A trip on the Splendor was originally not in the cards for us in 2013. We sailed on Freedom of the Seas in August and thought that would be our extend of cruising for the year. However, the low rates on this ship were too good to pass up, and when I inquired about getting adjoining cabins for our family (necessary because we are 5 people now and I can't trust three little ones in a room of their own yet) it was not a problem. We wound up being joined by my mom and two younger siblings, who booked a cabin right next to our two. I did not have high expectations for this bargain cruise, but it wound up being a lot of fun.
Embarkation- check in at the desk was faster than I've ever had. We had to wait for awhile before boarding began, but there were plenty of seats.
Itinerary- This was our first time taking a Bahamas itinerary from NYC. Sailing from NYC is magical, and we loved watching the skyline and the Statue of Liberty. In Pt. Canaveral, we planned to have breakfast at one of the WDW hotels so that the kids could see some Disney characters and then walk/shop at Downtown Disney. We wound up having delays at the pier and they extended our time in port, but we couldn't take advantage of that since the rental car place wouldn't be open any later. We barely made it to our breakfast reservation (45 minutes late!) but they took us anyway. Our second stop was supposed to be Nassau, which I was hoping to enjoy, but rough seas kept us from docking there- even though we made it all the way to the pier and then had to turn around! We did make it to Freeport, but had planned on staying onboard that day, so we didn't get off of the ship. There is a small shopping area at the Freeport pier, but that's it within walking distance.
Cabin: We had three balcony cabins on deck 8- all the way forward. It was a great spot and very quiet aside from the baby across the hall who was screaming for a long time one night. We were able to open the balcony dividers between our cabins to make it like one long balcony, which was nice. Cabins were spacious, beds were comfortable and everything was immaculate. This was one of the cleanest cabins I've been in. The bathroom was small, but adequate.
Activities: Carnival was not kidding about having a fun ship. They had activities going on all day long, both for adults and families. We played a ton of trivia and won some of the coveted ships on a stick. I wish some of the nighttime activities didn't start as late as they did, but otherwise, I can't complain. We were not bored. The stage shows were kind of meh. They only had two singers onboard (who clearly hated each other) and the dancers were not very good.. lots of dancing in different tempos and not unison. We thought the game shows were fun, but not your traditional mainstage show. Malcolm was fine as a cruise director, though not what I expected from prior reviews. I wish the daily activities were better described in the printed materials. We didn't know what some of the listings meant, and a couple of times activities were listed for the wrong time period. The pools/water slide/splash pad got high marks from our group.
Dining: Our wait staff was very good, except that we had to keep requesting lemonade while the tables around us were served and refilled without a problem. Food was surprisingly better than expected. The only thing I had that I didn't like was a salad that tasted like soap. Soups were generally excellent, pasta was well done, fish was great, etc. I loved my chocolate melting cake on a couple of nights. The hubby and I tried the steakhouse, which was also very good. Oddly, we never met the maitre d, and only saw him walking in our area of the dining room one night. He did not stop at our table. The buffet was also good and we didn't have trouble finding seats except during the chocolate buffet. I wish they would find a faster way to get out pizza (which was delicious) and set up a larger mongolian wok station, because the lines get too long. Also, the chocolate buffet was a mad house. There has to be a better way to organize that. Do not miss the rotisserie which is upstairs at the buffet. The kids loved those chicken legs. Oh, and the Carnival chocolate chip cookies were to die for.
Ship Layout/Maintenance: As with many Carnival ships, it can be difficult to navigate decks 3-4, and the casino area reeks of smoke. Otherwise, we didn't have any problems. The ship was always being cleaned except that the tables on deck 10 around the pool were not cleaned frequently and people would leave their food out, and that was gross.
Kids Club: All three of my kids enjoyed the kids club. It was great that they would take my 2 year old even though he is still in diapers. The staff in the clubs were wonderful and the activities were really cute. I wish they didn't close at odd hours and start charging after 10 pm, but I don't want to nitpick here.
Service- Service on this ship was superb. Our cabin stewards were always around smiling and knew us by name. All of the employes we dealt with were pleasant and helpful. We were impressed.
Overall- this was one of our better cruises, and, for the price we paid, an amazing value. I would not hesitate to sail on Carnival again. Our last Carnival cruise had been on the Ecstasy and while we enjoyed it, this experience was much better. I think from here forward, we will try to stick to the newer classes of Carnival ships. I'm seriously considering another spin on the Splendor for 2014, especially if I can find a good deal on a different itinerary.