My husband and I are somewhat non-traditional cruisers. We prefer culture over parties, books over drinks, and early mornings over late evenings. Still, we found that the Splendor offered us plenty to enjoy. This was our second cruise, our first being to the Southern Caribbean on Princess.
Embarkation. We arrived at the Long Beach cruise terminal at approximately 1:30 p.m., to find a somewhat disorganized series of lines. There were plenty of employees to make sure that we were in the proper line, but it felt a little chaotic. It felt like maybe arriving much later in the process might have been a better option, although we did enjoy the energy of the cruisers around us. We carried our own bags onto the ship, since we are both light packers. We found our room easily and immediately met our steward, Bogden. Who was fabulous, btw.
Medical Emergency. My husband has extremely sensitive eyes, and found his eyes impossibly irritated almost as soon as we got on board. Bogden directed us to the medical service, who were initially very concerned that my husband had conjunctivitis. We purchased a saline wash, and decided to try to wait it out until later in the day when the doctor came on board. Later on, he decided he couldn't wait, and went back down to sick bay, where he was prescribed some anti-inflammatory drops that seemed to do the trick. He did have to pay the emergency rate for the doctor, although we are told that we will get a refund when we submit the claim to his insurer.
Orientation. While my husband was recovering, I took an orientation walk. The ship's main public spaces are oriented around the main floor lobby (3rd deck), with the ships' dining rooms, shopping, casino and lounges mid-ship and aft on decks 3-5, and the Spectacular Theater in the front of the ship on decks 3-5. The Lido deck houses the main pool, big screen, and the buffet, with the outdoor decks splitting off from there. The main pool has a roof over it for rainy days, and we did have some bad weather. I was glad the kids still got to swim. I did not bother to find the spa, although I had originally planned to schedule some time there.
Decor. The decor was not quite as horrific as anticipated. Yes, there was some pepto bismol pink. And it was definitely over-the-top, but it did not put me off. I really liked much of the art work and my husband loved the stylized door panels.
Balcony Stateroom. It was larger than we expected. In particular, the bathroom was quite spacious for a cruise ship, and we liked the balcony a lot. The television was a little small, and the lighting in the room was just a little awkward for optimal viewing. The channel selection was abysmal. Most of the time, the most interesting thing on the television was the Cruise Director shows. There was no show schedule, and the stations were based in Colorado, so there was a lot of Colorado political ads. One does not go on a cruise to watch television, but it would have been nice to have been able to find an episode of CSI or two. There was plenty of storage space, and we never felt claustrophobic. One warning: There was a lot of movement on this ship. I'm a good sailor, so I enjoyed it. However, if you are prone to seasickness, you might want to book a stateroom somewhat lower in the ship.
Food. I think food is such a big issue, because you feel captive to the ship. I really had no problem finding reasonably good food for the entire cruise, without paying a dime extra. The buffet had lots of choices, and for the most part, it was as good or better than any other buffet I've been on. I did enjoy Tandoor, the Indian lunch buffet, and the breakfast pastries on the Lido were particularly enjoyable. The main dining room was very good. Some of the food was a little under-seasoned and accompanied by mystery vegetables, but there was nothing that a little salt and discriminating eating couldn't cure. I didn't bother with any desserts other than the chocolate melting cake. It was just too divine. Ari, our server, was very charming.
Library. Okay, I warned you that my husband and I are non-traditional cruisers, right? My husband brought no books on board, so he was anxious to check out the library. We missed the hour it was open on the opening day to our medical emergency, but the second day, my husband found three juicy historical biographies that kept him occupied for the rest of the cruise. We would have liked for the library to have been open a few more hours during the cruise, or at least available for reading. We do go on cruises to read books.
Entertainment. We are not gamblers. I am barely a drinker. We love to dance, but we had a hard time finding dance music at times we would have enjoyed dancing. We like silly variety and comedy shows. The Cruise Director's shows were hilarious, especially the Marriage Show. We also enjoyed a game-show called "60 Seconds or Less". My husband enjoyed the one production show we saw, although I was less enthused. I did not love the movie choices on the big screen, but that was just luck of the draw more than quality of choices. We loved the comedy shows, but wish they had been clustered a little closer together. It was awkward to have half hour shows punctuated by a half hour of virtual dead-time in the El Morocco Lounge. We did love that they did have a dedicated comedy venue, however!
Shore Excursions. We took the Mismaloya city tour in Puerto Vallarta, and enjoyed it quite a bit. We also took the Deluxe Sunset Sail in Puerto Vallarta which was amazing! A 30 foot catamaran takes you and 30 other cruisers out to Bandaras Bay to view the amazing sunset. There is a free and open bar, and the crew works HARD to ensure that you have a good time. My husband had some difficulty with the waves, but I loved every minute of it. From Mazatlan, we took the Colonial Villages of the Sierra Madre tour, and very much enjoyed seeing colonial Mexico. During lunch in Coppola, we were treated to a norteno band who walked with their instruments over the mountains earlier in the day for the gig. We also had some of the best banana cream pie I've ever had. We stayed on board for Cabo San Lucas, although next trip, I think I'm going to try out the amazing sand beaches. One note: Although many people report finding better deals on shore excursion directly through tour companies, I did not find a significant difference between Carnival and the tour operators. I am sure that you could do the same tours less expensively. A second note: the roads in Mexico are in extremely bad condition, and are unlikely to get better in the near future. At some point, tours to outlying areas will not be a good choice.
Disembarkation. It went smoothly, although there was a major hiccup with elevators. I was in no hurry, however.
Miscellaneous Comments. There was far less pressure to purchase photographs and participate in art auctions. There was a problem with cigarette smoke in all areas of the ship that didn't ruin the experience for me, but might have ruined it for someone slightly more sensitive. This seems to be a problem endemic to cruising. Our specific room did not have a balcony overhanging ours, so we had a particularly good view of the sky. We may not have had great privacy, but I couldn't see how anyone could oversee balcony from above. There was a squeaking door in the cabin next door to us, but I'm sure we could have solved that problem had we been so inclined by a call to our steward. Finally, although the I hesitate to mention this, since cruising is a very popular activity for older folks, getting around the ship was not always easy with various groupings of people blocking the passageways. I recommend deep breaths for the less patient.