My DH and I flew down to L.A. from Calgary, Alberta, a few days before the Splendor's November 29/2009 sailing. We stayed at the Sheraton Garden Grove in Anaheim--very new hotel and nice--and booked a Red Shuttle to take us to Long Beach on embarkation day, November 29th. ( A high point of arriving in L.A. early was that we were able to have a drink with some dear folks that we had "met" on our ship's roll call at the Carnival website forum prior to our cruise--very lovely people!)
Due to both a medical emergency and rough seas on her return trip, the Splendor was very late arriving and didn't dock at Long Beach until around 3:00 PM. We were in Zone 1 and did not board until after 7:00 PM. (Carnival gave each of us a 15.00 onboard credit to cover lunch for that day). It was a very long wait and many people were frustrated, but I don't think anyone really blamed Carnival as the circumstances were beyond their control. Our two adult daughters arrived via Carnival bus transfer from LAX on sailing day, as did our two good friends---another couple who had booked this cruise as well. We spent some time that day on the Queen Mary, and also went to the Long Beach side on the complimentary local shuttle bus. Had lunch on an outdoor terrace at a nice Japanese restaurant.
Once we boarded, we were able to go straight to our cabin which was a very nice Category 8D balcony on the Lido deck: #9262. The cabin was festively decorated for my DH's birthday--(I had ordered this in advance)--which was that very day. We opened the balcony door and were thrilled---it was larger than the pictures we'd seen, and can easily seat two comfortably, as well as two or three extra people standing. Our cabin itself was beautiful---lots of room and extra storage space, and the bathroom and shower were very roomy. Loved the flat screen T.V. and the very comfortable bed! Our cabin steward, "Pam" was a super nice guy and treated us like Cal and Rose from "Titanic". As soon as we met, he asked if we needed anything and I mentioned that the bathroom sink seemed to be a little slow to drain. There was a repair person at our door in about 5 minutes flat who fixed the problem instantly. Wish we could get that kind of service back home! Pam was amazingly efficient, as well as friendly and kind. When I was seasick on the third day---(DH and I had worn the motion sickness patch starting on the first day, but it caused both of us have one giant pupil and one tiny pupil in our eyes, so we took it off right away, and this caused my seasickness). Pam was so understanding and empathetic---he even rushed down to the Guest Services desk to bring me Dramamine. There was ice in our ice bucket day and night, and we had wonderful turndown service with towel animals each evening. Once, one of our daughters came to visit us and bumped the towel animal, causing it to fall apart. When Pam came by to see how we were doing, he noticed and made a new towel animal in what seemed like three seconds flat. It was like watching a magician!
We had the early dining--(why do so many people spell it "dinning"?? Dinning rhymes with "spinning")--at 6:00 PM, and were seated with our daughters and the other couple we were sailing with. One of our daughters is vegan, and a representative from the kitchen named Diana came to our table EACH NIGHT to consult with our daughter about the menu choices she could order---(not just for dinner, but for breakfast and lunch as well). Our daughter said she had never had such amazing vegan dishes before. The rest of us are meat eaters, and loved all the tasty and well-prepared appetizers, entrees, and desserts in the Gold Pearl dining room. Our waiter, Rico, and his assistant, Elizabeth, were fantastic. Our daughters danced with them at a few of the nightly dining room "shows".
The buffet on the Lido deck was great. I loved having fresh fruit every morning, especially the red grapefruit. The coffee was just standard, until we found out about a specialty coffee bar near the casino--I think on Deck 5--which had eye-opening and delicious Americano and other specialty coffees priced much less expensively than the leading nationwide coffee chain. The food selection on the Splendor was excellent morning, noon and night. We checked out the Rotisserie which was kind of like the Swiss Chalet restaurants in Canada; chicken, baked potatoes, corn on the cob; very tasty. Our daughters liked the Burrito Bar and the Tandoori Indian food bar, as well as the veggie burgers at the grill on the Lido deck.
The fun days at sea were a blast. There was always so much do do. The girls sang karaoke on the Lido deck, and we all had a great time at this big outdoor dance on the second night at sea. We spent time in the hot tubs and had a drink in the Serenity "Adults Only" area. We checked out the casino and a piano bar. We went on a "cabin crawl" with our friends from the CC forum. We saw the musical show "Vroom" which was excellent and very entertaining. The girls saw the late night adult comedian, and are still quoting some of his jokes. We played mini-golf and we sat on our balcony and watched the gorgeous Mexican coastline drift by under a beautiful full moon.
Hopefully I will have a chance to write separately about our excursions. The only onboard excursion taken by my DH and friends was the "Behind the Fun" Tour on the last day at sea, which he very much enjoyed. (We booked it as soon as we boarded as it is limited to 16 people and it fills up fast).
Disembarkation from the ship to the dome was fine, however, once past the gangway, we were herded over to the two customs lineups for "Non U.S. Citizens" and stood for one solid hour without moving, and both lineups only had about 20 people in them. I've never seen anything like it before--my experience has been that the lines through Customs move pretty steadily, including at LAX. We came fairly close to missing our flight home, and although this was not Carnival's fault, perhaps they could request a couple of more customs booths in the dome for us "Non U.S. Citizens", or at least an express line for valid passport holders. We managed to make our flight and arrived home to severely cold temperatures of minus -40 and a city almost shut down by a huge blizzard. Hmmm...maybe Carnival shouldn't request an express Customs booth!! :o)
I could write a lot more, but this review is long overdue as it is---(returned home 2 and a half weeks before Christmas, and were not at all ready for the holidays!) The Splendor was fantastic, the staff were amazing, and Carnival is just the type of cruise we love---not too hoity-toity, tons of fun, and a great time was had by all!