent cruise down the line. We couldn't get off the ship fast enough, and actually laughed because we had a better time sitting at LAX for six hours than we had on the 7 day cruise. Does that tell you something.
Fellow cruisers.................. save your money. Unless you are truly hankering to be in a "hairy chest contest," you will be so much happier cruising with a line that treats you with respect rather than like just another piece of rancid meat.