My wife, brother, sister in-law and myself drove a rental car one way from the Cincinnati area to Manhattan, took the Nov. 1 eight night cruise on CARNIVAL SPLENDOR, stayed one night in NYC, and then took Amtrak back to Cincinnati. On the way to NY, we stopped at the Best Western Plus in Allentown. This was my 44th cruise, my wife’s 20th and my brother and sis-in-law’s first.
I have to admit: I went into this with low expectations. After a horrible cruise on the ELATION a few years ago, I had pretty much written off Carnival. But the SPLENDOR’s schedule, the price and the fact that it was out of NY made it a perfect choice for all involved. I’m happy to say that Carnival has redeemed itself ''" at least for us. Here’s the scoop:
Embarkation in NY & FTTF About 9:30 a.m. my brother and I dropped the ladies at the pier and then dropped the rental car at an Avis location in mid-town (a 15 minute walk back to the pier). Then we all walked over to the INTREPID to meet a friend from New Jersey. It had been years since I’d been to the INTREPID, and seeing the space shuttle was pretty cool. After touring the INTREPID, we headed back to the pier, arriving at about 12:45pm. By that time the line was extremely long, but we had FTTF, so we sailed right through and were on board in less than 20 minutes. IMO, FTTF is worth every penny. When we got on board, our luggage was waiting at our door.
Cabin My wife and I had a balcony room (6355), while my brother and his wife went with an inside (1397). Both rooms were in great shape, the beds were very comfortable, and, as far as our room was concerned, the balcony was clean. There were two metal chairs and a small metal table on the balcony. Only one of the chairs reclined.
The bathroom was typical cruise ship size but, for some reason, the layout of the sink, toilet and shower made this one seem more spacious. I also really liked the look of the bathroom…the color scheme appealed to me.
Future passengers take note: this cabin and its surrounding cabins is right above the band playing next to the casino one deck down. For us this wasn’t a problem. We could usually hear them playing while we were getting ready for dinner, and then again later on, until about 1130pm. IF people go to bed early, I can see it being a problem, otherwise, it shouldn’t be an issue.
For the most part, we were extremely pleased with our room and the service of our room steward, Panda.
The ship Well, as far as décor goes, it’s typical Farcus all the way. I’m not going to go into the details of every room as there are photos of the ship all over the internet. Let’s just say that pink is the dominant color ''" but, for some odd reason, it really seemed to work. It was not visually offensive. In fact, some of it was pretty cool.
Interior spaces were clean and, unlike the ELATION, in great shape. Because the galley is situated between the Black and Gold Pearl Restaurants, the layout of decks three and four is a little whacked-out, but, after a few days, we figured it out. Once people catch on that deck five can get you just about anywhere, it’s pretty simple.
While somewhat disjointed, the exterior of the ship is in great shape ''" with the exception of the children’s small waterpark and the ceiling out by the aft pool. Both need a good sprucing up. Interesting to note that none of the outer decks are covered in teak ''" it’s either steel painted with blue, speckled marine paint, or a simulated teak rubber coating.
Future SPLENDOR passengers take note: the forward observation areas above and below the bridge can only be accessed by walking down the FORWARD passenger cabin corridors on decks six, seven, nine and ten. For the most part, this is a secret as there were never more than three people there at any given time even during port arrivals and departures. I just think people don’t know about it.
Food (Lido) Breakfast was pretty much the same every day, but, for the most part, it was good. The only things they really changed were pancakes one day, French toast the next. They also changed one of the egg dishes: one day it was eggs benedict, the next it was deep fried whole eggs (???), the next it was egg & sausage quesadilla, etc. The first day the scrambled eggs were great, and then it was like they added chalk to them. The made-to-order omelets were a nice touch and were very good.
Lunch, for the most part, was good. There was a good selection which included the burrito bar and Mongolian Wok. As mentioned in other reviews, the line at the Mongolian Wok was usually pretty long ''" but if you get there right before it opens, it’s only about a ten minute wait. After that, it gets ridiculous. The problem is that people go through the line with three and four bowls of stuff to be cooked and they monopolize one of the two guys cooking the food. I did bite the bullet one day and waited about 35 minutes. It was good, but I decided it wasn’t good enough to wait that long again.
Just outside the Lido, by the aft pool, are the deli and Indian stations. The deli was pretty good they would make just about anything you asked for, and it was always good. The only issue I had with the deli was when they were just about to open and the worker stood there and sprayed the Panini press with cooking spray FOR ABOUT THREE MINUTES. The people sitting around finishing their breakfast or standing at the bar were doused by this massive cloud of oily cooking spray….nice. The Indian food was very good; though I was disappointed they didn’t offer any saag dishes. The Nan bread was great.
Just forward of the Lido is where the grill and pizza stations are located. For the first few days they made burgers right there and served them right off the grill. Then the grill caught fire and they shut it down. From that point on, the burgers were made somewhere else and then brought there. They were pretty good. Pizza was hit or miss.
Above the aft section of the Lido is the Rotisserie where they served baked chicken, corn-on-the-cob, salads, mac-n-cheese, baked potatoes, etc. Oddly enough, they served gravy…but no mashed potatoes. It was okay; we only went there once.
Food (MDR) To be honest, I really have nothing to complain about. Food that was supposed to be hot was hot; food that was supposed to be cold was cold. Soups were outstanding, and the entrees were reasonably portioned. One night I had the flat iron steak from the everyday menu and it was very good. The only issue was one night the warm chocolate melting cake was a bit runny. Other than that, there were no problems whatsoever.
Food (Pinnacle Steakhouse) An excellent meal; well worth the $35 per person price. My only issue was the location: it seems silly to have it above the Lido and Rotisserie. The deck is open, and so you get all the noise from below. That being said, we had a great time and service was fantastic. When my brother found out that there are no sugar-free desserts on the menu, one of the wait staff actually went down to the MDR and brought up sugar-free pumpkin pie and ice cream. Well done.
Service Unlike our last Carnival experience, service was pretty flawless. From check in at the pier to our wait staff in the dining room, to our room steward, people were extremely friendly and looked like they were enjoying themselves. We had late seating (815 p.m.) in the Gold Pearl…our waiter, his assistant and the head waiter did a fantastic job.
We didn’t encounter one member of the crew who wasn’t pleasant or accommodating.
And now a few words about Malcolm "Woo-Hoo” Burn, the Cruise Director. To be honest, I really don’t see how his saying ''"woo hoo” at the end of his announcements could be considered annoying or tiring. He didn’t scream it, he always said it in passing, and he wasn’t obnoxious about it. In fact, I actually found his communications to be pleasant. He was out and about the ship, was very approachable, and he even participated in a few of the shows. After reading some of the negative comments on CC about him, I was expecting the worst. I guess some people just have a wild burr up their backside.
Entertainment Again, I was expecting the worst. Whoever says that Carnival has cut back on live music certainly hasn’t been on the SPLENDOR lately. The was a live band by the casino (True Identity), a guitarist in the atrium (Keith), a piano player in the piano bar (Frank), a trio that played in the atrium and Robusto Bar (Fandango), a duo (Sweet 2) ''" also in the atrium ''" and a live orchestra that played in the main showroom (Steve Farlane & The Splendor Showband). True, there was a DJ out by the forward pool…but that hardly means that Carnival is doing away with live music.
Since it was my brother and sis-in-law’s first cruise, we went to three of the production shows (usually not being my thing). Two were okay (Fiesta Latina & Vroom), one was horrible (The Beat). The Edge (a comic/juggler) was pretty incredible. The ventriloquist was a snoozer. Only saw two of the comics: one was good (Roman), the other one (Smiley Joe Riley) sucked (saying the ''"F” word is incredibly funny…if it relates to the joke).
Itinerary Port Canaveral, Nassau & Freeport. In PC we rented a car and drove to Cedar Lake Airboat Tours about 40 miles away in Melbourne. Normally it’s about $49 per person, but I found a Groupon for $22. It was very cool, we saw a ton of gators. In Nassau, the ship pulled into the harbor, spun around, and then headed right back out again. Apparently the wind was too bad to dock the ship safely, so the captain decided to skip the call. The next day in Freeport was surprisingly nice. The last time I was in FP, they had not yet built the village of shops and restaurants……it’s really done well. After some shopping, we took a cab to Taino Beach ($7 per person each way) and had a great time.
Fellow passengers Have to say, most people were courteous and well-mannered. The exception (and I know this is going to sound racist and will probably stir the pot a little) was the majority of the Asians on board. They were pushy and obnoxious. The first day, as we were going through the line at the Lido, an older gentleman was behind me in line, and kept pushing my tray with his tray. Instead of waiting until he got in front of an item, he would reach in front of me, actually to the point of reaching past me. I finally put my hand up and told him to back off. They would also storm every elevator, not letting the people inside get out before they barged in. During the sail out in NY, several times they would walk right in front of me while I was trying to take a photo so THEY could take a photo of the same thing. They would run right into you and not even apologize. Other than that I saw no drunks, no one passed out, no one hogging loungers, etc.
Disembarkation Pretty flawless. We were off the ship by nine or so, grabbed a couple taxis right outside the terminal and were at our hotel (Holiday Inn Lower East Side….not recommended) by 930 a.m.
Overall, it was a great cruise, with very little to complain about. If every Carnival ship were ran like the SPLENDOR, I’d be happy to keep giving them my business.