For over three years I've enjoyed reading the CruiseCritic boards and reviews without giving much back in the way of input or comments. Out of nothing but laziness I've opted in the past not to review my two previous cruises before last on CruiseCritic (cruises I took after becoming a member) but with all the interest it seems in the Splendor since she came out of drydock earlier this spring and with what I thought seemed like a lot of negative reviews on the site before I left, I think it is important for me to share my experience.
First off, let me just state the obvious that this review is just one personal opinion. I don't have any designs on speaking for anyone else however I did travel in a group of four (my partner and I in one room and Mother-In-Law and Grandmother in another) and there was a general consensus among us about what we felt in terms of the ship and cruise.
That said, I had the fantastic vacation on the Carnival Splendor on her May 15th cruise to Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta.
We flew down to Long Beach the day before and stayed at the Airport Marriott. This gave us a day to reconnect with old friends from when we lived in SoCal and provided a much less stressful embarkation day without the hassle of flying in the day of sailing. We arrived at the ship at 10:30 and checked in, the whole process lasted maybe a half hour. Upon check-in you will receive a zone number for boarding. It seemed the boarding process for this ship and port was a little more chaotic than I remember the others I've sailed on being, but I've never been on a ship this large, with this many passengers, before either, which I'm sure played a part. Then we wandered over to the Queen Mary to pass the time as we were told after checking in that boarding for our zone number wouldn't be until noon. True to what we were told, our zone was called to board at straight-up noon.
Boarding only took about 15 minutes from start to finish. I had read a fair amount of negative things about this ship and was a little concerned before leaving for this trip as we were taking my mother-in-law on her first cruise and wanted to give her the best cruise experience possible. Contrary to what some have said, I was pleasantly surprised to step into a beautiful, albeit pink, atrium when we first boarded. DODs in hand we all walked around the lower levels of the atrium before heading up to the Lido for lunch. This is a beautiful ship. The two most recent ships I was on before this, the Spirit and the Elation, seemed a little more formal/elegant in terms of dEcor which I must say I like a little better, but the Splendor is very modern and bright and was a refreshing change of style. As other people have mentioned on this site pertaining to Carnival's ships, the newer the ship the more toned down and less "Farcusized" they seem to be. This was true of the Splendor. There are still a few touches of the old Mr. Farcus design style that we know and love like the hanging dragons over the thalasso pool in the spa and the curved cards wrapping the pillars in the casino but there seemed to be little more than that in terms of the old school Carnival design scheme.
Our balcony room on Verandah Deck was awesome but looked exactly the same as the one we had when we were on the Spirit last fall with the exception of the flat screen TV. The new cabin designs that will be implemented on the Breeze next year will be a welcome change from the standard room design Carnival has used for its ships since I sailed on the Triumph in 2001, but aside from the repetition of room dEcor we had a great room!
The service on this ship was excellent, just as it has been on all the cruises I've been on. We were always running into our room steward in the hall either working on a cabin or prepping to and our dining room staff couldn't have been more friendly and accommodating. The highlight of the dining experience, however, was our Maitre d Miguel. I have never before, ever, on 7 cruises had nearly as a fun, energetic, personable and approachable a Maitre d as Miguel. He made the whole dining experience for us and I hope Carnival knows what they have in him!
Food in the dining room was great. The three sea days we had we ate breakfast in the Gold Pearl and I am already going through withdrawals from not being able to get my eggs benedict whenever I want it in the morning. We also had dinner in our assigned dining room, the Black Pearl, every night as well. The Lido will always be the Lido when it comes to what is served there but being on a bigger ship there were noticeably more options served for lunch every day. I encourage everyone that reads this and plans to sail on the Splendor to check out both the Tandoor (Indian inspired food) at the very back of the Lido by the aft pool and the Mongolian Wok (Asian themed) in the middle of the Lido Restaurant. These stations are excellent and it takes a couple days before all the other passengers catch on to these more obscure options so take advantage of the great food early on before the lines form towards the middle of the cruise. The burrito bar across from the dessert buffet in the Lido was also a first for me on a ship and was great! Throughout the whole cruise I never saw a line more than 3 people long for this station.
Our Cruise Director Felipe was great. I didn't read much about him on here one way or another before we left but he did a great job and we enjoyed sailing with him and his whole team. We're not that big on the Broadway shows and noticed the titles looked familiar so we didn't try them out but if they are your thing I highly recommend you go to them. They are great productions with top notch quality, if you're into them.
This was a great itinerary and I would do the two days in Cabo and one day in Puerto Vallarta again in a heartbeat. We can't get enough of the Pacific side of Mexico in general and it would be nice to see Carnival bring over a ship to replace the Spirit when she leaves and seize the opportunity to send a ship deeper into the Sea of Cortez and have the other ship sail a tiny bit further south, maybe Manzanillo?
All in all this was a great trip and I would recommend it to anyone. Thank you Carnival for another great vacation!