If anyone is interested. We flew in the Saturday before and took the Prime Time shuttle to our hotel in Long Beach. The shuttle to the hotel was long, as we had to stop at a few other places before we got to our digs. Still a decent deal in my opinion however. $32+$5 tip total for the both of us.
The cab ride from the Courtyard on first street to the port was an easy peasy japaneasy $10/10 minute ride on Sunday. Very awesome.
I had prepared my wife for horror stories and long waits boarding the ship and didn't see this at all. We arrived around 12:30, and while there was a line, we were on board by 1:30-ish. Rooms were ready at 2 or so. There was no announcement to this, but we did get a flyer saying this would be true and at around 2:30 we noticed no one with carry ons so we decided to make our way down.
We had a balcony room, on the 7(empress) level. Room was clean and kept that way all week. 2X per day...with towel animals daily. Always a nice touch. However on Friday night they hung an animal that I swore was a spider, my wife said monkey. She was probably right, but it still looked like a spider :-)
Keep in mind. Room 7363 had ONE outlet. One. That's it. So plan on a workaround if necessary.
A disappointment from previous years. With one exception. The dining room was good, usually better than the buffet, and we ate there two times. We had two general seating breakfasts and the food was similar to the offerings in the buffet and kinda lame. On the second breakfast, somehow the waiter confused my bacon, pepper and cheese omelette to a mushroom omelette. Ewww..hate mushrooms!!! The buffet food was just not very good at all. We are not food snobs but the hot items were bland and cheap. The cold offerings, especially salad items, were always very fresh. The fruit and vegetables were excellent everytime. And the specialty areas were good. The mongolian, the sushi bar, the rotisserie, the burrito bar..all excellent, but LONG lines generally. However, there is just no shortage of good food on the ship, if you plan well and expect to wait a little for the better items.
The exception as far as quality qoes, was the Pinnacle Steakhouse. I can say nothing but AWESOME for the entire experience. The service, the food, the wine....Just YUM YUM YUM!!!!! Highly recommended and WELL worth the $30 per person.(plus extra for wine of course) Now here is something in case no one knew. The steakhouse follows the dining schedule. So if you have a reservation for one of the two cruise elegant nights, then the steakhouse is cruise elegant as well which means NO JEANS!!!
We only did one excursion in Puerto Vallarta so I'm not qualified to discuss the overall excursions. I will say that expect to be continually and constantly bugged to buy things from locals including cigars(all fake), to jewerly, to whistles, hats, etc etc etc. It is absolutely neverending. You learn how to say "no gracias" with such skill no one would know you're not Mexican!
Pretty much good in all areas. The marriage game(or whatever it's called) is always fun(Crazy MARIO) and the comics were good. Jerome was really funny and the best of them I think. Always something going on, and something for everyone.
Cruise Director: Ours was Felipe. Funny, friendly, nice. On the ball. His assistant was not however. If she is trying for a gig on her own, she has a long way to go.
This was BY FAR the simplest thing we have ever experienced on a cruise. We dabated the night before whether we wanted to do self-assist(which means you carry all your bags off your self) fearing issues but decided to roll the dice.
Talk about easy!! We were zone 8 and were called about 15 minutes before it was scheduled. We made our way down the gangway, to a line of only about 10 people at customs. Made it through that and there were our bags..right in zone 8 waiting for us!! Hopped the prime time shuttle and off to LAX!! very very pleased with how this went.
Ok. The Splendor has now restricted smoking to decks 10 and 11 aft starboard, the casino(in designated areas) the cigar bar(of course) and the "sports lounge". Plus, NO CIGAR Smoking anywhere except the cigar bar. Bummer. No mention of balcony restrictions, so we took advantage of that. Still.
On a positive/negative note: All the stairs have a little bar at the end of each stair, I think it is a slip guard for wet feet. Well the problem is that your flip flop or sandal can get caught in them while going down. Something I noticed immediately Sunday and sure enough...wife took a spill down two stairs on Monday and twisted her ankle, severely. That's the negative. the positive was the treatment and attention from the medical staff and doctor. She got an x-ray to look for a break, a device to stablize her ankle after it was determined to be just a sprain, and a prescription for the pain. All was provided free by Carnival, which we felt was a nice thing to do.
Finally, and by no means the fault of Carnival, the weather was crummy on Saturday, the last sea day back to Long Beach. Cloudy and cool, and most of the nights were too cool to really enjoy the open air decks.
Ok so overall, I will give the cruise a 3.5 out of 5 stars. Worth the expense for sure.