My family of five took Carnival Splendor on the March 26 sailing. I had read all the cruise critic reviews and was prepared for the worst. Despite a glitch in scheduling (due to medical emergency) and a crowded boat, we had a really nice vacation.
Embarkation: again, everything I read prepared me for the worst. We stayed at the Hyatt Long Beach and left the hotel at about 12:30. We checked our luggage curbside and found the port somewhat chaotic. The line moved slowly and we definately were frustrated. Despite our impatience, we arrived at our room around 2:00 so the whole door to door process was about an hour and a half. That's really not that bad.
Room: We stayed on the spa deck in room 1017 and 1001. We were pleased with both rooms. 1001 is a handicapped room and was spacious. It included a huge bathroom with a handicapped seat perfect for shaving legs! Both rooms offered lots of storage and a suitable amount of space. The beds were comfortable and there was no noise from neighbors or other decks. Our balcony was smaller than the Princess cruise we took but comfortable none the less. Our rooms were located by a private staircase to the spa which is a nice convenience.
Spa: Our deck included spa privileges which we used every day. If I book Carnival again I will utilize this feature.
Ship: The ship was ugly! What were they thinking when they chose the decorations. Pink polka dots just don't work for me! Overall there is a general sense of being at an amusement park with a low budget theme and an anything goes attitude. Lots of drinking and partying. If you can go with the flow this shouldn't bother you. Our family is well traveled and low key and we had a great time, despite the long lines, change in itinerary and crowds in general. If this type of situation bothers you then this is not the cruise for you.
Food: Just average. I never really left a meal hungry but nothing was exceptional either. We ate all our dinners at the Golden Pearl and enjoyed our table mates and service. Most of our breakfasts were at the dining room and lunches at the buffet. Chocolate buffet on last day at sea was fab.
Ports: Enjoyed a zip line through Vallarta Adventures. Almost missed it though because we forgot about the time change. We thought it would of been nice if Carnival would of reminded us of this. No lines to tender in Cabo which was a pleasant surprise. We were able to bring on a bottle of tequila in Cabo which was also a bonus.
Summary: while we might try Carnival again it will probably be my last choice. While we did have a great vacation I felt a general lack of appreciation from Carnival for me as a customer. The cruise line is just not polished. On the other hand, they do offer a great price point which could possibly lure me back onto one of their ships. Great value for the dollar!