Recently returned from sailing on the Splendor 11/9-11/17. Please note that this review is an expression of my opinion based on my experience. While we had an awesome time, my review will probably focus a bit more on what I was less-than pleased about.
A little about me- first time cruiser, in my (lower) 30’s, traveled with a large family group (ages ranging 1-60ish), also brought my husband (my age) & children (1 and 3 years old). Since I never cruised before, I was a bit anxious (I tend to expect a crisis always) and really had minimal expectations. Honestly, as long as I made it back to land safely, I knew I would be happy. Yes, I’m dramatic. I was nervous about how the vaca would go with the kiddos in tow, but they did wonderfully. Grandma and Grandpa came too, so I did get to enjoy some downtime as well.
I would say, overall, I will not likely cruise again anytime soon. I don’t think it’s for me for a few reasons. Mainly, I prefer to be on land. It was very rough when we were in the Bahamas and although it’s probably par for the course for many of you, I didn’t like large waves rocking the boat. Being a first-timer, I didn’t know how normal this was, and asked several staff members throughout the evening if this much rocking was "normal.” Some of them said no, some said yes. I spent half the night wondering if I was going to have to run to my muster station. To my surprise, the next day I found out that many people had also been asking staff the same question, hoping to have their nerves eased as well. I feel that staff (cruise director?) should really take charge during rocky waters and perhaps make an announcement informing cruisers that the rocky travel was normal. It would have calmed many of us and we could have enjoyed the previous evening a lot more. I’m sure there are many first-time cruisers on many of these voyages.
I also prefer to abide by own schedule. The stops at port were too short to truly fully get full value for any excursion, in my opinion. We did Disney at Port Canaveral and Balmoral Island (beach day) in Nassau. While both excursions were great, time was ridiculously limited and, especially at Disney, I felt overstressed in trying to cram in as much as I could. When you factor in wait times for park rides (40 mins per ride) and a break for lunch, you really don’t get to experience a whole lot at Disney, and you still pay full price admission. You also have to take a monorail/ferry back to the transportation center where you catch a bus back to port, so that also takes time away from your "fun.” We did all of our transportation through Carnival, as I wanted to be accounted for in the event I was running late or something (again, I plan for the worst!) Balmoral Island was great- but again, you are only on the beach for a little over two hours. We did the Deluxe version of this excursion, which includes lunch. It is worth the extra $10; actually it simply makes more sense if you are planning to eat on the beach, as lunch items run about $10-$12. In Freeport we simply got off the ship with no plans, and it was great fun. You can easily spend a few hours here just walking around. There is a Senor Frogs, small shops and a live band was playing the day we were there. It was nice to be off the ship and not feel stressed by time.
Here are the details that I feel are worth reviewing…
Cruising in and out of NYC "not a bad deal. I don’t like to fly, so the 4 hour drive to port was great for me. Waters and weather were not bad; pretty typical for this time of year. While embarkation day was easy, disembark day was AWFUL . It was crowded in customs, everyone wanted to throw down with each other, porters were scarce, etc. I also despised the fact that announcements on the ship started at 6:30am and I didn’t step off the gangway until after 10:30. My kids were cranky, I was cranky. I knew what I had to do Malcolm… you didn’t need to wake me up and explain it to me 12 times. I felt like cattle being herded into holding areas on the ship while waiting for my debark zone # to be called… It was a very "hurry up and wait!” day. I like dropping my room key in a box at 11am and walking out the door to my car when I check-out. This was a hassle. Again, first time cruiser problems.
Food- lots to say, but I’ll keep it simple. We are on a ship and abilities are therefore limited. This is also not Wolfgang’s private charter. With that in mind, I thought everything was fine. The hype of the restaurant was comical to me, because it was just the same food from the buffet but used in different ways. So putting on a prom dress to eat the same food the gal in a bathing suit on the lido deck was eating was funny to me, but I went with it and even got some portraits to prove it. It was nice to sit together with family and enjoy a meal. We only attended the sitdown a couple times though because the two-hour ordeal was exhausting to my kids most of the time. Oh and our server was FANTASTIC.
My husband got a piece of raw chicken from the Tandoor buffet. The deli was our best bet. I wish I ate there more. The burrito bar was good too, but lines were always long and they only have two burrito makers. Pizza Pirate was average. It filled you up. Room service was a nice perk. They could definitely spruce up their buffet menus easily. I don’t miss any of the food.
A sickness of some sort (rumors were rampid, so I’m not 100% sure what was really going on we heard everything from GI problems to E Coli to death!) was going around for 80% of our cruise. Buffet servers had to serve you your food; ice cream cones and popcorn were taken away. Handwashing initiatives were forced down your throat via memos under your door, videos on on the movie screen, announcements, etc. (not really a bad thing). We saw piles of puke in various places.
My last major irritation was honestly the fellow cruisers. Not everyone, but a LOT of people were rude, pushy, abrasive, etc. FYI- if you want to eat at the buffet then, yes, you have to wait in line like everyone else!! We had people lining up behind our backs asking us to pass back food so they didn’t have to wait in line. Sure let me grab you a scalding hot hardboiled egg with my germy bare hand. We had quite a melting pot of cultures on our ship, and I think that was the explanation for some of the diverse differences/blunt misunderstandings.
I thought Malcolm WOO HOO did a good job. Not really sure how someone has the time to get annoyed by hearing the words "woo hoo” a couple times per day, but it is part of his gig. He was out and about everywhere and seemed to be into his job. Can’t say enough about how hard the staff works. ALL of the crew members I encountered were AWESOME. Take a moment and talk with them, learn about their backgrounds… many of them have children that they haven’t seen in a year or so because of their job. It will make you appreciate the luxurious life you are living. They all paid such caring attention to my children. We tipped on top of our prepaid gratuity; every dollar given out was well-deserved.
I did get a Swedish massage (by Eva) at the Cloud9 spa- AWESOME! Worth it. Eva knows her stuff.
I didn’t spend a lot of booze. Spring for the rum runners and pack ‘em like a champ. Everyone in my group brought them and none got confiscated. Drinks are pricey. A miller lite was almost $7 and a cheap glass of wine was $11.
Our room balcony, midship was great. Large enough for my husband and I plus the two kids and all our belongings. We did get busted for our makeshift clothesline, but our friend strung up a hammock and enjoyed that.
Helpful Tips- yes, you will need a power strip to plug things in, but do yourself a favor and don’t watch all those "cruise tips” youtube videos. You don’t need to pack 98% of that stuff.
I think that’s it. I did have a good time, but I am a tough critic. Every single day was enjoyable in many ways for us, but my next vacation we will probably return to an all-inclusive resort on land. Happy sailing everyone.