This was my third cruise with Carnival, last year my s/o and I went out of NYC on the Miracle and that was a much better experience. It's hard to have a bad time on a cruise, so I wouldn't say this trip on the Splendor out of NYC was bad, it just wasn't great.
Parked at the pier, that was easy - a bit expensive $280 for the duration of the trip if I recall. Arrived at the pier around 10:30am, embarkation was supposed to begin at 1:00pm, but the terminal was packed. Spent about an hour getting through the check-in process and boarding. It wasn't too terrible though, most of this time was spent sitting in the chairs provided in the terminal. We were onboard by 11:30. Conversely, my parents had priority embarkation and they were through the terminal and on the boat in about 10 minutes. We had priority embarkation on our last cruise out of NYC on the Miracle and would say that it is probably worth having if you don't like waiting or don't/can't stand in line for periods of time.
We had a balcony stateroom, it was standard like all other Carnival balcony staterooms. The room was very clean. In comparison with a suite on the miracle, which was larger and decorated slightly nicer, the balcony room on the Splendor was equally acceptable in my opinion. My s/o and I had no complaints about being in a balcony vs. having a suite on the last cruise. The only drawback to having the balcony vs. the suite is the size of the bathroom, and general cabin space if you have a lot of luggage.
Just a quick note about the television, it seemed that channels were purposefully blacked out, so about 50% of the channels on the television said they were unavailable due to "satellite unavailability," however, this was the case for the entire trip and it didn't matter where we were or how clear the sky was. This was just a minor annoyance.
We had my-time-dining, which we've had before and prefer it. Although, on two or three nights we ended up having upwards of a 45minute - 1 hour wait to get a table. Typically, we could just walk right in though. Unlike our trip with Royal Caribbean on Freedom of the Seas, we were never seated in the same area, and never had the same service staff.
In the main dining room the food was good and exactly as it has been on every cruise I've taken with Carnival, I noticed no change. I know some people complain that the quality has gone down or the quality was not good, but I did not find this to be the case. The quality, quantity, and presentation of the food was identical to my first cruise with Carnival in 2009.
What appears to have declined however is the service in the MDR. The majority of the time I could sit through an entire meal with an empty drinking glass because it was never refilled. However, there were occasions where the opposite was true. Although, this was always true if I was drinking coffee. On our last evening in the MDR it was virtually impossible to get any service of any kind, and the meal took about an hour and a half, most of it was spent sitting at an empty table.
The food in the MDR is on par with most major chain restaurants, but presented in a fancier way.
The food was exactly what anyone should expect from any buffet, I have never been to a buffet of any kind where I have been amazed by the quality of the food. There was a good selection of choices, and the food was acceptable. Finding a seat during peak lunch time can be a challenge, but if you bring your food up to deck 10 there is usually plenty of empty tables, no one seemed to even know that deck 10 existed as an extension to the lido buffet.
There were two days where the lines were far too long to bother contending with.
Carnival has great pizza. It's not life changing, but it's better than frozen pizza and I'd say it is better than the likes of Dominos or Pizza Hut.
This was alright if you just wanted to get some fries, hot dog or a burger. Not great, but acceptable.
This is located on deck 10. I didn't try it, but my s/o did and she liked it.
Punchliner Comedy Brunch:
We went to this twice, although we showed up around 1 and the brunch ended at 1:30pm, so we never saw the comedians performing at it. The first brunch I had a bagel with cream cheese and salmon, and I had macaroni with steak in it, the bagel was the same thing that comes with room service, which both my s/o and I believed were stale during the entire trip. The macaroni was bland.
The second brunch was much better. I decided to get the huevos rancheros and found that meal to be great.
Main theater entertainment:
If you've never seen a show of any kind if your life, you'll love it. If you've been to a show anywhere else, perhaps even a high school performance, you will probably find these shows of low quality, almost to the point of being funny.
HOWEVER, there was a show where they brought in an entertainer. I don't recall his name, but he was a juggler from mexico, his act incorporated juggling and comedy and it was good. This was only one night though.
The Love & Marriage game show was also good, but that is entirely dependent on the people they get up on stage. Also, how many times can you see that show, it's done everywhere. So, not really impressive.
We left, because it was that bad.
Musicians around the ship:
They were generally alright, but nothing I'd sit down and watch for entertainment, but it was okay background noise.
They had comedy four of the nights, which was kind of disappointing because on our trip with the Miracle, my s/o and I believe it was at least 6 nights of comedy. We didn't attend the family friendly comedy, but my parents did and said it was very lame. The adults only comedy was good and I would recommend going to all of these shows.
I never had a problem with it being filled with smoke until I went on RCC Freedom of the Seas and saw their smoke-free casino. We didn't spend time in the Splendor casino because it was filled with smoke.
The service on the ship was generally poor. Now, when I say that it is poor, I mean relatively. Compared to virtually any land-based vacation in the states, the service was excellent. Compared to other cruises I've been on, the service was poor. Not so much in that we didn't feel like we were getting good service, but in that the staff wasn't really engaging. On our last trip with RCC Freedom of the Seas, the level of service was so unbelievable high, it seems impossible to even match. On Splendor, the crew did their job, they did it well for the most part (except for maybe the MDR), but that was really it, it wasn't an abundance of welcoming. Actually, they just really seemed burned out.
We did self-assist. The terminal got backed up for a while, so we had to wait on deck 5, which basically defeats the purpose of self-assist. Once the line got moving, we were able to get off quickly and through customs in 5 minutes.
Overall the trip was good, not excellent, and nothing memorable. But it was a good vacation with a decent value. If you require the highest levels of service and top-notch entertainment with gourmet food, then this isn't the cruise for you. In fact, if you sail with Carnival and think you'll ever be getting those things, that is your own fault, because Carnival is not serving that market. Carnival provides economy level cruises at economy level prices. If you fit into this market, you will have a good time. If you think you're going to the Waldorf Astoria for Motel 6 prices, think again.