This was my first cruise, so I have nothing else to base my reviews on...just FYI
Embarkation was a hot mess. I mean, I was very excited about going on a cruise to begin with, so my spirits were high. It wasn't a terrible experience, but it wasn't that great. The gave everyone a laminated paper with a number on it, they told us they would call our number when we were supposed to board. The only thing was, they didn't have separate areas for each group. So you had people with number 1 behind people with number 8. Also, everyone kept crowding closer and closer to the entrance to board the ship, to the point where we had no personal space. I was a bit annoyed to see how difficult it was for people in wheelchairs to get through the crowd. Basically, it could have been WAY more organized.
Once on the ship, I was amazing by what I saw. I was like a young child at Disney world for the first time. I couldn't grasp the concept that I was actually on a boat and not in a luxurious hotel on land. I have to agree with the reviews of other passengers, the decor was a bit much. It was not so garish though, that it prevented me from enjoying myself. So to me, that's of no consequence.
My parents and I went straight to our staterooms, which were right beside each other and connected. I was impressed with the comfort and look of the room, again, struggling to believe that I was on a ship. Nice sized window, not claustrophobic at all. The bathroom was a very good size for a ship, in my opinion. I was expecting a lot smaller. Lots of space to put all your toiletries and what not. What I liked is that there was a little metal border around each shelf..very smart if the ship was rocking, none of your things would fall. The pillows were DIVINE...very comfortable. There are four on the bed so you can just float in a cloud of pillows if you want! The only thing that kind of bothered me was that the room (as all the rooms do) had twin beds which were pushed together to form a queen. We actually pushed our two beds together ourselves. We could have asked someone but we didn't mind doing it. The housekeeper of our room saw that we pushed the two beds together so he took it upon himself to put a queen sized sheet over both beds, which I found was nice. The first night in that bed was uncomfortable, but only because I was sleeping in the middle. I expressed my concern to the housekeeper, Hendy. I asked if he had a queen sized mattress (me, being a new cruiser). Of course they did not, but he offered to put a padded layer on top of the mattress which would make it more comfortable. I was ok for the rest of the cruise.
Meals. The food was FABULOUS. I was very impressed with the quality and variety of the food. You never had to eat the same thing twice...that's for sure. Also, you can eat as much as you want, even when you are eating in the Gold Pearl dining room. You just have to ask for as many entrees or main dishes as you want. Of course, we did not do that...but it was nice to know that we could. I was glad to see that seating was not an issue, since they served each meal for four hours at a time. There was always a place to sit because everyone ate at different times. I also liked that when you got your food from the buffet, you could bring it virtually anywhere on the ship. We brought ours back to our room one night and then only had to leave our trays outside of our room, the housekeeping picked it up.
Activities. I can't really give a full review here since we did not partake in very much. We just wanted to relax and enjoy the serenity deck mostly. We did go to the Robusto Lounge on two or three nights, which was very fun. The seating layout is a bit strange but the seats are comfortable. The ship's band, True Identity was AMAZING. We also saw The Chatter from PA...they were phenomenal.
The Serenity Deck. I enjoyed being up there, it was quiet for the most part. I was confused as to why they put a mini golf on the deck above it though. There were golf balls falling down on the Serenity deck often as well as victorious shouts. This was probably the only big thing that bothered me on the cruise.
The staff and service. I was amazing at these people. Our housekeepers, Hendy and Ayu, were phenomenal. They deserved the biggest tip ever, we actually did give them extra. They knew our names on arrival and called us by our names whenever they saw us, with big smiles. They attended to our every need at any time without complaint. They never looked tired or upset. They were always well put together and extremely polite. I'm quite sure that this was not an act, they were genuinely good people.
Our wait staff at the Gold Pearl...equally amazing. They were led by Pande....LOVED him. He was funny, sweet, kind and very accomodating. Being served by him and his team was an absolute pleasure.
I have to mention the barbecue on Half Moon Cay. This island is privately owned by Carnival so it was pristine and basically deserted, besides the passengers of the Splendor. The staff barbecued for us for a few hours and it was so well organized. Instead of one line up, they had several stations set up so we could form a bunch of lines to minimize the wait. Those poor people stood there by hot grills and stoves with gloves and cooking wear on to serve us, all the while with big smiles and wonderful greetings. The barbecue was delicious as well.
Something i'd also like to mention is that, although we were late leaving NYC and Nassau, we arrived back in Manhattan on schedule, which was great since I was due back at work that night. I didn't want to have to email work to delay my arrival.
The debarkation was amazing. We took the "self assist" option which meant we took our own baggage off the ship. It was very fast with minimal line ups. I think that we were in the car, driving off at about 9-9:30am.
All in all, it was a GREAT first experience. I'm pretty sure I left my heart in the Caribbean so i'll be going on another cruise to go get it!