First time cruise for my girlfriend and I so we did not know what to expect. We decided to just go with the flow and see what happens. After getting home and reflecting on the last week, I am so glad I chose to go on the Splendor for my first cruise!
Embarkation: It went fairly smooth for us. We live in the area so we decided to get there at 2pm, hoping the initial chaos had subsided and it pretty much did. It took about 30-45 mins from arriving curbside to getting on ship. I recommend getting there about 2:30pm if you can to avoid the long lines. The ship ain't leaving until 4:30pm but you have to get there 90 mins before to satisfy TSA rules I think. Once on the ship you can head to your room or starting your 7 day floating buffet diet.
Initial Ship Reaction: We went during Mother's day week and I thought we were going to run into a bunch of kids on board, but I was wrong. The ratio was about 1 child to every 10 adults. I love kids, but I wanted this trip to be relaxing without a lot of screaming and crying all around me and based on some of the reviews I have read, I wasn't holding my breathe. The decor of the ship was like a retro 80's carnival themed glitzy PINK mess. It wasn't a bad thing and to be honest who the hell cares? You are on vacation and if the decor of the ship is the deciding factor of whether you have fun or not, then you shouldn't be taking a vacation. You should stay home and do more exciting things like sitting in front of a computer and reading other people's vacation reviews. J/k please keep reading.
Rooms, Spa and Gym: My gf and I stayed in a Spa Interior Room and if you really want to relax on the ship I recommend getting one of the Spa rooms so that you can visit the spa facilities daily for free. The room itself was quaint but nice. It had lots of closet room, only 2 outlets, has attached hair dryer, nice sized bathroom for a ship room, and soft towels. Also remember you can put your empty luggage underneath the bed, we met a couple who did not know this and had to walk around their room like it was a mine field. If you want to use the spa facilities but don't have a spa room you can pay for the week pass at $250 per person or $40/day. You get to use the Thalso Pool, which is an awesome large jacuzzi, the aroma steam rooms, and 3 other relaxation rooms. Also the Spa showers for cleaning up before using the rooms. They are awesome, kinda like a car wash for humans, 6 shower heads spraying you at the same time! The gym was also another pleasant surprise, I can't compare to other Ship's, but Splendors has quite a few weight machines, sufficient free weights and about 20 treadmills, 8 stationary bikes and 8 striders. Gym is free for all to use, but is rarely full, we went 5 times and never had to wait for machines or weights.
FOOD: Accept the fact that more likely than not, you will gain weight during the cruise. Just hope you don't turn into the before photo of a weight loss commercial if you look like the after photo now. There is food everywhere and the staff are all Enablers! The one phrase I heard most throughout the cruise is "you're on vacation, it's ok." The food in the Lido buffet was standard Vegas style buffets, fairly tasty,fairly various and absolutely plentiful (great produce and fruits though). Lido has a burrito bar as well as the popular mongolian grill for stir fried noodles. The Grill is a nice hamburger/hot dog spot near the main pool, and for you vegetarians out there, they have tasty vegeburgers. The Pizza shack across from the Grill was open 24hrs (only late night munchies spot other than room service) and had good pizza, not great but edible, just stay away from the mushroom goat cheese, it's a freaking Salt Lick! There is a Rotisserie on deck 10 above the Lido buffet that had ok rotisserie chicken and trimmings. The Deli in the back of the ship had great sandwiches, and always had a line. My favorite spot for lunch hands down was the Tandoori Grill. Though the Indian food was not spicy, which is how I like it, it was very tasty and addicting. I went there 4 days for lunch, the 3 other days I was in Mexico. For breakfast you can either have room service, the buffet or hit up the Golden Pearl restaurant where you get made to order breakfast. We did not go there until the second to last day and regret it because the quality was much better than the buffet, especially the eggs. Buffet tastes like scrambled powdered eggs.
For dinner, we had requested anytime dining and was seated at the Black Pearl restaurant. The food was fantastic, 4 out of 7 days we ate there. READ: You can order more than one appetizer, entree, desert if you want. So sample on! We only found out about this after the 5th day so we didn't take advantage of it for lobster tail night. So mad! The only time we didn't enjoy dinner there was unfortunately the last day. Food was just flat out not good that night, not sure why because every other night was great.
Pinnacle Steak House is the only restaurant you pay to eat in on the ship. The cost is $30 per person. The only recommendation I can make is to go there hungry especially if you are going to order steak. The waiter/waitress will come to your table and present the cuts of the restaurant, don't assume the meats are small. They vacuum packed them. I ordered the Ribeye and it Mooed as it landed in front of me. Impossible to finish and when you include the appetizers, main sides, and desert; let's just say Man vs. Food. My girlfriend had the lobster tail and it too was very plentiful. Though I was shocked with the amount of beef I saw on my plate, it was nothing compared to the cheese cake my gf ordered. It was bigger than my steak, it too mooed as it was presented to us. Overall the experience was great, service was top notch and food was good. Great to experience once, but I would save my money for better tasting food I can get at home in LA. Again "you're on vacation it's ok."
Entertainment/Shows: We went to 4 shows on board and visited several of the lounges and club on board. The best show we saw was probably the Latin Fiesta which had a lot of vibrant costumes, great music and dance. Vroom was entertaining as well with lots of song and dance. The Props comedy show was pretty funny and worth seeing. The final show called Carnival Legends can be hit or miss depending on the talent on your cruise because it takes 10 onboard guests and transforms them to music superstars like Elvis, James Brown and Aretha Franklin. For us it was good, our Aretha Franklin would be going to Hollywood if she was on American Idol, she got a standing ovation.
The comedy club was pretty funny, it was always packed so get there early if you want a seat. We passed by the Red Velvet nightclub 3 times during the cruise and it was always dead!Friday and Saturday night was disappointing, there was about 20 people there. Too bad because they were playing good club music. My favorite spot overall was the Grand Piano bar, it's a sing along bar with a pianist playing great classic tunes for the crowd to sing to. The entertainer that was there named Chris was the highlight of the bar, that boy can get down on the ivory. He is leaving the Splendor for the new Magic in a few weeks so stop on by if you get a chance. Then there is the karaoke room... sorta like a comedy club. j/k Most singers get A for effort?
Pool and hot tubs: We never tried either because they were always full and we had access to the Spa pool which always had room since it was closed off. Also since the spa is indoors we used it when the weather was too cold or windy to be outside comfortably. First day and last day onboard was cold and windy.
Casino and Bingo: Casino was never packed and as you know, no money going in, no money coming out. The slots were virgins, the tightest machines I ever played! I didn't see anybody winning at the machines nor did I see much happy faces at the tables. We stayed away after the first couple nights and lost about $150 without any little wins. My gf and I never played bingo for money so it was a new experience for us. Let's say my gf is now obsessed. She played 5 games of bingo and didn't win anything, got close once but zip zero. So there was one bingo game left for the cruise, the last big jackpot bingo game on the last night. I was throwing negative energy towards her during dinner about bingo but she obviously had selective hearing and we ended up playing anyways. The game started and after 20 numbers called we had like 5 holes punched on our cards ( you had to cover all 25 holes on your card). So as you can imagine I gave up hope by that time. Anyways the balls kept getting called until it was announced by the hostess as the longest bingo game ever on the Splendor and guess who ended up winning the $1000 prize, yes my positive gf. So our great trip was made even better!
Staff and Crew: Our cruise director was Felipe and he was awesome. He set the tone for the cruise from the first night's show until we left the ship. The guy was everywhere, he is the energizer bunny. However he wasn't the only one that made the trip memorable, the overall staff was great. From the waiters, to the room stewards, to the cleaning crews, to the serving staff, to the bartenders, to the entertainers, they would bendover backwards to serve and entertain the guests. The crew worked 10-12hr days non stop, most having more than one job onboard, and they do this day in and day out for 8 months straight without seeing their own family, dealing with grumpy guests yet they still manage to do what they do with a smile on their face. They are truly incredible and deserve every penny they get in gratuity and more. Don't be afraid to give a little extra to your room stewards or waiters if they go above and beyond. And if you can't afford to, saying thank you goes a long ways as well.
Disembarkation: It went fairly smooth. You get enough time to eat breakfast before you go and you wait for your number to be called. Took no more than 20 mins to get off boat to customs to our bags to reality.