I reviewed what others have said regarding their experiences on the Carnival Splendor, and concur with a lot of the comments, both positive and negative. I will attempt to leave any emotion out of my review and give you the facts from my perspective.
Background information: There were a total of 5 in our group that cruised together, all for the first time. There were 4 adults, and a 14 year old on the trip. We basically chose the Carnival Splendor because of three reasons: the dates of sailing landed on March break of the 14 year old; New York cruise Port is only 11 hour drive from our home; the cost of the cruise appeared as a bargain.
Embarkation: The embarkation process went rather smoothly at the cruise terminal. Once we were on the boat, we were directed by staff just inside the door to take the elevator to the Lido deck where there was a buffet in progress. That sounded rather good considering it was just after lunch time, so we went up to the Lido and ate…. Hmmm… what now? We had no idea what to do after we ate. Keep in mind we are first time cruisers and have never been on a ship before. I guess Carnival expects all cruisers to know what to do, where to go, etc. We were lost to our own vices of wandering around the ship. I am surprised they do not have an orientation for first time cruisers, or if they do, we were totally unaware of it. I would say we spent the entirety of that first day walking around trying to get our bearings, find our cabin, and looking lost.
Ship Information: The Splendor’s interior is outdated, and a bit ragged, especially in the Lido eating area, where the seats are really showing their age. The décor of the entire ship is not overly appealing or exciting. The ship’s pools were overcrowded and difficult to get close to, and the hot tubs were overcrowded. The fact that we were cruising from New York in March, left only one pool useable indoor in the Lido deck which was not only a very small pool, but crowded by the approx. 3000+ passengers. After two days on the water, we finally got to where the outside pools could be used, along with the water slide. There is a single waterslide on the ship, which is old and not very appealing. There is also a mini golf on the very top deck of the ship. Most days, this could not be used due to being windy and uncomfortable. It is not well sheltered I would have to say the entire ship smells like tobacco smoke. The Casino is in the middle of the ship on the 5th floor and there does not seem to be a designated smoking area. Everywhere you went you could find someone smoking. In one person’s review I read, they had stated the Splendor was not appropriately named. I agree. Let me give it descriptive names that I feel describe the atmosphere aboard the ship: “Drunken Barge” or Smoking Island” I should mention that on the 2 day journey home on the water from the Bahamas, the only useable pool, the one inside on the Lido deck was empty of water. No idea why, but just empty and not useable. So much for swimming those 2 days. If you drink, and like to do it in excess, this is the ship for you. They actually encourage excessive drinking, and even the Cruise Director on a talk at the start of the trip said it was a “Fun Ship”, and was implying that everyone get their drinks and have fun. There are lots of bars on the ship, so you will never have to worry about running out of alcohol, until you run out of money. There is a family friendly comedy which was great, but that was 1 hour of the day, and the rest seemed to be geared to a much older crowd than children or teens, or even families.
Activities and Entertainment: Some other reviews I read felt that some of the entertainment was not family oriented. I agree. Having Hairy Chest, Karaoke and even Twerking competitions constitutes what Carnival calls family entertainment. None of this appealed to us. Other activities were bingo, trivia competitions, etc. which I understand are standard on most ships. This ship is certainly not a family friendly ship. We had loud shouting from drunken cruisers almost every night from 3-5 in the morning, and even witnessed a fist fight between two women in the hall one night. The entire sales pitch of fun from the Carnival Cruise Director was “get drunk”, and that is exactly what a large portion of cruisers did. The night shows were good and all the adults enjoyed them, but the 14 year old was rather bored with the dancing every night.
Dining: We dined every evening in the Golden Pearl. Our waiter was Andy, and he was exceptional. He served us above what we expected. So friendly, and so personal. The biggest plus on this ship was the dining staff and the cabin staff. The food in the Golden Pearl was very good, but the Lido deck deserts looked better than they tasted. I would say that the buffet food fit the category of ok. Not much flavor, not very hot, not very tasty.
Disembarkation: Was a long process, but we knew that was the case, so no issues.
Dislikes and Issues: On the second day of our trip, we checked our account on the ship, as my wife had purchased a few pictures. What we found shocked us. We found a charge for alcohol on our ship account that was charged the day we got on the ship (charged about the time we were walking onto the ship). We went every day to the service desk to inquire as to who/how/why this was charged (we are non-drinkers), and were basically given the "be patient" every time. They finally showed us a receipt to which was signed with my name, not my signature. When I got a bit upset with the lack of service and concern, considering it is fraudulent for someone to sign someone else’s name, and told them I was not on the ship, the rude service desk personal told me I boarded the ship at 9AM with my son, and my wife came on at 12:30PM. We actually had to go to the photo place where they had taken our pictures together coming onto the boat and get them to confirm the time we got on (which was 12:30 PM). They finally took the charge off the last day before we got off the ship, saying they found who it belonged too, explaining that the time I got on the ship must have just been an error. No real explanation as to how any of this could happen. I am still of the assumption that it was a Carnival employee, since it was so top secret and carnival would not explain. The police should have been involved, and I am still concerned about my identity being compromised while on the ship.
The amount of alcohol consumed on the boat, the lack of any form of curfew, and the partying that goes on all night. Not for families. Never again for me.
The amount of smoke in the halls and throughout the ship. If you have allergies, or do not like to smell like tobacco smoke, this ship is not for you.
Summary: We have done the Carnival Cruise, due to location and cost. As far as loyalty, I doubt I will cruise with Carnival again. If I do decide to Cruise again it will be with a different Cruise line, but I am almost certain we will skip cruising and go back to the Disney Resorts in Florida. They are certainly for all ages, and there is nothing negative to be said about Disney in the past 4 or 5 times we have stayed on their resorts. Their staff, their entertainment and the overall experience is far superior to the Cruise ship experience. The cruise fell into the lower scale of our expectations, and my 14 year old son was bored out of his mind.