My best friend and I were all set to go to the Mexican Riviera on the Carnival Splendor, then she got ill, so I took my Mom and we had a blast! Mom had never cruised before and I had cruised only once with my husband 4 years ago on Norwegian (we did the Hawaiian islands 7-day cruise). We flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles and used our pre-paid transfer to get on a bus to take us to the dock at Long Beach. There was a professionally dressed person with a Carnival sign at the airport baggage claim to meet us and direct us over to the bus. When we arrived at the dock, 2 Carnival employees got on the bus to explain the luggage unloading procedure and to inform us that our luggage would be delivered to us later on the ship. This was all very helpful! And the bus driver and porters did a great job handling our luggage. We then proceeded to the port terminal to start the check in process (it was nice not having to tote our luggage along!) There was a security check (much like that in the airport) but the line moved quickly. We got up to the check-in counter and were given our sail-and-sign cards and proceeded to have our picture taken. Then, within less than 20 minutes, we were on board the ship!
We went to our stateroom first to check it out and we were not disappointed! It was quite large (much larger than the room my husband and I had on NCL) with 2 twin beds, a couch, coffee table, and long dressing table along one wall with a long mirror. We stood on the balcony and watched sail boats out in the harbor then decided to go get something to eat since the Lido Deck buffet was open.
Our first 2 days were spent sailing to Puerto Vallarta so we had lots of time to familiarize ourselves with the layout of the ship -- which is quite huge! I carried a map with us at all times! Our dinner time was "any time" which worked out great. We usually went around 6:30-7:00, but one night we went at 8:30pm. Monday night was the first elegant evening and we had a very nice dinner at the Black Pearl restaurant. We also went to Friday night's elegant evening. I was a little worried we weren't dressed up enough, but we were fine in casual dresses and pant suits. After dinner, we would go to the shows with the Splendor Dancers and Singers in the Spectacular Theater -- which were really quite spectacular! The seating is arranged in long benches which was very comfortable. The singers and dancers were awesome --easily rivaling any show in Vegas! We saw them 3 nights. Also, there was a comedian named Seth Buchwald on board Thursday and Friday. We saw him both nights and he was hilarious! I've never seen my Mom laugh so much!
As for the food -- there are lots of choices at lunch time on the Lido deck. There is Indian food (which was my favorite), a grill, a Mongolian stir fry, a Rotisserie chicken place, pizza, deli, and others I'm sure I'm forgetting. Also, the buffet alone in general was quite good. However, on the last day of the trip, it seemed that some leftovers were being put out as "hash" or "mixed salads", etc. We had breakfast in the Gold Pearl restaurant on 2 occasions and it was very nice.
The Splendor has an amazing spa on the top deck, although it was quite expensive. We did find a special on Tuesday where we got 3 services for $89 per person. This included a mini-facial, scalp and shoulder massage and foot massage. It was very relaxing and we saw dolphins out the window from our spa chairs! I would have liked to had a full-body massage but didn't want to spend $199. Oh well...
The debarkation process on Sunday morning ran smoothly. We had set our luggage out the night before, so we had to wait a couple of hours on Sunday until our group was called. But we had a nice breakfast and sat in the Spectacular theater to wait. We then boarded a bus (using our transfer) and arrived at LAX within 1/2 an hour.
Overall, we greatly enjoyed the trip! It was smooth sailing with very calm seas. One thing I'd like to point out though is that it was quite cold on the decks of the ship while sailing in open water, so I would recommend packing a jacket! We expected it would be hot, so we didn't have any warm clothing. We weren't alone, though, because after a while, many people were walking around in their bath robes outside to keep warm! It was hot and humid in the ports of call, but while on the ship, it was quite cold. It was also quite cold in the restaurants and theater as well.