My wife and I took a Mexican Riviera cruise four years ago for our honeymoon on the Carnival Pride. We had a great time and have always wanted to return. . . so when Jet Blue brought a flight to Anchorage (our hometown) and the prices for a round-trip ticket to LA dropped from $600 a person to $300 a person we decided the time was right.
We planned on getting on the boat as soon as possible, and we learned a tip on our last cruise. We took the Super Shuttle to the pier at 9:00 and were able to check in early and receive one of the coveted Zone 1 boarding passes. We went over to the Queen Mary and had a late, leisurely breakfast. We headed back to the pier at 10:45 and waited for our zone to be called. By this time there were several hundred people waiting, but fortunately they only put 50 people or so in a zone. At around 11:30 the boat was cleared for embarkation and we were ushered in. Going through security took about ten minutes- with only a brief glitch as they had to search my bag for an unknown object which turned out to be the collection of quarters I had brought for the laundry. After making it through the gauntlet of Carnival photographers we made our way to the Lido deck by 11:50. We had drinks in hand by 12:00 and patiently waited for our rooms to open up which came at 1:45. Not a nightmare process in the least- in fact I was amazed by how easy it was.
We had an inside cabin on our last cruise, and while we enjoyed the cruise we always felt as though we had missed the full experience. We knew we wanted a balcony cabin and started to price the cabins in March to find our best deal. We wanted a aft balcony cabin, but unfortunately they were all booked up. On June 1st, when we were ready to book our cabin, an aft cabin opened up (must have been an upsell) and we jumped on it. The location of the cabin was perfect for most of our needs. We enjoyed spending time at the aft pool and the lido buffet was always close. We had two floors separating us from the lido deck so we didn't have to worry about the sound of deck chairs being dragged around, and we were two floors above the promenade so we didn't have to worry about sounds coming from the Morocco lounge. The only disadvantage to our location was the fact that our dining room reservations were in the Black Pearl, so we had to walk from the back of the boat to the front to get there. The Gold Pearl would have been so much easier for us to go to. The room itself was spacious (by cruise standards) and the extra room on the balcony was AMAZING! We spent a lot of our time out there going in and out of ports, having breakfast, sunning ourselves, or just enjoying the view. It wasn't windy like other parts of the boat and it really made for a peaceful place to spend time. The only negative would be the lack of privacy with the neighbors. The barrier between the cabins was angled and it made for a complete lack of privacy if you were leaning against the railing- but that was certainly a small price to pay. The room did shake quite a bit when the engines first fired up, but it was hard to notice when we were out at sea. We loved the sound of the ocean at night, and we spent a couple of nights with the door propped open (deck chairs came in handy with that trick).
The Splendor is a big ship (over three football fields in length) and there were times that you noticed how long the boat was. Our treks from the back of the boat to the front of the boat seemed arduous at times, but the location of the front lobby and/or assignment to the Black Pearl necessitated it. I tend to side with those who find the decor to be a little on the tacky side. The black tile with the neon green grout, the pink motif, and the artwork in the halls by an artist who seems a little to fascinated with women's nipples was a little daunting at first, but it faded into the background after the initial shock wore off. The ship is mostly smoke free, and the only time we noticed anyone smoking was on the 10th floor aft and in the Casino. The Serenity Deck was anything but serene. It was located on a part of the boat that was usually windy, but at the times it wasn't windy you had to deal with the noise and chaos of the mini-golf course. Lots of screaming voices (adults and children) and we were hit with two balls before we decided to find a better location. We ended up on the Aft deck, which with the adults only pool and hot tubs made it a more quiet and wind free location to actually get some peace and quiet. There are many lounges to choose from, and I would say that someone would be hard pressed to not be able to find their own little niche to hangout in.
There was lots to choose from, although we spent a lot of time going to shows and playing the trivia when we weren't relaxing. I liked a lot of the humorous shows- but after attending one of the Vegas style shows, we decided not to go back. I guess they just weren't our cup of tea.The cruise director was Todd Whitmore. We thought he was funny, organized, and was very gracious under pressure. Our boat was diverted due to Hurricane Dora, but Todd was able to keep his composure and remain upbeat through the entire crisis. I couldn't imagine the pressure he faced trying to appease everyone who suddenly had their schedules thrown into chaos- but from what we saw he managed to make all of the adjustments go off without ever breaking his optimistic exterior. Major kudos to his efforts to make the cruise the best it could be.
I have always loved the service on board the cruise ships I have been on, and this cruise was no exception. Our cabin steward was top notch and it was almost magical how he was able to get our room in tip top shape during our our absences. Our waiter was ok, but service was spotty at times. We had a couple of nights where we were one of the last tables to leave the dining room because of the speed of our service. We had dinner one night in the Pinnacle, and the service up there (not to mention the food) is nothing short of spectacular. We had one bartender we tended to go to, but that was really more just based on his location on the aft deck than on his service. We bought soda cards, and I felt from many members of the bartending staff that we were not as welcome as their "paying" customers. Once a waiter or waitress found out that you were drinking sodas, you tended to not see them again.
Port & Shore Excursions:
The only area that I am going to complain about. Our first day in Cabo we planned on going snorkeling. After waiting 45 minutes past our scheduled tender time in the Morocco lounge, we finally boarded our tender for our 10 minute trek into the Cabo port. Unfortunately upon our arrival we were told that our excursion had been cancelled due to rough seas. I wish they would have told us that before we spent a hour trying to get to the port, but c'est la vie. We decided to go into Cabo, but didn't have a lot of money to spend due to the fact that we thought we were heading right out on a snorkeling excursion. We had plenty of offers to take us out snorkeling, parasailing, fishing. . . and other activities. Had I known we were going to be cancelled, we would have brought some extra cash and done one of these. Another couple at our dining room table had the same snorkeling excursion, but later in the day. They had no problems with their excursion, and I kind of wondered if we got bumped so that the other excursions could go out on time. We took a taxi in Puerto Vallarta into old town and walked around visiting the shops in our time there the second day, and we spent our second day in Cabo relaxing on the boat (as did many others).
It is what it is. There were some fantastic things, and some less than fantastic things. We loved the pinnacle steakhouse, but we wished that there was a place to store leftovers. The portions were huge. There was always something that looked good on the menu in the dining room. Most of the time it was worth it, but I had a couple of things that weren't up to par. I loved the Mongolian BBQ, but the lines were always so long for it. We were early morning risers and had most of our breakfasts delivered through room service so we could eat on the balcony. The quality of the food was a little lower than on our last cruise, but we did enjoy having pizzas available 24 hours a day. I liked the idea of a chocolate buffet, but I wished this had been a late night meal rather than a lunch on Saturday.
Disembarkation: Our flight back to Anchorage didn't leave until 7:40 that night, so we decided to rent a car and tour LA for the day. Since we wanted to get the most time out of the day, we decided to go with the self debarkation method. We were instructed to wait in our cabins until sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 when they would make a general call to leave. At 7:15 the call went out for all self debarkation passengers to head towards the lobby. We made the trek from our aft cabin to the front elevator (the only one available for self debarkation). After waiting in the lobby in a line for ten minutes, we crossed the docking ramp, stood in a customs line for 3 minutes and left the building. We expected that the process to take a lot longer, but we were on our airport shuttle 15 minutes after we left the cabin.
Overall this was a tremendous experience and I look forward to cruising again in the very near future.