We went on the New Year's 2012-13 sailing on the Carnival Splendor. This was our first experience on Carnival since the late 80's. Our other 2 cruises were on Royal Caribbean, so we were expecting something similar. We didn't get much similar, but we still had fun. It was definitely a different experience than what we had on Royal Caribbean. All-in-all, I am not sure we would go Carnival again.
ROOM: Our room was spotless when we arrived. It was tiny, as you would expect, but my husband and I made do just fine. The closets were kind of weird - they were sectioned off and you had to open the doors to get to each section, instead of being able to just reach in and grab something. There wasn't a lot of drawer space. Also, the doors all interfered with each other, so if you aren't used to that, be careful. :) The decor wasn't very pretty, I was looking for more color. Bring your own hair dryer, the one that they have you have to constantly hold down the button and it is very hard to use. There is only ONE electrical outlet plug available in the entire room. There are not enough hangers in the room for two people to hang their stuff. I took all my dresses on hangers and we still didn't have enough. The room was made up twice a day - once in the morning to make the bed, etc, then turn down service while we were at dinner. There were always clean, fresh towels and the staff really kept the rooms very clean. The beds were comfortable, in my opinion, however my son and his wife did not think they were.
FOOD: We were completely disappointed with the food every day we were on the ship. Desserts were good, (except for the cheesecake!) but every thing else was lacking flavor.
We ate dinner in the dining room every night, and our waiter was wonderful, but the food just wasn't. Typically, the food was cold when it arrived, or it was cold by the time everything that was supposed to be with it arrived (ie: butter for the baked potato, au jus for the prime rib.). This happened EVERY NIGHT. Everything was salty to me. My husband and I are not fish eaters, therefore we found very few choices on the menu for us most nights. However, if you like fish, you will be in heaven. They also have an interesting addition to their menu - every night they had something you probably never would've tried if it wasn't included in your costs. For example, oysters rockefeller, octopus, etc. Also, they had an item on the menu that they called 'comfort food.' My husband ordered meatloaf off of that menu, and he likes mine better. :D
Bar service in the dining room was pretty much non-existant for us. We cruised over New Year's. We wanted a bottle of champagne with dinner on New Year's eve. We asked our waiter and he sent the bar waiter over. The bar waiter showed up 45 minutes later, and by then we didn't want it. We were very disappointed. When we spoke to a manager, however, they made sure he was at our table right away the next night, but we weren't interested in drinking that night. So they attempted to make it right and we appreciated that.
The buffet was terrible. We avoided it if we could. The choices never changed, and the food was always cold. It was hard to get a table and most of them were dirty. We found out VERY quickly that there was a good reason everyone stood in loooooong lines for the omelette bar at breakfast, the pizza station, burrito bar and deli at lunch. From those places, if you let your food get cold it was your fault. We even heard little kids in the elevator comment that it 'filled the hole' and they informed me that there was a good reason they had ice cream for breakfast. I got an all beef hot dog from the grill station, and it was so cold I could barely eat it. But I wasn't going to go stand back in that 15 minute line.
Room service is very slow at 3 AM. Any other time we called they were pretty fast, about 15-20 minutes, but not late at night. They were the only thing open at that time besides the pizza place, but there was always a huge line for the pizza. The room service menu NEVER changes either, and they will NOT make a cold sandwich hot for you, no matter how nicely you ask. A few times we went to bed hungry.
We ate in the dining room for breakfast after our terrible buffet experience. It was very nice, but the food was tiny. So be prepared, if you like a big breakfast, to order a little more than what you think. For example, my husband and I were going to split an order of french toast. That wasn't really possible, since a full order of french toast was one full piece of french toast cut into two triangles. Tell them how many eggs you want in your omelette, etc. Don't be afraid to be specific.
My advice is to find the breakfast in the dining room right away, as well as brunch. The food was decent, and relatively warm. Because they had less business then, the food was coming straight out to you and had no chance to get cold while the waiters are serving others. It was great once we discovered that.
The chocolate buffet wasn't actually a chocolate buffet like we had expected. It was a table with a chocolate fountain that you could use to do fondue. We were expecting a nice spread with chocolate delicacies and fun stuff like that.
We ate at the deli for lunch one day. That was nice. You just had to be specific about what you wanted.
We didn't eat at the steakhouse, but we probably should have. It was only $35 per person, and you probably would've gotten a great steak with all the trimmings. My husband ordered a petite filet mignon from the dining room and got something about 2 inches across and kind of thin. It wasn't quite what he was expecting. They certainly weren't kidding about the petite label.
SERVICE: Housekeeping was very friendly. Our waiter for dinner was wonderful. He was so kind and personable, even when the other couple that was seated at our table treated him badly. He remembered our names every night, and he was always smiling. His name was Riki and he was from Indonesia.
Drink service was great by the pool and at the bars. In the casino, however, when I asked for water 3 different times, I never received it. It didn't seem to matter whether it was busy in there or not, or whether you ordered alcohol or not, they were S-L-O-W. I guess we could've just gotten our drinks ourselves from the bar, but we're on vacation and wanted to be waited on.
The people at the Guest Services desk were wonderful! Very sweet and helpful.
SHIP: I was always lost. And I noticed a lot of the activities were the same every day. But we still had fun. And it was really clean.
MISCELLANEOUS: We received an email from Carnival about a week or two before we left suggesting that we arrive about 1:30 at the port. We arrived about 12:45. We spent FOREVER in line. Next time we will heed the warning and come about 1:30 or 2. We could've practically walked right on.
We had the early seating at dinner. Next time we will probably either choose the late seating or do the flexible time dining. We always felt like we were running to get dressed for dinner after coming back from the ports.
Also, the photographers seem to try to make everyone look stupid. I'm not sure why that is, but they want you to bend and twist your head and face into all these unnatural positions. It felt like I was auditioning for the spinning head scene in the Exorcist. We only purchased one photo, and that was because we were allowed to sit at our table, lean in and smile. :) Natural, unposed, and pretty.
We did notice there weren't a lot of kids, or drunk college students either. Both were nice surprises.
There are a lot of restrooms in hidden corners of the ship. They were always clean, well stocked, and I never stood in line.
Good things and bad things, like every vacation. :)