We have just come back from an 11 night cruise form Dover (UK) to Rome on the new Carnival Splendour we are a UK couple in our Mid 30's and were travelling with my parents father 72 and mother disabled and wheelchair bound, we were in the cheapest cabin we could get 1253 and my parents had a disabled cabin.
Ship The ship was lovely brand new and huge as with many new ships much oceanside space has been given to balcony cabins which meant that there was less promenade for us cheapies. The atrium was awesome all 10 floors of it with 4 glass lifts a lovely bar and dance floor at the bottom. The library was good and the shops better than many thought they charged 17.5% VAT in some shops but not others. The casino was awesome a little Vegas at sea and the slots seemed much looser than its Vegas counterpart. There were about 7 bars and a nightclub as well as a good amusement arcade and a kids disco. The Spectacular theatre was large and the seats comfortable but they could have cut some of the chrome and white lights to make it easier on the eyes. The lido deck had a fair sized pool and lots of loungers and a big screen that showed a concert and movies each night with two indoor spas tubs, there was an additional pool and two outdoor spa tubs at the back of the ship and another pool and spa tub on deck 11 along with a sports net with basketball hoop and a great 10 hole mini golf game. All of these facilities were very very good. The Spa and Gym must be the best at sea it was amazing.
Cabin The cabin was great the bed very comfortable and a good bathroom, every room includes beach towels and dressing gowns which everyone seemed to use at some point the cabin was kept spotless and the turndown service very good.
Entertainment The shows were poor very poor on at least 2 nights it was guests performing the quality was just not up to the level of other cruise companies, there was a lot to do in the day quizzes etc and these were good but they did not compensate for the evening shows. I was very disappointed with this and thought that whilst carnival is a cheaper brand that with 3.5k people on board they could get a decent programme going they were not a patch on Royal Caribbean which is a similar priced company.
Food Another let down, the main dining rooms were only open for breakfast and evening meals not lunch except on sea days whilst the food was fair the choice was not as good as other companies and it was aimed at a 3 course dinner and not the 5 we are used to (though you could order two starters and cheese if you chose). Usually for dinner we have to spend ages deciding what we want but on Carnival the choice was generally easy as there was not as much choice and on at least 2 nights we chose the Carnival Favorites that were available every night as there was nothing else that took our fancy. The food service in here was brilliant the best we have ever had on a cruise, though drinks seemed to take and age to come and more drink waiters should have been deployed. The buffet was very poor both in choice and standard of food, if you wanted breakfast that at a decent time you have to be prepared to wait a long time in a horrible queue although there are two buffet areas these are not nearly sufficient to deal with the amount of people at busy times we risked this once and then either had breakfast in the dining room or in the cabin. There were 4 food areas through the day one doing hot dogs and burgers, one doing deli sandwiches, one doing curry and one doing Pizza, I thought all of these were very good except the Pizza but my mum loved it so maybe that was just me. Pizza and room service were the only 24 hour fare and I think that this should be extended to sandwiches and say cookies. There were very good tea and coffee stations that also had ice cream and juices generally orange, apple, fruit punch and lemonade these were open 24 hours and you never had to wait too long in line. There was also a supper club that cost $30 cover we left it to late to try this but it looked very very good and exceptional value.
Embarkation/Disembarkation Shockingly bad there were no computers to check people in which meant it was all done by hand the check in people both took my and my dads credit card details down wrongly which meant our onboard accounts were disabled and we had to spend too much holiday time waiting to sort it out with the pursers, for a ship this size they need more pursers the queue was always long. We were told that we would disembark at around 0640 we were not called until 0820 this I thought was not fair as no one wants to get up this early when you are on holiday and an extra hour in bed would have made a huge difference.
Other things We felt that Carnival were trying to get you to pay for all sorts of things part of me thinks that the shows were meant to be bad so that you would either be in a bar where you bought drinks or in the casino. It was a non stop push trying to get you to buy trips with scare stories of European pick pockets or horror stories of trains not running on time and I overheard conversations about coaches for official trips being over an hour late so what the difference is I am not sure ! We had tannoy announcements about trips or reminding us to tip the poor maitre D it was constant the tannoy was used way too much and and I don't feel should ever be used to try to push trips or tips !We will probably not choose carnival again because we felt that they were trying to treat us like mugs.