We sailed on the New Year's Eve cruise (7-night, Mexican Riviera) on the Carnival Splendor, leaving Los Angeles on 30 December 2012.
It had been 15 years since we cruised on Carnival, and since then, we've sailed with Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Raddisson Seven Seas. There were four of us traveling and we had two balcony staterooms on the Empress Deck (7).
This sail is notable because of the holiday, and because the Splendor is moving to New York. it was an extremely full ship and the most crowded cruise we've been on so far. We didn't have a choice of dates, due to our son's school schedule; needless to say, if we did have a choice, we would definitely have chosen a less popular time to cruise. This review will be based on a full-capacity ship experience, so bear that in mind as you read :).
The absolutely best thing about this cruise was by far the balcony room -- we were extremely happy we decided to upgrade. No matter how crowded the decks got (and again, on this cruise, picture, literally, wall to wall adults and children, nary an empty deck lounge anywhere), the balcony was a lovely, beautiful place to sit and read, eat, or just look at the sea.
We did the YTD (Your Time Dining) and were seated almost immediately with the exception of one day, when we went at 7 p.m. on the last elegant night. I did notice that there was almost always a line when we were done eating (and we often ate early, by 6 p.m.)
Beef dishes were hit and miss, but the prime rib and chateau briand were very good.
The soups were often delicious -- the Thai soups, the creams soups (with the exception of the corn chowder, which was not).
A good go-to starter is the shrimp cocktail.
The best desserts were the two Creme Brulees. If they're on the menu, and you want dessert, get that. The low/no sugar desserts were almost inedible. Most of the time, our son (15) opted to go to Lido to get the Swirled Yogurt (there is also Swirled ice cream). I didn't try either, but my son and husband really liked the frozen yogurt.
The food really wasn't that great on the whole.
Remember, we were there when it was very crowded. When the dining room and buffets were closed, the only open areas: the grill for hamburgers and hotdogs, pizza and the deli had very long lines. It was hard to get through room service and service is, understandably, slow.
Some of the wait staff seemed disgruntled -- again, the hoards of guests may have something to do with that.
My family liked the burgers at the Grill, but not in the dining room. The pizza was good, but a challenge to get to -- the lines were often long, and the pizza guy was disgruntled.
I didn't like any of the Lido (Deck 9) food, with the exception of Special K cereal and the Rotisserie. The Rotisserie chicken was good (it looks dry, but it's not) and the mac and cheese there is very good, esp. with the provided bacon bits.
The Sweet Shop items weren't very good, frankly, but the two things I thought were good (and remember, this is only IMHO) were the carmel cheesecake and the key lime pie.
Three very helpful suggestions I found on this site that were terrific --
bring a clock (or use your tablet)
and a power cord. There is only one outlet in the entire room.
bring a bungee cord to hold the balcony door open.
The rooms do have a hairdryer, but it is stationary (attached) to the top right drawer of the room's credenza. The bathrooms have a pull-out, round, magnifying mirror.
The showers have body wash and shampoo dispensers (but no conditioner). The shower head does raise and lower. The half-egg sized knob on the left turns on the water. The one opposite it controls the hot/cold water.
The bathrooms do have kleenex and on the cruise we were on, there were also samples of Garnier hair shampoo/condition as well as toothpaste.
They provide coffee, hot tea, cocoa, iced tea (very, very strong iced tea), lemonade and water and, of course, ice. They've replaced glasses with pre-schooler, colored plastic cups. During buffet hours, there is reduced fat milk, fat-free milk, chocolate milk, apple and orange juice.
Bring a drink bottle (I have one of those screw-top 24 oz. built-in straw things). You can fill it with ice and make your own drinks with drink packets (we brought a bunch of Single-to-Go Snapple teas, drinks) or soda. I
Bring a stainless thermoses. You can make one with hot tea on the Lido deck, and bring it to your room and have tea. The hot-drink cups are very small. If you're trying to take it to your room, you will either be finished with it by the time you arrive or it will be cold.
You can bring two bottle of wine each and a case of sodas (12-pack). HOWEVER, remember to "carry on" these -- don't pack them in your main luggage that you handover to porters when you arrive (otherwise, your luggage will be delayed and they will open and dismantle your luggage.