This was my sixth cruise; my other cruises have been on NCL Pearl and Disney. This was a twelve day Northern Europe cruise out of Dover, England on Carnival's Splendor. I booked this cruise for the itinerary that included St Petersburg, Russia. I have been to Europe but had never visited the majority of ports of call on this itinerary. Added to the great itinerary is that the ship is the new Carnival Splendor.
I originally booked this cruise as a solo with an ocean view cabin. About a month before final payment, I added my twelve year old grandson to the cruise. This made the cruise even more special. At the time I added my grandson, I changed to a balcony cabin.
I booked the cruise directly with Carnival and made my own flight and pre-cruise hotel arrangements. Except for private tour in St Petersburg, I booked all Carnival excursions and Carnival transport from ship to Heathrow. From Heathrow to London, we used Dot to Dot and were very pleased with the service.
We had two pre-cruise days in London staying at the Marriott Hotel County Hall. The hotel is very nice but expensive. Breakfast was included in the price. We only ate breakfast once and for some reason the kitchen could not make pancakes which is what my grandson wanted. Another thing, kids are not allowed in the swimming pool after a certain hour at night. The Marriott Hotel is in a very convenient location, very close to the London Eye. A McDonalds is located in the same complex.
I had purchased tickets on-line for Buckingham Palace State rooms for the afternoon. There was a long line when we arrived but I believe we were touring the state rooms within thirty minutes of our arrival. It was a very impressive tour. Headphones are provided for a narrated tour. Photography is not allowed in the rooms. We purchased a few souvenirs from the gift shop (which was really nice) and then left to find a cab back to the hotel. We caught a hop on hop off bus close to the hotel but we were actually too tired to get off, so we just took in the sights from the bus.
For our second day I had purchased on-line the Complete London Tour from Golden Tours. I had read some negative reviews about Golden but our tour was just great. This was definitely not a drive-by of attractions. The bus parked away from the attractions and we had to walk to them. There was a lot of walking involved. We saw the Changing of the Guard, Tower of London, St Paul's Cathedral, and Horse Guards stable and did the Thames River cruise and ended with a ride on the London Eye. The tour guide was enthusiastic and knowledgeable and did a good job of getting us up close for the Changing of the Guard.
I booked the tour that included lunch. I would not have done that had I known the lunch stop would be near Covent Gardens. You only had two choices for lunch, chicken and one other dish. The chicken was tasty, but I would have preferred fish and chips. After eating, we walked around Covent Gardens and purchased souvenirs.
Monday morning, we checked out of the Marriott and took a taxi to Victoria Coach Station. I had booked a Fun Fare from London to Dover on the Victoria Coach. On the bus we met Cruise Critic member s and her family. She had organized our St Petersburg tour with Alla from our roll call. Her fourteen year old son and my grandson got together shortly after getting on the ship and became friends.
We all got off the bus at the Dover Ferry pier. There were no major problems except for a lack of taxis. It almost appeared there was just one taxi working. But once we got to the Splendor, our luggage was taken by a porter and check-in was very quick and easy.
The Splendor is a beautiful ship. The pink does not bother me. Our cabin was a balcony, one deck below Lido deck. There was plenty of storage. Bath gel and shampoo are provided but I didn't use them as I brought my own supplies. Our cabin Steward, Gilbert, did a great job taking care of the cabin and we got lots of cute towel animals.
We had early dinner seating in the Gold Pearl Lower at 6:00 p.m. Carnival seated us with a lovely lady and her beautiful sixteen year old granddaughter. My grandson and I both enjoyed our dinners with them. I went to a couple of shows with them and met for drinks while the kids were at their clubs.
Our servers were absolutely wonderful, Tajana, Natalya and Survantara (bar waiter). They were all friendly and very efficient. The food was good. The Sole Meunier was excellent, as was the lobster on lobster night. My grandson tried the flat iron steak several times and seemed to enjoy it. Other than that he stuck with pizza. The food was presented very nicely.
Regarding other food on the ship the chicken at the Rotisserie is absolutely delicious. It is a must try. I ate lunch there a couple of times. Carnival's version of Mac n Cheese is also good. The pizza is of course good. I didn't get to try the Deli or the Grille this time. I did have Room Service once, a very good bacon, and lettuce and tomato sandwich. The buffet entrees could be improved on but the salad bar was very good. The self serve ice cream was a big hit with my grandson. The buffet tended to get crowded at peak times. I went to lunch in the Main Dining Room once to avoid the buffet crowds. This was one of the best tasting meals I had, Chicken Parmigana and pasta.
The first day on board the ship, I signed my grandson up for the Circle C club. This is the kid's club for 12-14 year olds. His friend from our St Petersburg group tour also joined. This was really a fun club for the kids. They met other kids their age and started hanging out together. There was only 100 plus kids on this sailing. There were a lot of fun activities each day. Three times they went to the shows at the Spectacular Lounge as a group. Depending on port and sea days, the activities would start as early as 10 am. Port days, activities started later. All Circle C activities ended at 1230 am. My grandson loved the Club and meeting new friends.
I bought the soft drink card for my grandson as well as added money to his Sail and Sign card for the gift shop and arcade.
I booked all shore excursions with Carnival with the exception of St Petersburg. For the most part I was happy with the tours. I picked tours that involved walking so that was an advantage over just driving by a place to see through a motor coach window. The one disappointment (not Carnival's fault), is that most of the rides in Tivoli Gardens did not start until later that day. My grandson was looking forward to riding the Demon roller coaster. Our table partners and I believe all the people on our St Petersburg Tour did all of the ports on their own. We did the Copenhagen City Tour and Tivoli Gardens, Hanseatic Wismar and Fairytale Schwerin, Helsinki City Tour, Walk and Shop in Old Tallinn and Sightseeing, Canal Cruise & Shopping in Amsterdam. Our St Petersburg tour was arranged by S a very nice lady from our roll call. There were eleven of us (including the two kids). The tour was with Alla. We really didn't have a problem disembarking the ship. We all met at a designated time outside one of our member's cabin on the second deck. We simply merged in with everyone else leaving the ship. At Immigration, a Carnival employee tried to direct everyone to Carnival line or private tour line. We didn't pay attention to this, just tried to get in the shortest line. The lines actually seemed to move fast. We all had our necessary documents, passport, copy of passport page, and tour ticket from Alla. We were given the red sticker that had to be returned at the end of the day. The second day we all just met at 8:30 at Alla's van and it was even quicker getting through immigration.
Our tour guide Angie was excellent and our driver did a great job. Our group was just a great group, friendly and compatible. Of course, my grandson had already made friends with the other kid. I am so glad there was another kid. My grandson started out this trip very much into sightseeing from the beginning in London. By the end of the first day in St Petersburg, I believe he was very tired of churches and museums. Our first day in St Petersburg, we did a city tour, Hermitage museum, lunch at the Pie restaurant and then St Peter and Paul Fortress and Church on the Spilled Blood and St. Isaac Cathedral and the Synagogue. It was a very full and tiring day.
Our second day, before we left Alla came to the van and we paid her for our trip. Some of us paid with US dollars and some charged theirs. I really enjoyed the second day. We took a subway ride on our way to the Tsars Village. The subway stations are really quite magnificent. One of our group got left behind when we were getting on the subway. Fortunately, she knew to take the next subway for one stop where we were waiting for her. Fountain Park of Peterhof was the favorite of the boys. They ran through some of the fountains and of course got wet. We toured Monplasire Palace and from there walked to the Hydrofoil. Be aware that it is an extremely long walk from the Palace to the Hydrofoil. The Hydrofoil is worth the walk though. We were given the opportunity to shop at some very nice gift shops on both days.
The St. Petersburg port of call is one of the main reasons I took this particular cruise and I have to say it did not disappoint me.
I went to a few of the shows and especially enjoyed Vroom. It is one of the best shows I've seen on a cruise ship. It was colorful and filled with very good dancing and music.
All too soon it was time to leave the ship. Disembarkation was very smooth, even when it came to finding our luggage from the piles of luggage. A porter helped us with the luggage to the Carnival shuttle bus. I believe our color was called around 7 am and we were on the way to Heathrow by 7:30. Our trip home was uneventful, just very long and tiring.
This was a wonderful cruise. I had a great time and so did my grandson. I would actually like to do this itinerary again in a couple of years. Perhaps on Carnival's Liberty, if it is sailing in 2010. I will definitely cruise Carnival again.