Just returned for the Carnival Splendor Baltic cruise (25 July - 6 Aug) out of Dover England. This was the second 12 day cruise for the Splendor and its fourth overall.
Pre-Cruise In London (2 days) - We stayed at the Royal Lancaster across the street from Hyde Park and short walks to many sites of London. We toured London via the Big Bus, thus allowing us to get on and get off at will. Blue Line stop was next to hotel and Red Line stop was a short walk from the hotel. Bus provided headphones as you rode around London. Weather was perfect in London and during all our ports of call.
Ship Layout - Pretty much standard design for Carnival - very easy to get to where you want or need to be. As normal it takes a couple of days to get your bearings. The adult only Serenity wasn't used too much because of the itinerary, but if cruising in a warmer climate it is a nice touch.
Cabins - We were on the Veranda Deck (left side) mid-ship - Size of the room was adequate with plenty of storage space. We liked how they moved the bed towards the window, thus giving you a feeling that the room is larger than it is when you walk in. Liked the Flat Screen TV, but thought the programming could have been better. Our Cabin Stewart was the best. Never had to ask twice for anything, plus visible throughout the cruise and just a nice guy.
Service - This is probably the best service I have received on any cruise (10 cruises) 6 with Carnival. The room service was quick and timely, had our morning coffee at the exact time we asked for it. Everyone from the casino staff, bars & lounges, to the purser's desk, cabin stewards, spa personnel, cooks on the Lido Deck were the best. Of course a bit a tipping, lots of smiles and conversation with the staff helps.
DEcor - Interesting!! We were with a group of Decorators from Interiors by Decorating Den. As I said - Interesting - just like Carnival. Food - Main Dining - Thought the food was good with room for improvement. Some nights were better than others. Our head waiter was probably new and needed help. Needless to say our service could have been better, but she certainly was trying. Lido Deck Grand Buffet - We enjoyed the food and variety that they offered. Adding the stir fry section was great and good. They also had the 24 hour pizza, chicken rotisserie on Deck 10 forward (we did not use but understand it was good) and the Deli on the aft deck were all great additions. The Sushi Bar on the Promenade deck was fantastic. Overall the food was on par for Carnival. We didn't do the Alternative dining , but our friends said it was well worth it.
Lounges and Bars - Enjoyed the casino bar and sports bar. Alex at the casino bar was very accommodating and friendly. He always made sure that we had a good drink in our hand. Thoroughly enjoyed the Piano Bar - closed it down on several nights. Not for children. Disco - Wished they would have tailored the music to the ships clientele. If they had played 70s, 80s, and/or 90s music instead of all Hip Hop the place would have been packed. We enjoyed socializing and playing cards on the Promenade deck and Atrium Bar and Lounge. Entertainment - Went to only one show which was just OK. But understand that a couple of the shows were pretty good. All the pool side game stuff is not our thing. The Big Screen on the Lido Deck main pool is a nice touch, but hard to hear when the main pool is in use.
Casino - Nice casino with a great staff. We like to play blackjack and three card poker and met a lot a great people throughout the cruise. Thought the slot machines were pretty tight, especially the video poker. After the first night we never saw many people utilizing the video poker machines. The casino staff did a great job keeping children and teenagers out of the casino. It was nice to see that the casino keeps the table minimums to a low ($5.00). Ports of Call - Copenhagen, Warnemunde/Rostock GE, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn Estonia and Amsterdam. Four days at sea. All the ports were great except for St. Petersburg which was an industrial metal scrape yard and you needed to be on a tour or have a visa to get off the ship - pain in the butt. Our best tour was the bicycle tour in Warnemunde/Rostock. Entire ride was about 14 miles along the sea coast and forest with a nice stop at a resort for drinks and cake. Otherwise enjoyed all the other tours.
Days at Sea - During our 2 consecutive days at sea, the weather was windy and rough, the ship handled pretty good with only slight side to side movement. Can't fight mother nature too much. We did feel some vibration from the engines throughout the cruise. The cover over the main pool area was great for days at sea such as the ones we experienced. Embarkation / Disembarkation - The best that I have ever experienced. Except for Russia and returning to the ship at Amsterdam, getting off and on the ship was a breeze. They now allow you to stay in your cabin until they call your zone. You also have to option to carry off your own luggage.
Cons - Main Dining - thought it could have been better, but was still good. Disco - they need to take a hard look at the clientele on the ship and tailor the music. Limited free time in ports when on a tour. Shopping was limited, especially in Russia. Pros - Service, Lido Grand Buffet, Sushi Bar, and Stir Fry Station. Layout of the ship - never felt crowded. Casino - great staff. Spa - Really nice. Piano Bar - lots of late night fun.
OVERALL - The second best cruise that I have ever taken. Wouldn't hesitate to take the Splendor again. Enjoy your cruise.