I just returned home from a great vacation to Port Canaveral and the Bahamas (Nassau and Freeport). My husband and I have traveled many times on Norwegian Cruise Lines, once on Holland America and once on Princess. We have only cruised twice with our son: once last year to Bermuda on the inaugural cruise of the Norwegian Breakaway to Bermuda and this time aboard Carnival Splendor.
We chose this cruise because it was 8 days, sailing somewhere warm, and the rates were incredible. The eight day excursion was just about $2000 for 3 of us. As on any cruise, that of course included food. For those unfamiliar with cruising - the only things that will cost you are shore excursions, alcohol, soda and bottled water. Norwegian will also charge $10 for one of the "fancy" restaurants - depending on the ship.
In brief, the greatest part of our trip was the cruise staff - from the room stewards, to the servers, to the show hosts. The cruise director and the cruise staff are what makes for the personality of the cruise and these guys were fantastic. They were fun, enthusiastic, silly, kind, and entertaining. They make your vacation their priority and seem to actually care that you are having a good time.
When you travel with small children, you need to keep them busy and entertained and I can't say enough nice things about Camp Carnival. For this alone, I would recommend Carnival cruise lines (especially the Splendor) to absolutely anyone traveling with a family. My son didn't even want to go ashore because he enjoyed Camp Carnival so much. The staff was amazing. They were nurturing and understanding. They work with all children - whatever their issues may be. The more you tell them about your child's needs, the better time you will all have.
Camp Carnival is divided into 2 groups: kids below 5 years old and kids 6-11. Our son is 6 (there are also "camps" for older kids). My son watched movies, played interactive games, video games, ate dinner with his new friends, and even participated in a talent show. My son cried on his last night and hugged the staff as he departed the ship. He is going to genuinely miss them. Because of their fantastic childcare, my husband and I were able to relax and unwind. We strolled around the ship; attended the shows; a nice dinner in the Black Pearl restaurant; attended trivia games and even an art auction. We could have left our son in Camp Carnival and gone ashore but we wanted him to see the sites with us.
The entertainment - singing and dancing - was not good. I can't really say anything positive there. It was typical hokey cruise ship level entertainment. Even the comedy show we attended was bad. I hate to say that because of all the good things but I cannot tell a lie here. I walked out of two shows. However, all the audience participation shows (including "Abbas" the celebrity hypnotist) were fantastic. Led by the regular cruise staff/hosts - the best part of the entertainment was the cruisers themselves.
A couple other issues:
The food is not good. It's edible. But if you're looking for a cruise that offers great food, this is not for you. The hours of the Lido buffet did not work with a parent's schedule. The pizza station - open 24 hours had long waits. They made pies on the fly and it took a long time. But the pizza was tasty. Because of the short hours of the Lido buffet, many people wound up on the "Off the grill" line which meant more long waits for a burger and fries. And, the eggs in the morning? What were they exactly? Powdered?
The cigarette smoke permeates the ship. It's hard to escape. I'm allergic to smoke so it made my nose and eyes go crazy for a good chunk of the cruise. If there are designated smoking areas, there are far too many of them and/or the smoking rules are not enforced.
The pools are salt water so they are also harsh on the eyes. They would have done well with a few more hot tubs as well.
The Dr. Seuss them for the kids is a great touch but not nearly included enough in the activities for kids. We did attend the "green eggs and ham breakfast" which I highly recommend. They did a beautiful job on the decor and the table settings inside the Black Pearl restaurant was imaginative and creative. However...the food was almost identical to what we ate in the Lido buffet each day - only the powered eggs were died green. Still...the green eggs were presented creatively and the fruit loop doused french toast was adorable with its edible marshmallow and strawberry "cat in the hat" hat accessory.
The rooms were nice and spacious. I have no complaints about comfort or storage. The beds were nice and there was room to move around. We had a balcony room on the starboard side. It was spacious and relaxing despite the blaring music from the neighbors next door...and again...the cigarette smoke.
Another note...we were on Deck 8 (the Verandah deck), one deck below the Lido buffet. The noise from above could be deafening - and why anyone would be moving large, heavy pieces of equipment or furniture in the middle of the night, I'll never understand. We were definitely kept awake by lots of noise...walls and ceilings a tad too thin perhaps???
For a reasonable price - with a family - with little expectation for food and/or entertainment - and high tolerance for noise and cigarettes..Carnival Splendor is just fine.