We booked this New Years Cruise on the Carnival Splendor over a year ago; we got a great price and a free upgrade at the last minute. Overall, we had a very enjoyable cruise that we would not hesitate to do again. My huband and I are experienced cruisers; however we are not particualry loyal to any cruise line. We are Platinum level past guests with Carnival. Over time, we have noticed a lot of changes within the cruising industry; cost cutting measures mostly that have affected Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Carnival - the cruise lines we cruise with the most. Although some of my comments reflect my disappointment, it's mainly due to the fact that I know what it was like before. If you are new to cruising, my issues shouldn't phase you. And if you and I are in the same boat - well then, don't let the little things bother you! I certainly didn't. So please take what I say with a grain of salt, and just know it's my opinion and what it's based on!
We spent the night at the Hotel Maya and took the 10am shuttle to the ship. I checked in with my husband and waited in the enclosed VIP area at the Long Beach Pier until we were escorted to the Priority Boarding Line around 11:15am. We then went through security and onto the ship. Cabins were ready around 1pm; until then, we had lunch on the Lido deck.
Stateroom 2360 - Ocean View
We originally booked the least expensive inside cabin over a year before the cruise; the Friday before our departure, I received a call notifying us that our stateroom was no longer available; however, we would get a cabin a few doors down - with a window! We were not given a choice, but we were pleased as we went from an inside to an outside stateroom. The only downside was the the fact that our Stateroom Attendant was not notified that we were Platinum Guests, therefore, we had to constantly ask for our ameitities - the free drink coupons, the party invitation, the free gifts, etc.
We had Anytime Dining. It worked out very well for us - we ate early some evenings, late others. We never had to wait for a table. Food quality good; we generally found what we liked and never went hungry. I especially enjoyed the salmon. I ate in the buffet one evening, and it too was okay - same quality - no better or worse than what was available in the dining room. No fine dining by any measure, but not bad. Food was served warm and service went well. To our surprise, they still sing and dance every night in the Anytime Dining Area in the Black Pearl restaurant - on other ships, the anytime dining rooms are spared this annoyance.
We ate dinner the first night up in the Pinnacle Steak House; the meal was excellent (though not gourmet) - typical of what meals in the dining room "used to be". We appreciated the free bottle of wine (something you get when you book the first night). Although $80 ($70 plus $10tip) seems at first steep, we felt it was a good value considering it included a bottle of wine.
We never give Carnival high marks for entertainment; we find there isn't much to do on sea days and evenings. We did however find a rock band towards the end of the voyage that was fun to listen to. We also thought one of the comics on the ship was funny, but we got to see him only once. The shows in the theater weren't too good, but if you have never been to this sort of show, I am sure you would find it enjoyable.
Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta
Ports of Call
We booked two scuba diving excursions through the cruise lines in both ports of call; water temps were in the low 70's with poor visibility, but it was fun getting wet. Dive operators were fine; no better or worse than what you could do on your own. Due to limited number of dive operators in both ports (little competition) booking your own dives would not have saved us any money. Neither location in December or January proves to be great for diving or snorkeling, but as certified divers, it's something to do.
The Splendor was a beautiful ship, still in tip-top condition and a great choice for the first time cruiser or the budget conscious family. Pricing is very competative, but as is often the case, you get what you pay for. As long as you are okay with saving money and you are willing to give up a little in food quality and entertainment value, you should have a great time. We knew what to expect, and felt Carnival exceeded our expectations (afterall, we got a very generous free upgrade). Service was good - we noticed cuts here too. But we are easy to please. We had no trouble bringing boxed wine in our checked bags and enjoyed it all week long. We met a lot of nice people from our Roll Call here at Cruise Critic, so despite a few short comings, we managed to have a great vacation, and would not hesitate to do it again.
Thanks for reading my review.