This was my first time cruising with Carnival...unfortunately, probably my last. I've cruised with RCI and Celebrity before and Carnival can't keep up. This trip included myself, wife, 5 year old son, and 8 other extended family members ranging in ages 12-65.
EMBARKATION: This was my 1st time out of NYC. It was chaotic at best. I'm not sure if it was Carnival's fault, or just the way the cruise terminals are set up in Manhattan. It took me 10 minutes just to get a porter to help us with our bags. Once I did find one, he was very helpful and courteous though. Walked into the terminal and stood in line for 45 minutes to check in. This was the 1st issue. I've cruised out of Bayonne, Port Canaveral, and Ft. Lauderdale and have never waited more than 20 minutes to check in. On a better note, our bags were delivered to our cabin very quickly.
CABIN: Average. A pink/black color scheme all over the ship, including the cabins (a bit dated and strange). Ample room for the 3 of us. Plenty of storage and an average size balcony compared to other cruise lines. Good size refrigerator to keep our own beverages cold. Average cruise-ship bath room/shower. Very comfortable bed. Good cabin service by our steward.
FOOD: My BIGGEST turn off. Every other cruise line I've sailed with has had the main dining room (MDR) open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nope, not on the Splendor. The MDR was open maybe once for breakfast and not at all for lunch. They had a "brunch" with a limited selection in one of the MDRs every morning, or the buffet. For lunch we had a choice of the buffet (which included grill, wok, tandoor, deli, and buffet selection) or room service. No lunch in the MDR. This led to VERY long lines for EVERY food station on the Lido deck. I've NEVER had to wait 15 minutes to get a sandwich on other cruise lines. Even the water/coffee/lemonade stations had lines on them. The crew had many options to alleviate breakfast and lunchtime crowds and they failed to. Maybe Carnival is trying to cut down on costs? The only places that there weren't lines were at the bars. Very quick service at the bars. Also, the little things...like having to go on a hunt for salt and pepper shakers and ketchup. It's the little things like this that separate the cruise lines from each other....and it's the little things that Carnival is lacking. We had open seating in the MDR and ate usually at 6:30 every night. The service in the MDR was great but the food was hit or miss every night. Some nights we had to send dinners back because they were cooked wrong or cold.
PUBLIC AREAS: Plenty of space on board the ship to sit and relax. Lots of great live music throughout the day/night in different lounges and areas of the ship. The pools were pretty small compared to other ships I've been on so needless to say, not much time in the pools. My son and I loved the water slide and splash park. The shows at night in the theater were very entertaining. The casino was nice and open and airy compared to other casinos at sea also.
DEBARKATION: A final bad taste in my mouth. We were told that our level would be let off the boat between 9:45 and 10AM. We didn't get off until 10:30. I'm not sure if that was Carnival's fault or U.S. Customs. Once we got off, not a porter to help us with our luggage around...again.
SUMMARY: We loved the ports of call...San Juan, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk were beautiful....but not so much the Carnival Splendor. I also noticed that Carnival doesn't have a curfew for kids like some other cruise lines. So, we had rude, wild packs of teens running up and down hallways at 2 in the morning. The type of behavior I saw by people on board wasn't very family-friendly....falling down drunk people, people swearing loudly in front of kids.....Carnival wasn't for us. Going back to RCI.