Background information: We have cruised 7 times previously with a variety of other cruise lines but this was our first time with Carnival. We paid for a package which included the maiden voyage of the Norwegian Getaway and two nights in New York before embarking the Carnival Splendor for an 8 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise.
Rather chaotic and when we finally got to the desk, we only got our cruise cards. Photos were taken at another desk after again queuing and credit card authorization involved another queue inside the ship! On other cruises, all of this has been done at one desk before embarkation.
I read many reviews regarding the Splendor before we left for our holiday - a lot were mixed and quite a few remarked upon the ship decor. My feelings before seeing the ship, were that people needed to get a life, no decor could be THAT bad…….. Well, it was worse than that!!! The decor was horrendous throughout the ship - we felt it was trying to be Art Deco (and failing miserably!) but instead it resembled a dark, dank and badly decorated cave….. and that was just the main entrance!
The rest of the public areas were similarly garish. Shiny black tiles with lime green grout abound on many surfaces including the lifts. The decor needs total renovation - we saw areas on ceilings where tape had been used and then hastily painted to try and match the pattern! There appeared to be bamboo plates incorporated into the pattern throughout and where paint had flaked, it had been patched up with non-matching paint. The Spendido Lido was badly decorated and maintained. Paintwork again badly patched up with broken off mouldings. When we first visited the SPA, there was water dripping through a ceiling. We reported this and were told that it was just condensation! (it was cold and snowy outside!) The following day, there were 3 ceiling tiles down and buckets catching the pouring water. I’m pretty sure this was not condensation!! On the same day, there were also buckets catching water in the main atrium/lobby area and a part of the ceiling appeared to have come down. Throughout the cruise, the ship was very cold and they appeared to have trouble with the heating. People kept on coats, hats and scarves for the first couple of days and we heard that some people had had gratuities refunded for complaining about this. We had to find areas that were draft free to try and stay warm.
The Lifeboat/Safety drill was held outside in freezing temperatures (below zero in New York) and snow. Even though it was mandatory, there was no check as to who attended and we saw people just walk off part way through.
The corridor to our cabin on deck 6 had an area which constantly smelt of sewage and throughout the duration of the cruise, public toilets were locked and notices stating ‘out of order’ were on the doors. On one day, all public toilets on decks 4 and 5 were closed so we had to return to our cabin to use that one! Various rumours abounded of broken pipes, blocked drains, etc but we were never kept informed so cannot confirm if this was true.
Smoking…… the whole ship had a smoky smell. Smoking is allowed in the casino, various other bars and public areas and on balconies, meaning whole swathes of the ship are unappealing to non-smokers. We don’t smoke and having to walk through the edge of the casino to get to other areas was unaccceptable.
The cabin was relatively neutral with salmon pink and green here and there, with a bright orange and worn leather-look sofa. The curtain (drapes) fixings were broken at one end meaning the curtain didn't quite reach the wall. The bed was comfortable and the bathroom was kept spotlessly clean by our Steward. We had a small balcony with two chairs and despite the freezing cold, still managed to make good use of it. Disappointingly, there were no tea/coffee making facilities so we had to get drinks from the buffet at Deck 9 and bring them back to the cabin. Every day, we returned to our cabin to a different smell…. One day smoke, one day alcohol, fried food, indian food and finally on the last day chips!! We are not sure why this happened as our deck wasn’t near any food facility! We were also over a music bar which was very loud until about midnight every night.
Activities and Entertainment:
We didn't feel that having Hairy Chest, Karaoke and even Twerking competitions constituted family entertainment. None of this appealed to us. Other activities were bingo, trivia competitions, etc. which are standard on most ships.
The entertainment was very low quality. We went to one show and found the dancing amateurish and the show quite boring. We went to a Motown special but left after three songs as did a fair few other people. Another show that looked quite good didn’t happen due to technical problems – the entertainments Director tannoyed (even in the cabin areas, woe betide you if you had put your kids to bed) at about 11pm that it was now on – but we couldn’t be bothered to get back out of bed!! We didn’t attend any other shows.
The Spa - We asked if the saunas were free and were specifically told that we would have to pay to use them. We decided to pay the $249 per couple to be members of the private areas. On the first visit to the gym, we found out that the saunas are in the public changing rooms and could be used for free, so we were lied to. We did enjoy the Thalasso pool, steam rooms and relaxation areas in the provate SPA area but it wasn’t worth the $249 to gain access to it. We saw people in these areas without the SPA armbands so we’re not sure how they got in.
Our cabin steward Jay was exceptional. Nothing was too much trouble and he knew our name as he greeted us. He was always smiling and pleasant. He ensured our cabin was kept spotless. We were seriously impressed with him and think he was probably the best steward we have ever met on a cruise ship.
We varied where we dined in the Black Pearl restaurant but on 3 or 4 occasions sat in the same area where our waitress was Cokorda - again, she was brilliant and outshone other waitresses who had served us.
Other service throughout the ship was very patchy. We tried to find quiet areas to sit but even so would have expected to see the odd waiter offering to get us a drink - this did not happen once throughout the whole cruise. We did think there weren't very many staff around - it always seemed short staffed in the Lido buffet for instance. Tables were left covered in other's left plates and cups meaning moving them yourself to get a table to sit at. We viewed one waiter take a USED serviette and clean tables with it!! We had seen other cruisers using serviettes to blow their noses….. the waiter had no idea what this serviette had been used for but was happy to use it to wipe tables!! And they wonder why cruise ships get illnesses spreading like wildfire…….
Hand Sanitizers were in short supply and not at every entrance to food areas so you had to search for them yourselves…. We noticed we were in the minority of people doing this. There was no positive enforcement from staff whatsoever.
We did notice there seemed to be copious amounts of staff in the casino area and felt that this was to ensure paying punters were kept happy and stayed attached to their machines!
Public Laundry – we used this once. We quickly found out that it needed 8 quarters for soap powder, 12 quarters to use the washing machine and another 12 quarters for the tumble drier!! We had to go to reception for change and after queuing for ages, they changed our money but did say it would be easier if we had gone to the Casino!! Why on earth don’t they put a change machine in the laundry or at the very least, a sign stating where to get change, aaaarrgghh!!
Port & Shore excursions:
Nassau: we paid for the Dolphin encounter at Atlantis. The organisation was complete chaos and we were made to sign disclaimers stating that as we would be with wild animals, they could not be held responsible if our death occurred! Just how dangerous could this be?! Anyway it was a long walk to the coach from the ship – no problem for us but there were others in our group where walking was an issue. When we reached Atlantis, we were led by a guide who took us about a mile through the resort, making sure we went through the casino and shops, before pointing out the short route we could take on our return! He had absolutely no concern for those in our group who could not keep up. The briefing was terrible and took place after everyone had got into wetsuits so it was boiling!. Why this wasn’t done before? The actual dolphin experience was lovely and in a group of 10 but less than two minutes each with the dolphin. The 5 hour trip included free soft drinks – this turned out to be a tiny bottle of water each and water infused with lemon slices. We had paid $169 dollars each for this and to be honest, nice as meeting the dolphin was, it was not worth the money.
We booked the Western Heritage and Snorkel trip – this was good value for money and we had a great time. There was a meal and drink included. Our guide Ricardo was brilliant and took us all over the island – he had a through knowledge and was good at keeping us all interested. He was very patient with a screaming child and her annoying grandmother so we took our hats off to him.
We travelled to The Kennedy Space Centre independently and had a fabulous time. Extremely good and well worth a visit.
The Splendido Buffet was not great. We used it for breakfast but stuck mainly to fruit, scrambled eggs, beans and bagels. Occasionally, we went to it for lunch but it was awful – the fish was just warm never hot, the salad was uninspiring and unless you were a meat-eater (we’re not) there was not a great selection for you. We quite often skipped lunch and waited till our evening meal at 6pm.
The Black Pearl Restaurant (we named it the Mouldy Egg due to the fried eggs on the ceiling!!) – the food here was good. There was a good variety on every day and we tried a lot of new things. The staff were good and our waitress Cokorda was exceptional – she needs to be promoted and placed on a better ship. She is far too good for the Splendor – although we were very grateful she was there. The ‘Showtime’ entertainment put on by the staff was very cheesy!!! Still, most passengers seemed to enjoy it.
We once queued for Pizza on the lido deck but it was dry and slightly burnt with minimal topping so we didn’t bother again. We also tried a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel which was nice until we realised that the bagel had been toasted on the same griddle as meat had been cooked!! The fat was dripping from this griddle.
We had noticed on the carnival information that for $20 each, we could arrange for our suitcases to be taken to the airport – on the first day of the cruise, we went to the customer services desk to arrange this only to be told that it wasn’t available for customers flying out of JFK! So who this would actually apply to, I have no idea. So, we put our cases outside our door the night before leaving.
On disembarkation day, all public toilets on decks 4 and 5 were again broken. There were no notices telling you which ones were open and there were very angry and frustrated people wandering back and forward looking for open restrooms. Some were finally found on deck 3. This was completely unacceptable. Other than this inconvenience, disembarkation was uneventful.
We have cruised with Royal Caribbean, P&O, MSC and Ocean Village – this was our first time with Carnival and we will never sail with them again. Standards appeared to be extremely low on this ship and most staff strived not to get above this level.
Carnival could not offer us enough to get on one of their ships again. You have been warned!!