December 11-18th 2013
My husband and I decided to escape NYC cold weather for 8 days. With highs in the mid 20's and snow the day before embarkation we were ready for some fun in the Bahamas sun, and at $319pp it was a steal we couldn't pass up.
Getting there: We love leaving from NYC it's so easy and convenient. My dad graciously gave us a lift to the Long Island Rail Road station where we had an easy hour ride into NYC Penn Station. From there we dragged our bags through the crowds and up the stairs to the taxi stand. No need to hail a cab as they are waiting all lined up to pick up passengers. Our cab ride however, was scary. A few of the "Batman" turns he made the driver didn't even look. We hit a little bit of traffic on the west side highway where our driver and another car got into a bit of road rage and proceeded to cut each other off. I was glad to see the ship up ahead. We paid the $10 fare, drop off our luggage and proceeded into an empty cruise terminal at 11am. We zipped through security, checked in smoothly (thank God they did away with the health forms, now the agent just ask if you were or are sick) and sat in the waiting room for about 10 minutes before boarding the ship.
First Impression of the Ship: from the "outside" Carnival Splendor is a well maintained beauty. Now as some of you may know the inside of the ship is well.... pink...pink ...pink ...EVERYWHERE! And not just pink paint but polka dots all over the place that are pink. Even the hand rails (banisters) are pink. I used to like the color pink...but I think I've had my share of it and now I need to find a new color to like.
The ship is clean. The crew is constantly cleaning something, picking up dishes or power washing. There are plenty of hand sanitizers throughout. There are also little napkins to use to open the bathroom door after you wash your hands.
We headed directly to our inside stateroom 7325 to drop off our coats and carryon bags. Small but more than adequate for two people. Room is mid ship nestled between stateroom floors. Two flights downstairs leads you to the casino and promenade. Two flights up and your right at the buffet. Room had a slight vibration but it was more soothing than a nuisance. Only one 120volt outlet in the entire room. I learned my lesson from my last cruise and brought a tap and extension cord. The room came with 3 closets, small flat screen TV, mini fridge, electronic pin safe, dresser with mirror, bench and 4 drawers. There is a small club style chair and two tiny nightstand next to bed. I'm happy to say that "pink" is only on the crown moulding.
The buffet: We like all the other passengers on board headed straight to the buffet. Tip: pass the first section of buffet and go to the back the lines are shorter and the buffet stations offer the same food. There is also 2nd floor seating where a table can more readily be found. I wasn't to happy with the selection of food but then again that's due to my pickyness and pallet choice. I instead opted for the freshly hand made pizza.
Spa Tour/Raffle: We had a personal tour of the spa. Usually it's done in groups. Splendor's spa facilities are very nice. I wish my mother was cruising with me because we would have taken full advantage of it and had quality mother daughter time. Next time I would book a spa cabin to have use if the thassotheraphy pool, various steam and relaxation rooms. The spa pass for a couple for the week cost $249.( I could have booked a spa stateroom for and extra $150.) We received a few free sample treatments, such as acupuncture, Bamboo massage and hot stone massage. We opted to get a pedicure for $65 each. (More on that later.) For completing the tour you receive one raffle ticket per person. TIP: upon embarkation of the ship there was a table setup in the atrium and the lady was giving out raffle tickets, at the time I didn't know it was raffle for the she just handed me one...now in hindsight I would have gotten more lol). The raffle drawing takes place after the Muster Drill and you must be present to win. They call four names and the winners win up to $500 spa credit. (winner one $50 credit, winner two &150 credit and so on)
Muster Drill: took place outside in 25(F)degree weather can you say FREEZING!
Dinner in Golden Pearl Dining Room: the ship is not sold out and it's evident by all the empty tables. I mean they can't possibly all be at the buffet. At our table we had four empty chairs and the two tables of 10 next to use were completely empty.
Crowd: At no point during the cruise did it seem crowded. The cruise consisted mainly of older couples or families with young children. There were a hand full of teens and school age children on board.
Welcome Abroad Show: Skip it! Wasn't really entertaining. However, I do like that they have a live band performing in a pit. Please be careful if sitting on the upper balcony in the Spectacular Theater. I can't tell you how many people tripped on the stairs. Old, young, children and parents carrying babies all taking a tumble. The stairs are in a 2 short run 1 long run pattern and every time it never fails on the next short step is where they trip.
Comedy shows: The shows can either be a hit or miss and they switch out comedians every so many cruises. The comedians for this cruise was Tim Young and John Floyd(first half of cruise) and Smiley Joe Wiley ( 2nd half) Both are pretty funny especially Smiley.
1st Sea Day: I decided to make my mom proud and wake up at 6:30am to hit the gym. The gym is small but with nicely appointed LifeFitness equipment. There was a about 15 others in the gym at that time and it didn't feel crowded and there was no wait for equipment. The ladies locker room outside of the gym near the reception area is larger with plenty of combination code lockers, showers and bathroom stalls. Inside the gym area and through the double doors on the left leads to a smaller men's and women's locker room with a dry sauna and two combination steam/shower rooms, bathroom stalls. The sauna is very relaxing and it has a nice view of the sea.
Sea Day Brunch: We arrived at about 10:30 am and there was no wait. If you are a Carnival past guest this is where you can redeem your free drink coupon.
Photographers: Yes they are everywhere and the pictures do turn out nicely. Two of the photographers even remembered us by name from our past cruise in July on the Glory. That was a nice surprise. We even landed a free photo because it was featured on the "photo of the day board," that made me a happy cruiser.
The Seas: we're a bit rough with a bunch of white caps but the ship was really stable with minimum rocking. By the 1st sea day we were only off the coast of North Carolina and man was it still cold out with a high of 47(F) degrees.
Port information Seminar: felt like I was attending a live taping of HSN or QVC. Most of the information was about where to get watches, diamonds and bamboo sheets In the various ports. Carnival will price match the jewelry, watches and alcohol that they sell on board. If you find it cheaper in port take a picture and show it to them in the Fun Shops.
The 1st sea day was also formal night. It was nice to see so many dressed up so nicely. The main dining room served lobster tail and shrimp. The lobster was small but tasty.
Latin fiesta show: I like so many others didn't enjoy the show. The best part was the few pyrotechnics that went off.
2nd Day at Sea: greeted us with calm seas and a sunny but mild day with the temperatures in the low 60's. Being that we had 10am spa pedicures we opted to have a quick breakfast in the buffet. The food was ok...lukewarm at best but it did the trick and filled my belly. I do enjoy the availability of fresh fruit onboard. I was able to enjoy a grapefruit and grapes and my husband had a plate full of sweet Honeydew Melon.
Spa Appointment: we arrived at our 10 am Sole Delight Pedicure spa appointment at 9:45, we checked in at the front desk and was told to go upstairs and wait in the waiting room. Once upstairs we were immediately redirected by staff back downstairs to wait. We were told that someone will come in and give us a consultation. Looking out and gazing at the sea will cause you to loose track if time, next thing we realize that it's 10:10 am and no one has come into give us our consultation. My husband goes to the spa front desk and ask if anyone is going to come. The lady gave him a rude snappy reply and said you have a 10 am appointment, my husband pointed at the clock and the lady handed him some forms and told him to go back and wait and fill them out. At 10:45am a full 45minutes passed our appointment we went to the front desk again and told them to forget it we are going to cancel. When I go to the spa I want to relax not wait for long period of time and be greeted by rude people. They apologized and offered to take us in then and upgrade us to the Fire and Ice pedicure at no additional charge.
The pedicure treatment was very soothing and my feet are now baby smooth. It was my husband first time ever to a spa and after the initial wait he throughly enjoyed it. (TIP: just sign the consultation form don't fill out any symptoms or stress....they use that information to try to sell you a $63 8ounce bottle of oil)
For lunch we throughly enjoy the Burrito Bar.
Later that afternoon we had a personal photo session with the shipboard photographer. It's a free by appointment only service with no obligation to buy so we said why not. The photographer took us all around the ship inside and out and if there was a special pose or location they would shoot that too. The session lasted about 40minutes. After we setup an appointment for the following evening to view the photos. (More on that later)
At 4:30 pm was the Gold card or higher past guest VIP party in the spectacular theater. Free drinks (open bar) and appetizers, and entertainment by the carnival band, singer and dancers.
The Rock Star of Jugglers: featuring Marcus Monroe is The Best show I've ever seen on a Carnival ship. Not only is he an awesome juggler, but he can have a second career in comedy alone. Great interaction with the audience.
Port Canaveral: Couldn't wait to be able to go outside to the warm Florida sun. It's party cloudy with temperatures in low to mid 70s...my kind of weather. Being that we've been to the port 99 times already we opted to stay onboard. My morning consisted of soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible and taking a ton of pictures. While photographing every nook and cranny of the ship I was on the lookout for my favorite downtime activity...shuffleboard. After searching every outdoor deck I gave up and went to front desk to ask. I was told that there is no shuffleboard because it's too dangerous. Umm what? How do they figure? They said it was a tripping hazard. Ridiculous! The steps in the theater is a hazard...every threshold is a hazard...heck having the ping pong tables near where people are eating is a hazard...but a funny sight when a guest catches one in the head. So for a guest not to see the big black and red pucks on the floor may call for a trip to the eye doctor. Besides don't you sign your life away when you take a cruise....so there goes Carnivals liability.
Nassau Bahamas: with the ships scheduled late arrival (11am) the island was already packed and bustling being that Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas and Carnivals Dream was already in port. The US Embassy sent out a safety advisory due to an increase in crime in Nassau against tourist. It was stressed to stay in tourist areas and not venture off alone or in small groups. I did notice a heighten police presence throughout. Since my last trip to Nassau a year ago they have significantly cleaned up and beautified the area with fountains and new common areas where you can sit and listen to a local preform. The checkpoint to get back on the ship was ridiculously long and slow being that both Oasis and Dream left at 3pm.
Once back on board being that the line was for once not to long, I decided to try out the Mongolian Grill for the first time. It was ok... I don't get what people rave over it for.
Hot tub: tried out the only hot tubs not in the sun on the lido deck (deck 10) overlooking the pool. It was lukewarm at best. After a few minutes I was cold in the hot tub. I like my hot tubs to be exactly that....HOT.
The Beat: skip it! With only one male and female vocalist each and every song and show sounds the same. The female lead has a very deep and distinct voice and in my opinion it doesn't work well with some songs.
The Internet: we were interested in booking another cruise so we decided to go to the future cruise desk to see what's available. After what seemed like an eternity waiting for a page to load I grew frustrated and gave up. Think back to when you had dial-up internet...do you remember how painfully slow that was?...now slow that down even more....almost to a snails pace and that's the speed of the net onboard. Save your money don't purchase the internet plans.
Freeport: busy industrial port where Carnival dry docks there ships. Outside the gangway is a little market to sucker in the tourist with vendors selling the same bags and t-shirts that you see at every port. Theres also a Senior Frogs and Cariloha To leave the port you have to take a 25 minute $5pp each way taxi (van) to Port Luyca. The taxi ride was a tight fit as they jam 14 people into what's basically a little bigger than a mini van. Our driver gave us information about the area, tidbits, facts and answered any questions we had. Once at Port Luyca you'll find even more of the same shops with bags, t-shirts jewelry stores and the usual bars. Across the street is the Raddison hotel and Casino. To get access to the beach without having to pay the hotel access fee requires you to walk down this long, narrow, dirt and puddle filled pathway.
The beach is small and under impressive but the blue water is memorizing as usual.
Free Private Photo shoot Prices: are ridiculous...like seriously the average person can't afford to drop $3,500 on some pictures. The cheapest package was (3) 8x10 for $99 and $35 per additional photo. They even tired to sell me a metal photo for $299. Such a shame they cost so much because the pictures really did turn out nicely.
The main show for the night was cancelled due to the fact that the guest performers never arrived. Something happened with their plane and they were stuck on the Tarmac. So instead the cruise director (Eli) invited some members of the audience up onstage and they had dance lessons. After watching a few people do the cha cha cha we got up and left in search of better entertainment.
3rd Sea Day: Headed to future cruise info seminar at 11am. There's really no deal when booking onboard, you have to pick the exact cruise ship and day you want to sail and leave a full $500 deposit and in return they give you $100 (whoopee...Not) onboard credit for a 7 day cruise. If you have real questions or want to book multiple staterooms they refer you to call Carnival. Honestly, you better off doing it yourself at home wait for their promotions (they have them often) or call your own Travel Agent. The whole seminar was more geared towards signing up for their credit card.
I wish sea days had more activities. There's not much to do...there's only so many times you can walk the promenade or go in and out of the shops. Basically if your not eating, drinking, gambling or playing Bingo there's it much going on.
Vroom: despite microphone issues with the lead male singer Vroom is the BEST Carnival production show I've seen to date. The Beatles segment is so cute. Everyone was singing along, stomping their feet and clapping their hands.
Rough seas: that evening a snow storm was up ahead in the NY, NJ CT area and boy was the seas an angry monster. I usually can deal with some movement from the ship but this had me feeling a bit queasy.
Last day at sea: limited activities. Pick up a few watch gift sets at the fun shops Bella jewelry sale. It was packed...quantities are limited get there early to get the good stuff.
Debarkation: had breakfast at the Golden Pearl at 7am. Said our goodbyes. We choose self assist and was off the ship through customs and at the taxi stand across the street by 8:30am. Get to the taxi stand early as the line can get long and the availability of taxis were limited.
In conclusion: Would I do this particular ship again? Probably not until it gets the 2.0 enhancements.