EMBARKATION I really expected this to be difficult. As you may or may not know, the Splendor had just completed two 5-day cruises out of San Pedro, so it actually came into San Pedro on the morning of April 5, and it had to unload there before coming into Long Beach. So it did not arrive in Long Beach until well after noon. Amazingly, though, just after we got done parking, there she was coming into port!! We had unloaded our bags at the curb with a porter, and then took off to park and return on foot. I was a little frightened when I saw the crowd, thinking this was going to be a disorganized mess, but amazingly, the line moved quite swiftly! I'd say it was maybe 15 minutes in line, tops, and only one of us had to stand in line and handle our check-in. Then we just had to wait until they called our boarding group numbers. We were in group 7. Everything was as smooth as it could be. I don't think they could have done a better or faster job getting all those people into a late-arriving boat!
STATEROOMS So we immediately went to our rooms to drop off our stuff. This was my first balcony, and it was a surprise. I had secretly upgraded it, and dh had no idea! We had rooms 8288 (balcony) and 8290 (interior). These are on the Verandah deck, and they are just forward of the pool area on the Lido. I specifically looked for rooms that would not be under the pool or buffet, and we did not hear anything from above. I will say that you can hear the neighbors' balcony doors slamming, but it is not very frequent and really was not a bother. I can't say I was ever awoken from it, though I didn't spend all that much time sleeping either!
Albertus was our steward. He did a great job, but he did not give us towel animals until I requested them. Since it was my kids' (boys 14 & 16) first cruise, I wanted to make sure they had towel animals, so I left him a note and a tip for them, and we got them all but the first and last nights. The kids really enjoyed them, and were excited each night to see what animal was in their room!
DINING ROOM We had the first 6pm seating as we had requested, and we sat at table 356 in the Gold Pearl lower. I will say that I did not care for our table. It was a 4-person booth, and I would really have preferred to sit at a larger table with some other people. I personally think it enhances the experience to meet new people in the dining room, so that part of it was not my favorite. The service in the dining room was excellent; however, Tomas, our food waiter, was not very friendly and we always felt rushed. We didn't let these minor details be anymore than that though. The assistant was great; he was always smiling and even shared little bits of information about his day, and he made a point to remember what we liked to drink with dessert.
The after-dinner singing and dancing was really toned-down from what I had experienced on the Elation where they played stuff like Macarena, Mr. C and the Slide, and stuff like that (cheesy, but fun! ) where the diners would get up and sing and dance too. Here, on the Splendor, only a few waiters in the center were up singing and dancing.
What I learned: We usually eat fairly early at home, but I think in the future I will chose the later seating for dinner. With all the activities going on, it is hard to switch gears, get dressed, and be at the dining room at 6pm. And as much as we eat on the boat, it is not like we would be starving until 8:15!
TEEN CLUBS I'm going to be posting mixed reviews here, as my kids were in two different clubs, and we had two totally different experiences with them.
My 14 year old son was able to sign up in both Circle C and club o2the latter because his older brother signed up for Club o2, and siblings close in age are allowed to go up to the older club, but not vice-versa.
Circle C: My son had the greatest time! He spent much of his time with the club and made lots of friends. The counselor, Jazzie, was great and really kept them going with lots of fun activities. On the last day, my son told me, "I need to not be bothered from 12 to 6 because I have lots of activities to do in Circle C". He even danced!! I peeked in when the Circle C kids were in the Red Carpet Dance club, where they held all their dances. There I saw my shy, reserved little guy dancing!!
Periodically, I'd see him out with a group of kids on a scavenger hunt, but they also had trivia games, wii tournaments, mini golf, lots of fun activities, and I think my son probably had the greatest time of his life.
Club o2: This is where I have to complain a little, sorry. My 16 year old son is very introverted (he has Aspergers), and it is hard for him to initiate social interaction. So I was really hoping there would be some activities where he would feel comfortable enough to come out of his shell. The caper looked quite promising with lots of activities that I think he would have enjoyed. Unfortunately, many of the listed activities never came to fruition. Some were canceled in favor of just "hanging out," and some were misleading; example: The rubiks party. My son is a wiz at the rubiks cube, and we figured it would be a solving tournament or something, especially when they were given a goodie bag on the first day that included a rubiks cube. So my son would leave, disappointed each time.
I realize that this age group is a "tough crowd" to please, but I think if the capers had been adhered to, or of the counselor had organized some more "ice-breaker" activities, it would have been a better experience for him.
THE BOAT ITSELF About the decor. Yes, it is pink if you stop to consider the colors, but really, it is not a big factor. In fact, if there hadn't been so much buzz here and there about the pinkness of it, I probably could not have told you what color it was. The decor really falls into the background, and is not overwhelming. I thought everything looked really nice. The only thing I really didn't care for as far as decor is concerned was the "fake" people in line outside of the red carpet dance club. For the life of me, I can't think of what good purpose that serves, and it takes up space. Is it just me? Does anyone come home and say, "those mannequins were the BOMB!" ? I don't know. LOL!
This boat is HUGE! It takes a bit longer to learn how to get around than it did learning the Elation! There are a few navigation issues to get used to. Decks 3, 4, and maybe 5 (I still am not sure, LOL) where the restaurants are do not go through, so you have to sometimes go up and over then back down to get where you want to go. We did eventually learn to go far aft on the Verandah deck (from where our rooms were) and then hit the elevators to deck 3 to go to the dining room (Gold Pearl). So you really have to take a moment to study the deck plan and make a mental note on how you plan to get from point a to point b.
SPECTACULAR SPECTACULAR The shows were great! Some of them I had seen before on the Elation, but from reading the forums, I understand they do the same shows fleetwide. The one thing about the beverage service in the Spectacular...drink waiters only came around before the show, and there were very few of them, and a couple of nights I was unable to flag one down. On the Elation, my drink was never empty. I'll address this more at the end when I give my final impressions of this boat.
EL MOROCCO AND THE COOL Live music was held in the El Morocco (aft lounge) and karaoke was either held there or at "The Cool". The live band was great. Back on the Elation, I had spent several nights at Karaoke, so I was looking forward to getting up and singing a couple songs. However, we didn't spend a lot of time in either of these lounges for a couple of reasons. First, the karaoke list is on the Splendor only about 10 pages long...REALLY. Second, and this may be due to the fact that this was Spring Break, but all the 7-10 year old kids were constantly hanging out in there, and they were the ones up there singing and they were the ones on the floor dancing to the music of the live band. Consequently, this was not the "happening" place to have a few drinks and go wild.
GRAND PIANO BAR Do not miss an opportunity to hang out with Ron Pass in the Piano Bar!!! Ron had posted a message in our roll call thread, letting us know that he'd be on the Splendor playing in the piano bar. We finally got to hang out there on Thursday night! Finally, we found where the "party" was. What a blast we had. As midnite drew near, some of the songs went "R" rated, and we all had a lot of fun with that. I had been beginning to think I was on a boat with a non-drinking crowd, but everyone was having a few and having a great time. Ron is fun and talented (and he's nice to look at too, ladies!), and he's going to make the Splendor a lot of money in drinks in there!! The nights we spend in here were the best of the whole week!
THE LIDO AND FOOD ON THE SPLENDOR The lido and the buffet are huge. In fact, it took us a few days to find all the different food offerings. If it is shade you want on the Lido, then you will be very happy. I think I prefer a more open Lido. They have the decks all stacked rather than tiered, and this makes everything shaded. I like the more open decks.
All the food on the Splendor was really good. The pizza was much better than that on the Elation, and so were the offerings in the dining room. The flat iron steak I had was very tender and juicy. My son ordered seafood every night, and only one dish did he not care for the sauce that was on his fish.
We had dinner in the Pinnacle Supper Club one night, and that was SUPERB!!! I ordered the Filet Mignon, and so did my husband. We both believe they may very well be the best steaks we've ever had!! The only sad thing is that I got soooo full and couldn't finish my steak. The next day, I really wished I had it in front of me again! You really get a lot of food here, so go hungry. I had the French onion soup. This was really goodvery rich and not too salty like it can be at some places. Then I had the saladnot the ceasarI'll have to look up which one it was as I can't remember. Everything was excellent!! Be sure to go to the supper club at least one night on your cruise, as it is definitely worth far more than the extra few bucks.
DEBARKATION This was handled just as smoothly as embarkation. We were in zone 33, and we did not get off until nearly 11, so those of you planning return flights, keep this in mind.
OVERALL IMPRESSION Like I said, I had a fabulous time on this cruise, and I can't wait to book another one with Carnival. This was only my second cruise, but I am hooked for life! I will say that I don't believe Splendor is my favorite boat. Now I only have the Elation to compare to. That one is older and much smaller. Maybe it is the fact that it was a "party boat" "booze cruise" whatever you want to call it, but I feel like the crew was a little more "elated" there. I have a couple of theories as to what may contribute to the overall reserv-ed-ness of the crew on the Splendor. One may be that this was a very family-oriented cruise. One-third of the passengers were under 18, and I bet at least a 1000 of them were under 12. That atmosphere DID make this an excellent cruise for me to take my teenagers on. So if you're going on a family cruise, this may very well be the perfect boat for you. My other theory is that because this boat has primarily been on "special" cruises. The European cruise, the re-positioning, and others...it has been on some long cruises, and my understanding is that there is generally an older and more reserved crowd on those cruises. So perhaps the drink waiters in the Spectacular are used to not too many drinkers. Or maybe because it had such a large kid population, perhaps they automatically pare that down. I don't know. The layout of the boat plays a big factor in my opinion of splendor. The floors I mentioned above and the outer decks were difficult to navigate too. None of them went through. You had to go up and down, and there wasn't a lot of open space on the highest decks. I really liked going up at the top of the Elation at night, and it seemed there was less ambient light so you could really look at the stars. Here, there wasn't really a place to do that.
So there you have it. Again, it was a fabulous cruise, and I WILL definitely be cruising Carnival again and again! Splendor is a beautiful boat, and if I could get back on and go again next week, I would! But my search for a favorite boat continues. I guess I may just have to try them all!!!