Sailed aboard the Splendor to Mexico June 20-27 2010. This was our second Carnival cruise, first on this ship. I found the ship to be extremely clean and well maintained. My room (with Balcony) was well laid out, clean and comfortable. Once again I was lucky to have an excellent steward who always greeted us by name and provided greater than expected service. I sailed with 21 family members and others had positive comments on their stewards and house cleaning staff as well. We took eight 'kids' (ages 16-12) with us and all had a great time; it seemed to me to be a safe and fun environment for them. A lone teenager might get bored, but with a pack of them, they seemed to always be busy (hey, with all you can eat pizza, burgers and fries I knew they'd have a good time) . The adults had plenty to do too, I brought 3 books with me and ended up reading none. We were fortunate the weather was great!
The food was typical Carnival - mediocre; nothing special, daring or interesting. They have the basics, but can't seem to get past that. As in my last Carnival cruise our dining was in the back of the boat (Golden Pearl) and you feel the vibrations of the machinery back there quite well. At least the service we received in the main dining room was great - thanks Max! We went to the 'pay extra steak house' one night and the food was actually quite good, although the service was below average.
One are Carnival is lagging is internet access. This is the 21st Century and every room should have it - included in the cruise price. On board drink prices are expensive for what you get and they only allow you to bring one bottle of wine (no hard liquor) on board per adult. They also make you pay extra for soda - luckily my kids were fine with water and juice (which are included). Be aware Carnival does allow smoking in certain areas of the ship - that was enough to keep me out of the Casino the entire time I was on board - thanks for saving me that money Carnival. There are other areas (mainly bars that I avoided) that also have smoking (and plenty of it). Perhaps I'll seek a non-smoking cruise next time.
We took the "Sea Safari - Hidden Beaches & Snorkel ", in Puerto Vallarta, it was 100% fun! Our guide Caesar was the best guide I have ever experienced and was responsible for it being a 100 as opposed to a 90 or so. A fast boat ride, horse back riding, swimming at a waterfall, snorkeling, and great food and drinks (included in the price!) at a remote uncrowded beach - what more could you want? We also did the Rhino off road tour in Mazatlan; it was also quite fun - thanks to Armando and German, the guides, I recommend it if you like driving through dirt, getting dirty and then relaxing at a high quality resort with good prices.
Upon returning to Long Beach disembarking was a breeze, as we carried our own luggage - very fast and easy. Getting onboard wasn't bad, there are a lot of people, so there are going to be lines, but the personnel working the check in for Carnival seem to really know what they were doing and nothing threw them for a loop, so it went well.
In all, it was a big clean ship, many things to do - including an indoor/outdoor giant screen TV that shows movies at night, great service from key people, nicely appointed rooms, with average quality food, but plenty of it.
I highly recommend it for groups, especially with kids. The kids can entertain themselves, there are places to meet (had a great card and game playing session the 'boardroom' one night), a lot of food that kids like (24 hour pizza and self serve soft ice cream), room service is included and they have clubs for various age groups. And unlike when you rent a house or hotel, you don't need a van to drag the group from here to there.