My wife and I just completed our 27th cruise. This one was on the Carnival Splendor and our first cruise as Carnival Platinum VIFP members. When I read negative reviews on this site, they often seem to be generally unfounded, perhaps a bad incident or two that seem to ruin vacations for some. We are frequent cruisers; this is our 4th in less than a year and when we complete our next cruise in February, we will have done 5 in a 12-month period. Because of this, when we have a bad experience, we aren't as affected as those that will not have more vacation time for perhaps another year. It is with that in mind that I do not recommend the Splendor. Allow me to list the good, the bad and the ugly:
We ate at the Pinnacle Steakhouse 3 times and it was excellent, every time. This steakhouse is better than any Chops on RCCL that we've visited and at least as good as the NCL Steakhouse. My wife had the Lobster & Filet Surf & Turf the 2nd visit and its about time that someone on a ship knows how to cook Maine lobster without ruining it. The Steakhouse is highly recommended.
We did not have a bad meal in the MDR. It was refreshing to be able to eat daily without having to pay extra all the time. We were looking forward to being forced to eat in the MDR most of the time. We are rarely able to resist the great "pay-per-view" restaurants on other ships like the Breakaway and the Allure of the Seas. It gets very costly
It took us a few days to get to a show at night. We went to 2 or 3. They weren't great, but good. Perhaps we are spoiled by the lavish shows presented on the Breakaway, the Allure of the Seas and others. It seems like Carnival paid more attention to shows in the past. Maybe the shows will be better on our next cruises. We have the Breeze booked for Feb and the Miracle for April.
I liked the itinerary because of the Port Canaveral stop. We've done many things on excursions off cruise ships (helicopters, submarines, cave repelling, city tours, cooking classes, history classes and more), but visiting Disney/Epcot was unique. We took a bus to EPCOT and had a great time. What an awesome off-cruise experience! There wasn't enough time at the park, but I knew that before I bought the tickets.
The Comedy club and the Piano Bar are great on-board diversions.
The lido pool with the retractable roof is great, especially given the route of travel year round.
We bought a interior guarantee cabin and ended up with a walkway view handicap stateroom. It was great! Huge and the biggest bathroom ever on a cruise ship. We are spoiled!
I liked the new amenities and indulgences for Platinum guests. Its great!
The Taste Bar is open at 5:30 every sea day and offers tastes of the food offered at various venues on other ships. Every single item was excellent! We went every day and I don't think that I would have ordered any of the things that they offered from a menu, but I will now seek out these offerings on other ships. The Taste Bar is awesome!
I thought that the bizarre layouts of ships were in the past because we haven't been on one in a while, but the galley in the middle of a public deck, preventing you from getting from one end to the other without going up and over is a pain. The layout is awkward.
Make no mistake about it, this ship is ugly. Many have written about how its really pink, or that its not too bad and I know that taste is subjective, but this is an exception. The Splendor is hideous, gaudy, over done and just plain ugly. Many Carnival ships are in poor taste, but you can see through it usually, and every room has its own character. On the Splendor, most public rooms are pink and in poor taste. You'd think that a higher-up at Carnival Corporate would have vetoed the design at some point during the building. I enjoy being in beautiful surroundings. I don't have an aversion to pink, I have a distaste for ugly. The entire interior needs to be renovated and redecorated.
Although the food was quite good, the service in the MDR was dreadfully slow about half the time.
I don't know if this is fleet wide for Carnival, but this ship has lousy lunch choices. There is no sit-down lunch option in the dining room. You have to camp out on the Lido deck for sandwiches, burgers, pizza or chafing dish stuff at the buffet. And the buffet isn't really that great. There is the Indian grill and the Rotisserie and both are good, but because of the limited choices, both are a one-time thing.
The ship is more crowded and any other I've been able to recall. Many complained that the NCL Breakaway is crowded, but we've been on that ship twice and that has not been our experience at all. This ship has people everywhere. The Allure of the Seas, for the purpose of comparison, has many, many more guests and it is almost deserted in most areas. There is never any place to sit at the Lido Buffet. Its very annoying. The Rotisserie has tables available, but its chicken, mac&cheese and corn. Or nothing. When others have complained about poor seating room on other ships, my thoughts have always been that you can eat somewhere else if you don't like crowds. Splendor doesn't have that option. You have to have lunch up there. The Brunch in the dining room is a joke. There are a couple of lunch items, the rest is breakfast.
At the end of each comedy show, they clear the entire lounge and you need to go out of the lounge and queue up for the next show. This leads to more crowding on the Promenade as the line is 100+ people long. They say that they must clear the lounge "for safety". They need to come up with a better lie than that. This policy is completely ridiculous.
The overwhelming number of backdrops for photos on the Promenade really needs to stop. For one thing, these sets take up valuable walking room and makes the public decks more crowded than they need to be, Secondly....well I know that they are trying to generate revenue, but Carnival needs to place guest comfort first.
We were looking forward to the Chef's Table and booked it as soon as we boarded the ship. The dinner was confirmed on Friday morning but then cancelled that afternoon. The Center for Disease Control rules prohibited it from happening. I sought an explanation and got one; there was an outbreak of diarrhea among the crew (5 people) and therefore were required to segregate the crew from the public. I'm not sure how they could ever pull that off, but that's what I was told. They also cancelled the Behind The Fun Tour, although we didn't book that this cruise. I asked them to comp us a dinner at the Pinnacle Steakhouse and they refused.
I have been wondering lately what the difference is from one cruise to another. Why 2 cruises with like amenities and itineraries are priced so differently. Honestly, I think that its the class of people on the ship. This cruise cost less than $1000 for both of us. It's easy to spend 2-3 times that for an 8 day cruise. I booked this because NY is a short 3+ hour drive for us. We can do this on short notice for short money. Perhaps other people are not as particular as we are. We have never been on a luxury line like Seabourn or Regent, but we do know that the mainstream lines are perfectly capable of offering a great experinece. I suspect that Carnival doesn't need to offer very much in order to sell out this ship, week after week. The class of people that book this ship are probably perfectly happy with flamboyant decor, chaffing dish food and marginal service. Assuming that's true, Carnival should continue to do what they are doing here on the Splendor, but it isn't for us. We actually had a good time. It wasn't the "cruise from hell". It's just that there are so many other measurably better cruise products out there that settling for the Splendor doesn't seem necessary.
If you want to sail from the NY/NJ area, I suggest the Breakaway or the Explorer of the Seas. They may cost you a bit more, but will be better across the board.
Some other self-proclaimed "experienced cruisers" have said that they stay away from Carnival. I am not saying this at all. We have an 8 day cruise and a 16 day cruise already booked on Carnival during the next 6 months. We are far from swearing off Carnival. We have enjoyed every one we've been on, and have nearly 100 cruise days under our belts on Carnival alone (and many more on RCCL, NCL and others) and I can confidently say that the Splendor is an ugly, low-rent option.