Carnival Splendor Cruise Review by ultravox: FANTASTIC GAL PAL VACATION
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FANTASTIC GAL PAL VACATION
We've known each other since high school. Now we're in our 50's. Her husband and my partner weren't interested in cruising, so we went without 'em! I'd cruised once before (Diamond Princess to Alaska five years ago) so I was designated the planner. I found this cruise on Vacations to Go and booked for both of us.
We drove from Northern California down to Long Beach (I sat down to compute costs and determined it would be cheaper to drive than fly), leaving a day early so we could visit Catalina Island before we set sail (which was WELL worth it). I booked a park-and-cruise package with Comfort Inn of Long Beach - very nice motel, which provided taxi vouchers to get us to and from the port. The day before our cruise we visited Catalina (I booked the ferry ride earlier in the week). The morning of the cruise we had a few hours of spare time so we visited the Long Beach Aquarium. If you're in Long Beach anyway, why not see a few of the sights? Both Catalina and the aquarium were More great fun and we'd DEFINITELY go back.
About 2 PM we left the motel for the ship. The taxi to the port took about ten minutes. Once out of the cab, we were just a few feet from porters, who took our baggage (and we each tipped them, well worth it to not have to handle our suitcases!). We got in line to check in. Everyone was given a form to fill out stating we were not showing signs of a cold or flu (not sure what they did if you WERE). Went through security, passport control, etc. smoothly. Within half an hour or so we were cleared.
When we actually got our "Sail and Sign" cards, I was given a blue card and Debra got a gold card. We asked what the difference was and were told Debra got a gold card because she was a past cruiser on Carnival. This certainly surprised both of us, but it didn't seem important enough to ask for a correction, and if she gets future credit, well, that's fine. Boarded the ship and found our stateroom, which was about the size of a small motel room, very efficient space-wise, and very clean. We had a balcony (the ONLY way to go!) and could watch cargo being loaded and passengers streaming onto the ship. Our baggage arrived over the next few hours and we slowly unpacked.
We went for the required lifeboat/emergency muster scheduled just before sailing time, which was helpful as neither of us had put the life jacket on correctly. Then we went aft to watch as Long Beach grew smaller in the distance as we sailed away, and had a celebratory drink at the bar.
The first night we ate dinner at the buffet, but after that we dined in the Gold Pearl at the 6:00 seating. We were at a table for eleven people and everyone at our table was just the salt of the earth - so friendly, kind, and happy to be there. Our waiters, Ismail from Turkey and Glen from St. Vincent, were so helpful and kind, and worked very hard to ensure we had a great meal. Portions of each course are moderate but you can order as many portions or as many items as you want. The cold soups (creamy cucumber-dill, carrot, etc.) were SUPERB. We loved the red snapper, the prime rib, and the chicken - in fact, there wasn't anything we didn't like. And our cocktail waitress (didn't get her name) was phenomenal - after the first night she knew our account numbers already. And the entertainment was incredibly fun - waiters dancing and singing. Loved it. Miguel, the maitre'd, was very conscientious and kept things running smoothly; he was also a lot of fun and easy to talk to.
The first few days we had breakfast and lunch at the buffet until we realized we could eat in the Gold Pearl. The buffet food was pretty good but we didn't like the crowds and having to find a table. In the dining room we enjoyed quiet, no elbowing, and delicious items from a menu. Very pleasant. Our room steward, Carlos, was attentive and subtle: we rarely saw him, but whenever we came back to the room it was made up, with a fresh bucket of ice. When our towel elephant disappeared after the first night, we asked him to make us another one - so by the end of the cruise we had a menagerie all over our stateroom.
We only saw one of the shows, Fiesta Latina, and enjoyed it very much. We were too tired to see Vroom (though we heard it was great fun) and we both regret we didn't see the ship talent show on the last night - but it started at 10:45 PM and we knew we would have a very long day the next day, so we had to go to bed instead. We were kept busy throughout the cruise: we went to tea in the Gold Pearl, saw movies on the big screen by the pool, swam, walked on the track early in the morning, went to El Morocco or Lido to listen to music... there was no end to activities. We couldn't do them all! Goose, the entertainment director, was seemingly everywhere at all hours, and worked very hard.
I had read about the Splendor being The Pink Ship... yes, there was some pink, and the decor was over the top, but you don't really expect Mies van der Rohe on a cruise ship. Our room was comfortable, clean, and pretty quiet. One night we could hear music from some club but it wasn't bothersome.
The last day we were very sad to depart. We had had so much fun and the crew worked their tails off to ensure we had a good time. More than once we were asked, "Are you having fun?" and told, "Remember, you're on vacation!"
Disembarkation was very smooth - we walked off, picked up our bags, handed our landing cards to a passport officer, and got in a cab to go back to the motel.
Would we sail Carnival Splendor again? In a heartbeat. Less
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Cabin review: Carnival Splendor Balcony Upper 6455
Plenty of room for our baggage, good storage space (unless your roommate has packed her entire wardrobe, like mine did). Bathroom small but efficient, good water pressure. Loved having a balcony - small but it would have felt claustrophobic without it. Comfortable beds. Quiet deck.
Port and Shore Excursions
Our first view of Mazatlan was not encouraging: it's mainly a shipping port, and it is guarded by soldiers in cammo with semi-automatic weapons.
We were escorted through a sort of open-air vendor area and put in taxis for a ride along the waterfront to another shopping area. Inside that we went to a small open amphitheater. A narrator told us about the Indians who would perform for us - they first did a dance, then climbed onto a sort of pinwheel and spun about. Lastly they climbed up onto a 60-foot pole and one danced while playing the flute and the others swung lower and lower on ropes. It was interesting and sort of scary.
Of course we were encouraged to buy things - it was, after all, a shopping tour. I had no cash with me and not everyone takes debit cards (first lesson). In an unpleasant moment, Debra was buying something and putting her cash back in her wallet, when she looked up and noticed one of the Indian dancers fixatedly staring at her wallet. Bad juju. She hurriedly put it away. We wandered through the shopping area and onto the shopping street where we were besieged by men trying to get us to come into their shops - "Free gem," "free bracelet," free this and that. It became ridiculous, then annoying. We did buy a few things (from stores that DIDN'T badger us) and then proceeded to the Playa Mazatlan Resort down the street (a taxi tried to pick us up as we walked!) for lunch.
Lunch was outdoors on a covered patio-type area, right on the beach. It was a buffet of Mexican food plus two drinks (included in the excursion). Again, vendors came up constantly to the tables to try to sell their wares. We had to say no, no, no over and over. A crippled man was selling Chiclets gum and this made us realize: they think we're rich, which we definitely are not - but compared to these people, we're privileged. It was sobering: how poor must you be that you'd sell gum? After a while it became exhausting and sad, and we asked for a taxi back to the ship. We passed through the same vendor area by the ship where we did a little shopping.
Honestly - I don't think I would go back to Mazatlan, or if I did, I would choose another excursion. The area of town we were in was torn up with construction and there was a lot of desperation and poverty. It certainly made us aware of how well off we are - and it saddened us.
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