The Carnival Splendor is indeed a beautiful ship (if you don't mind pink), and right off the bat, I will say that the quality of food served in either of the main dining rooms is excellent. My wife and I booked a Spa Stateroom (inside cabin) and we were not disappointed with the services offered in the Gym, Spa, and the other benefits from this upgrade, although be warned that the inside rooms are tight. Ours had only enough room from the bed and an upright chair; no other seating area and rather tight confines. Unfortunately, the rest of the cruise was something of a bust for us. Being self-proclaimed "cruise-aholics," vacationing by ship is something we really look forward to. The truth be told, my wife and I were never so happy to be OFF a ship at the end of a cruise than we were to disembark from the Splendor. Sorry Carnival, but that was our experience and it is one that we will not repeat in the future.
For starters, if you are looking to vacation in a warm climate, I would not recommend the Mexican riviera itinerary during the first part of the year. This was our third trip to the area during the month of March (on three different lines) and though the weather leaving southern California during this time has never been great, we were basically caught in a monsoon on the day of embarkation (March 20th), which delayed our departure out of Long Beach for a few hours. This resulted in us missing out on entire day in port - Cabo San Lucas, which many of us honestly did not understand. I guess that I'm a slow learner, but I try to give things the benefit of the doubt. Anyway, it was a lesson learned that we will keep in mind when planning our future vacations.
Due to some of the recent violence reported in the media in various locations throughout Mexico, including Mazatlan, Carnival decided to cancel that port of call in early March, and substituted two days in Cabo on the itinerary. Then due to our delay in leaving Long Beach, one of those days was subsequently canceled, thus resulting in only one day in Cabo and another in Puerto Vallarta....and five sea days. On only two of those days was the weather warm enough and the winds calm enough for anyone to be outdoors. Certainly, this is not Carnival's issue. However, the bottom line for the traveler is this: If you want WARM weather at spring break, go to the Caribbean! I will personally never make that mistake again either.
With five ship days on our hands and sun worship basically out of the question, what does one do? Honestly, there are only so many trips you can make to the Spa or to the Lido grill. There just didn't seem to be many activities on board to offer 3,000 guests at sea. Yes, there was a bingo game or two every day, and the casino was open, and the customary evening show in the theatre, but not much else. We did not find the comedy shows very funny, and the "Marriage Show" was cute, but again, typical. Very few games around the pool, limited music venues (except around the dinner hours), little encouragement for dancing, no art shows or other special presentations. The Splendor does have a very large jumbotron in the main pool area that is VERY LOUD, so that does not make that area conducive for relaxing. It reminded us of being in the middle of a Best Buy showroom at sea. Hmmmm...... I guess that if you invest in a huge TV, then you don't have to plan as many activities to keep people occupied; kind of like parents who have the TV babysit their kids! Not a very creative option.
We also booked an evening in the Steakhouse in order to celebrate my nephew's 32nd birthday and safe return from his recent military service overseas. Big mistake. The Steakhouse was advertised as an elegant dining venue, complete with piano music and "dancing under the stars" on a glass dance floor. Well, my wife and I didn't see anyone playing the piano during our meal, and when we inquired about this, we were told my the host that "there wasn't any piano music or dancing this evening." We had also ordered a small cake for my nephew, which cost extra, and after serving the six of us one small slice, there were no other offers for any of the magnificent desserts advertised. True, we could have looked like pigs and inquired about this with our server, but I also felt that with dinner for $30 per person ($180 total) plus the cake ($20) plus a bottle of wine ($45), and given that she could already tell that we were unhappy about the lack of piano music and dancing, that more effort would have been extended on the part of the wait staff to ensure our satisfaction. Stick with the main dining room and skip the expense of the Steakhouse; it is not of the same quality as we have found on other lines.
Lastly, if you like lines, then you'll love this ship. This was by far the most difficult embarkation we have ever experienced...we arrived to the port around 1:00 p.m. and finally boarded after 4 p.m. It was just awful, especially given the cold weather conditions that weekend in port. There were lines for dinner (we had to wait close to an hour one evening), lines in the Lido, lines for the tender, lines for pictures, etc. Think Disneyland and you will get the picture. But the worst part was the line to get back onto the ship following our day in Cabo. Unbelievable. This particular line easily extended from the tender area in the marina, around the corner, past several shops and bars....at least 350 yards around the dock. It took us close to two HOURS of waiting in line to get onto the tender to get back to the ship at the end of our day on the beach. When I inquired with a Carnival Rep from the Splendor who was supervising this fiasco as to WHY it seemed that there were only three small tenders running back and forth, he only shook his head. It was an awful experience. Anyone with a physical disability or who simply cannot stand for extended times could not have possibly managed this experience.
In the end, I know that a vacation is what you personally make of it. Funny that my wife and I had to remind each other of that several times while on board the Splendor. We did enjoy spending time with our family, and as I said before, the food on the ship is pretty good. But I also learned many things from this experience. I will definitely avoid the Mexican Riviera in the future and stick with the Caribbean. I will definitely stick with smaller ships in order to cut down on the lines and crowds. And, I will definitely pay a little more in order to get a higher quality cruise experience. In our book, that means Holland or Celebrity's newer ships. The Splendor is nice (did I mention though that it's cold too - bring sweaters), but it's similar to a floating Walmart, if you get my drift. But if that's what you like, then this is the vacation for you.
Oh yeah....and there were kids EVERYWHERE on this ship, and they never stopped running. Even the Captain made an announcement one day for parents to get a handle on their youngsters. So add noise to the list. I guess we are more into relaxing and less into lots of kids, crowds, and noise. But then again, if you are drinking 24/7, as many were on the Splendor, then it probably didn't seem to matter much. Bon voyage!