I cruised on the Carnival Splendor over Christmas this year, and overall had an excellent experience. This was my second cruise with Carnival, but I have previously sailed with Celebrity, Princess, and Holland America. I was not disappointed in this cruise at all and thoroughly enjoyed it!
Embarkation: Departing from New York was a new experience for me, but I am pleased to report that it was one of the fastest embarkations I have experienced. We arrived at the terminal at around 11:30 and were on the ship in under half an hour. It was much more organized than our embarkation on the Valor out of Miami last year.
Staff: Overall, the crew was excellent. Our cabin steward, Putu, was great. He was very friendly and efficient. Our head waiter Nenad and his team provided us with great service in the Gold Pearl dining room. Also, our cruise director, Eli, was probably the first cruise director that hasn't irritated me to no end. He was very pleasant and personable. We talked to him once during the cruise and he still remembered us on the final day of the cruise.
Food: the food, for the most part, was decent. There isn't an extremely large selection in the lido buffet, and I occasionally had trouble finding something that I would enjoy for lunch. Also, the layout of the buffet isn't the best. The line for hot items and salad is combined and because of that it takes much longer than it should to get your food. The Mongolian Wok is good but the line moves very slowly. There is a lot of space to sit in the lido, but if you are unable to find somewhere to sit, there are always tables available upstairs. The food in the main dining room was very good for the most part and I really enjoyed all of my meals there.
Cabins: my cabin was an inside on the Empress deck. The room is cozy and has ample storage space available. In the middle of the week, they replaced the carpets in our hallway which was a minor inconvenience, but they were very efficient and had it finished in a day so it wasn't much hassle.
Entertainment: we only went to one of the shows, I don't recall it's name, but I didn't enjoy it at all. There were always lots of activities going on around the ship, but I didn't participate in many. They have 'Dive-in' movies almost every night which was nice. It was sometimes difficult to get a seat though, so I'd recommend that you arrive early if you would like to watch one.
Ports: we docked in Orlando, Freeport, and Nassau. All of these were very enjoyable and we had excellent weather. In Orlando, we took an airboat & alligators excursion. I really enjoyed the airboat ride and the show put on afterwards. I even got to hold a baby alligator! In Nassau, we went to the Melia Nassau Beach resort. We were able to get day passes for $30 per person. The beach is lovely and there are lots of pools. In Freeport we went to the Grand Lucayan. It was $15 per person for a day pass but there is a free beach nearby.
Overall, it was an excellent cruise. It was a new experience for me but I was pleasantly surprised. Sailing out of New York was cold at first, but it began to warm up by the next day. The ocean was also much calmer than I expected. Overall, it was a great experience.