This is a review of the first leg of a three-leg cruise from Long Beach to New York City. This was my second cruise with Carnival since 1996, my Barcelona-Roundtrip cruise in October of 2012 was a very good cruise.
-----Check-in in Long Beach.
The check-in process in Long Beach was a disaster. While it took only two hours for my wife and I, there were many stories of people that waited for 3, 4 or even 5 hours to get on board. The ship left Long Beach about three hours late that evening and this caused us to be late at our first port of call. While there was no official explanation as to what went wrong it appeared to be because they had too few computers and too few staff to check us in. The woman that processed my wife and I was poorly trained and showed no sense of urgency. She did not know that it was OK for me to have a valid, in-date Brasil visa in an expired passport. She had to get up from her station and find a supervisor to get an OK. I saw many of the check-in clerks get up and leave their stations while I was in this long line.
Since I was pre-registered, all that needed to be done was to collect my health declaration, my passport and Brasil visa, give me a receipt for the passports, confirm my identity, and had me my cabin key. I didn't even have to sign anything. What should have taken a minute or two took about 15 minutes.
The long delay might have been forgivable if Carnival would have made us more comfortable. There were no chairs for us to sit on, we had to stand in line the entire time, some of us outdoors and some indoors.
I thought that our awful check-in procedure was the result of some bad luck but I see from older reviews that long waits for check-in is the norm for this ship.
My cabin was clean and ready for me to move in by the time I boarded at 2:30 pm. There were a few problems:
One of the chair legs was missing a glide on the bottom, the plastic had come off and just a nail was sticking out, this made sliding the chair on the carpet difficult.
One of the desk drawers was broken and would not pull out at all. The other three were just difficult to pull out.
A four screws on the bathroom door handle were loose making it difficult to latch door.
Two light bulbs were burned out.
The closet doors creaked loudly, like the doors on a haunted house.
The toilet leaked constantly, by morning it was close to overflowing.
The shower would not drain quick enough to keep up with inflowing water.
The sink stopper would not close.
All of these, to the credit of the ship's staff were corrected quickly.
One problem that persists is the noise in the cabin. There is a lot of plumbing noise and from a crew work area. Another noise problem comes through the vents in the cabin door, we can hear everything that people say as they pass by our cabin. On other ships the cabin doors had no vents and were much more sound-proof. I have solved this problem during the night by stacking the excess pillows in front of the vent at the bottom of the cabin door.
We stopped going to the main dinning room for dinner after the first week of our 17 day cruise. Three of the dinners were very good and three were disasters. Of the bad dinners, the food was often cold or poorly prepared, service was slow, and there were long waits to be seated during "Your Time Dining". The "shows", put on by the supervisors and wait staff were very annoying. Our meals were interrupted by these noisy, poorly produced and performed shows. The staff was stretched too thin to provide good food service and taking them away from their duties to provide us with such poor entertainment was silly.
The menu descriptions usually did not accurately describe the actual meal. The worst offender was a "Sweet and Sour Shrimp in Noodles", this turned out to be heavily breaded deep-fried shrimp with noodles on the side. No mention was made that this meal was deep-fried.
One morning, near the end of breakfast service, there were three couples waiting for tables next to a window. During the long wait to be seated I noticed that there were five unoccupied but uncleared tables next to windows. I also noticed that instead of clearing these tables so that we could be seated, the wait-staff was clearing less desired tables, and these tables were being readied for lunch.
-----The Lido Buffet
It's often crowded at breakfast and lunch, so crowded that it is often hard to find a table. I often found many of the tables occupied with readers and card players, it's hard to blame them because there are few other quiet/comfortable areas with a nice view of the sea. At the buffet breakfast they serve a wide assortment of foods, but they have had a problem with running out of foods such as non-fat milk, we have not had that for about a week. They ran out of bananas one day and then only had unripened bananas for two days after that. We were in the lands of Banana republics and we had none to eat! One day there was no oranges, the next day they were available if you asked for one. Usually the green melons and canalopes are hard and tasteless, but I did have had some good ones.
At dinner there is usually only one small section of the buffet line serving food and the selection is very limited. The thing I like about dinner here is that I can count on getting a fairly good meal here and have it in a relaxed environment.
-----Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt
There are four machines where we can get cones or bowls of soft serve ice cream or frozen Yogurt. There are two pairs of machines about 80 feet apart, each pair has an ice cream machine and a frozen yogurt machine. In the yogurt machines they have one dispenser of chocolate every day and they alternate between vanilla or strawberry every other day. I prefer to have vanilla frozen yogurt for health/dietary/taste reasons. When I asked the Food Services Manager if they could have the strawberry in one machine and vanilla in the other machine, every day, he told me that they could not do that. He told me that Carnival passengers like it that way. His assertion was that passengers that wanted either vanilla or strawberry would prefer to wait a day for their flavor than walk from the port side of the ship to the starboard side. At first I thought that this is a good example of the stupidity of the Splendor management but maybe it is the passengers who are stupid, if that's what they are willing to accept.
Malcolm makes excessive announcements during the day, those late at night and early in the morning were most annoying. I understand that they have to do some of these to help sell their products and services but much of the announcement was just non-sense, a lot of it was him taking credit for good weather or marine life sightings. Some announcements were over-explained and some underexplained. One day, our daily planner mentioned that the dress code was "Elegant", in Malcolm's late morning announcement he slipped in a mention that tonight's dress was "Casual". At that point, we didn't know who was wrong, was it Malcolm or the daily planner? He did this again in the early afternoon and we still were not sure. Eventually, he came on an announce that a mistake was made, that "Elegant" would be on the next day which was Valentine's day instead of today.
------Time Zone Time Changes
Our first time-change went unannounced and after that they did a better job of letting us know. This seems to be on of the few cases where they learned something from their mistake.
The theater is set up more like a lounge than a theater. The floor has no slope and the rows are far apart to allow for the small drink tables. For those seated at the back of the lower deck there is a small slit to see the stage, between the people ahead of you and the low ceiling. Along with the ceiling support poles this makes it difficult to see much of the stage and screens. The sound crew usually had the volume up too high and over amplified. The lighting crew often had lights shining in the eyes of people in the audience. Seats on the upper levels are either to the side of the stage or very far from the stage. There are very few good seats in the theater. I liked a few of the shows, most of them I didn't like.
-----Getting on and off the ship
At one port where we had to take a shuttle to get us to the port's entrance, they made us get free tickets. Instead of streamlining things it just gave us one more line to go to and wait in. We had to go out of our way to get the tickets, then we had to wait for our ticket numbers to be called, and then, we had to wait in a long line to get on the shuttle. At several ports we were required to use a shuttle bus even though we were allowed to walk when I was here on another cruise. At another port, where the ship was late in arriving, those of us who were not on ship's tours were not cleared until 50 minutes after those on ship's tours where released. This was at a docked port, not a tender port. At one port they were going to charge us US$ 8 for a very short, mandatory, shuttle ride. The guys on the stage were boo'ed by the audience loudly and for a long time. The guys explained that this was not the decision of Carnival, that Carnival didn't get any of that money. A few hours later the Cruise Director made an announcement that the shuttle was free and that it was a misunderstanding. So, now I don't know if they changed their minds because of the outpouring of complaints or if the guys on stage didn't know what they were talking about. One of them was an Excursion Supervisor and should have know. We have been late for our arrivals in several ports, that cheats us out of time in port. That we are often leaving late doesn't make up for it because we had to be back on the ship on time.
This is one of the few areas where this ship excels. The ship was very clean.
My cabin has one American-style outlet (110v) and one European-style outlet (220v) at the desk and an electric razor outlet in the bathroom. If you want to use a laptop, there are several places through-out the ship where you can find seating and either 110v or 220 outlets.
I've got a little more than a month to go before this set of cruises ends in NYC, I hope that I am able to give a better review on the next two cruises. Of our thirty-five cruises, this Carnival Splendor cruise was the worst ever, it seems that the current management and staff does not care to, or is not capable of providing a good cruise product. There are a lot of nice cruises in the world, avoid this ship.