MY PERSPECTIVE: I see cruises through the lens of a frequent traveler, having retired in 2008 following 20 years of work that required air travel of 60,000-80,000 miles a year and more than 100 nights in hotels each year
EMBARKATION: We arrived at Port Everglades at 10:30 am and traffic was very congested; if you are driving note that the signage and directions are very poor. Miami is much better. At that early hour check in for both VIP and general passengers appeared to be going very fast. Ship boarding began about 12:00 noon. We were on the ship in a matter of minutes, our cabin was ready and we were having lunch by 12:30. We love the self-assist option for passengers with only carry-on luggage. It makes embarkation and debarkation much faster.
THE SHIP: Having read the reviews before this cruise I wasn't sure what to expect. Some folks react strongly to the color pink; I overheard one man at an elevator say he felt like he was stuck in bottle of Pepto-Bismol. Actually, we liked the colors on the ship; not that I would use them in my living room. Carnival ships tend to be glitzy, like Las Vegas on the water. Ironically, I don't care much for Las Vegas, but I enjoy the Carnival ships. Among the the new features we enjoyed on the Splendor was the adult-only Serenity area on the 12th deck at the front of the ship.
CABIN: We chose an outside standard cabin for this cruise. It works very well for two people. I have had the balcony cabins or penthouse suites before, but really find the outside cabins adequate. The beds are incredibly comfortable, better than most hotels. Our cabin steward was the best I have had on any cruise.
FOOD: Lots of good options. The Lido deck is larger on the Splendor and has more options for food; several buffet lines in different areas; grille, deli and pizza; and my favorite, the Rotisserie (on deck 10 at the back of the ship). I love the evening dining at the assigned times, which was excellent on the Splendor; good choices, good quality, great service. We especially enjoyed the Pinnacle Supper Club on deck 11; the steaks and seafood were the best and well worth the $30 surcharge. We ate there twice during the week.
ENTERTAINMENT: To me, the big production shows on Carnival are usually boring. The band musicians, dancers and singers are very talented but the content is lacking. In the production on the Splendor there was more use of light, colorful costumes and sets, as well as pyrotechnics, but it still had content not worthy of the performers. The best I can say for it is that on my one cruise with HAL the shows were worse. On the other hand, I usually find some of the entertainment onboard very enjoyable and this was true on the Splendor. Some of the smaller groups and duos playing in other venues on the ship were very good.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: There is not much to do in San Juan, because unfortunately the Splendor is only there in the evening. St Thomas USVI is beautiful and one of my favorite ports. La Romana DR, is a very small port (room for one ship) with a parking/staging area for tours. That area is small, clean, attractive and secure. We went to the Altos de Chavon Artist Village, which was an excellent excursion. I would like to return there and spend some more time. From comments of other passengers I understand that some local areas are undeveloped and unsafe. We decided to stick to excursions connected with the cruise line. This was my second time in Nassau; the most attractive option there is the Atlantis; rather than the $109 excursion on Carnival, take a water taxi and then buy a day pass at the Atlantis for $35
Overall we were pleased with this cruise, and especially grateful to the excellent treatment by the staff throughout the week.