As a first-time cruiser, I really didn't know what to expect, other than lots of food. As it turns out, I was very happy with the overall experience. My husband and I were traveling in a group of eleven adults and two children, and had arranged for six balcony cabins in a row. Our cabin steward unlocked the doors between balconies right away, and so were able to enjoy down time with as many of the group as were available.
Embarkation was a fairly smooth process, with much shorter lines than we had expected. We were able to board, find our cabins, get a feel for the layout of the ship, and have a relaxing lunch before the safety drill. Shortly afterward, we returned to our cabins to find our luggage had been delivered. This was typical of the efficiency we experienced throughout the cruise. All our needs and requests were satisfied quickly and completely.
We found the food to be very good overall, with the exception of the eggs at breakfast, which were inconsistent. More
Obviously powdered eggs, they had a strange consistency on several mornings; eventually, I chose to wait for an omelet instead (real eggs taste better every time!). The buffet always had plenty of options, but even if we didn't find something appealing there, the food at the grill and the deli was also good. We were very pleased with the dinner selections, and had no complaints about them at all. Service in the dining room was excellent, as we had been told to expect. We did not try the Mongolian Wok or the Tandoor restaurant.
Ports of call:
San Juan was our first stop. Some in our group had arranged for a zip line excursion, and they were able to get off in plenty of time for that; the rest of us waited for the crowd to ease before going ashore. There are plenty of places to eat and shop right near the pier, so we just walked around enjoying ourselves and picking up a few souvenirs. The weather wasn't particularly cooperative, so we returned to the ship a bit earlier than planned. Those who went zip lining reported an excellent experience, and would gladly do it again.
Next was St. Thomas, where we had arranged the two island Fastcat snorkeling and beach excursion. What an awesome trip! The catamaran got us to the snorkeling area very quickly, and we enjoyed about an hour of swimming with sea turtles and a variety of fishes, including a small barracuda. Then back onto the catamaran and over to a quiet beach for about an hour of relaxation. In between, and on the trip back to port, we enjoyed a very good rum punch ("Painkiller") and were entertained by the three person crew, who were funny and pleasant. I'm not sure if it was because of the Painkillers, or because we just genuinely liked the crew, but we all bought one of their clever and hilarious tee shirts. I HIGHLY recommend this excursion!
Finally, Grand Turk and a pure beach day. And it is a beautiful beach, with some of the clearest water I've ever seen. The only problem was that the Glory was already in port, and there were very few open spots/lounge chairs available. But you can get wasted away in Margaritaville for snacks or lunch, and there are some nice shops with some very good buys if you need a break from the sun.
On board activities:
This was one area where I thought things could have been better. As a group, we didn't go to too many shows. The young adults went to the comedy club a few times, but really only enjoyed one of the comedians. We went to the piano bar one night, thinking we could have some fun. Unfortunately, the guy there seems to have one foot in the grave already. Nice guy, but not too energetic, and he didn't really try to involve the crowd very much. The crowd didn't stick around. We did go to see a juggling comedian who was absolutely hilarious!
The activities by the pool on the Lido deck were actually pretty annoying in the beginning of the week. At the risk of sounding like a cranky old person, I have to say that the music is WAY too loud, so much so that it's nearly impossible to hold a conversation. And I'm not sure how a "hairiest chest" contest ends up with oversized men humping the railing on the steps, or why a mixology contest ends up with a morbidly obese woman twerking, but these are taking place in an area with families with small children. Carnival really ought to reconsider that one. By the end of the week, they were having trouble getting anyone to volunteer to participate in any games, because they had run out of people willing to humiliate themselves.
I also found that the gym was uncomfortably hot. When you first enter, it feels cool, and may be just fine in the main area. But if you're using a stationary bike or an elliptical, you're going to be along a narrow aisle by the windows, and it gets really warm in those spots, with no air circulating.
Upon arriving back in New York, we found the disembarkation process to be very easy. Things were very orderly, and, surprisingly, none of the other passengers were making things difficult. We found our luggage quickly, and our entire group's things were together. I was very impressed! Less
Carnival Splendor Cruises to the Eastern Caribbean