Carnival Splendor Cruise Review by leesecruises: Family Cruising on the Splendor 7/17/2011
Overall Member Rating
Family Cruising on the Splendor 7/17/2011
Destination: Mexican Riviera
Embarkation: Los Angeles
We selected Carnival specifically for their Camp Carnival program. Our youngest is 2.5 and we wanted a ship that would have a program to keep her engaged so that "us parents" could have a bit of a vacation. Not so, it seems...
Since I prefaced this review with Camp Carnival, I'll start with that. We have 2.5- and 6-year-old girls and we knew that they would be separated by age group. Our youngest had a hard time adjusting to being away. We never really had a huge problem leaving her with a daycare for a few hours but for some reason, she didn't like Camp Carnival. We could only leave her for as long as it took for us to hit the track and gym then get dressed. Those were literally the only times we were able to do something on our own on the ship. We'd get a call on the ship-issued cell phone saying that "she's crying and doesn't want to participate." I know my kid cries... but she doesn't cry THAT much. I'm sure they don't want to spend the time (and staff) to console her. It's More quite unfortunate.
The 6-year-old, on the other hand, enjoyed a few programs but found herself bored whenever they would do video games and "free time" (which was probably half of the activities). They probably had 2 things that she fully enjoyed participating in, but other than that, she wasn't too fond of being in Camp Carnival. She thought of it as punishment sometimes and would rather stay in our room.
So needless to say, we were stuck with kids most of our cruise—not that we don't love them—but mom and dad need some alone time.
The splash park made kids shiver while at sea since it's so cold and windy. The splash park and slide are only open a few hours a day (2pm-5pm most days). The only time the kids wanted to enjoy it was after getting on the ship on a port day when they were hot and tired. But unfortunately, we'd get back too late (5pm) and the splash park was not utilized.
We never got to use the "Adults-only Serenity Area" (see above). But they had one main pool and another by the slide. The pool by the slide was rather deep for me (I'm short at 4'11") and I couldn't reach the bottom. The other pool was 4.5 feet which was manageable. But for most kids, the pool wasn't desirable due to its depth. So there were a lot of kids packing the 3 hot tubs.
The food was good... better than average, I suppose. We've had better on RCI and Celebrity. There was a good variety and I enjoyed the Indian food. Breakfast was interesting with baked beans and a chicken wrap thrown in the mix (who eats beans for breakfast?). I didn't discover the Rotisserie until the second to last day of the cruise. It's upstairs on the second floor of the buffet area and they don't do much to promote it. Food was presented out of order with condiments coming before the main food which caused a lot of back up and "mean glares." When we brought this up, the staff blamed it on the ship design - there were pre-built areas for cold food, hot food and sneeze guards.
Afternoon tea was served on Sea Days and was lackluster. They offered tea bags with sort-of hot water and squeezed as many people as they could in the back of the Gold Pearl dining room. They didn't put much effort in the creativity of tea sandwiches and other offerings. The only good thing I had was a chocolate French macaron.
We chose an early-seating dinner at the Gold Pearl Dining room. They stuck us in a booth next to a service area. Which, I guess, makes sense because our kids can't seem to act properly at a dinner table sometimes. Perhaps they looked at the age of our kids and found the "best" spot for us. The kids were offered a coloring page every night and one crayon (which caused a lot of arguments over color selection). The kids menu had your standard chicken nuggets, fries, burgers, etc. Our kids somewhat grew tired of the menu and had samples off our plates. The soups were all cream-based - even the fruit and vegetable ones. Food was better-than-average, but not spectacular. I was satisfied with the quantities but found myself constantly craving more vegetables. It seems that vegetables were an after-thought or just used as garnish. The melting chocolate cake that everyone raves about is no more than a soufflE gone wrong - you end up eating raw cake batter with your ice cream. It wasn't good.
The "Chocolate Extravaganza" is anything but. It's just a staff-manned chocolate fountain with stuff you can choose to dip. There were items on the other side of the buffet but I didn't get to take a good look.
We only saw one show and it was a broadway-style (not broadway-quality) show. There were a list of comics on board and we were able to catch one at the end of the cruise and the lounge was packed. He was pretty funny though some jokes went right over the kids' heads. The list of activities was surprisingly sparse. It seemed like there were one or two activities every few hours - most had to do with shopping or gambling. It didn't interest us much. The list of activities picked up, by far, on the last sea day - as if they wanted you to leave with a good impression.
Being on a budget and knowing that we don't spend a lot of time in our room, we booked an inside stateroom on deck 2, smack-dab in the middle of the ship. You can't get any more stable than that! The room was surprisingly spacious for what it was. It was a lot larger than other inside rooms from our previous cruise. Our kids enjoyed the bunk beds and we had a king bed (2 twins put together) centered under the bunks. We were able to easily get around with the 4 of us in the room and at one point we had all 4 of us in the bathroom (me bathing a kid, one kid waiting and dad brushing teeth). There was also a lot of closet space, with 3 closets with hangers and one full of shelves. It was more than enough for our family and quite comfortable.
Unfortunately, our oldest kid loved being the room and the little one needed naps so we found ourselves spending A LOT of time in our room - more than we (my husband and I wanted).
Our cruise had late-night partiers on our floor so we'd wake up in the middle of the night with people getting back to their rooms and kids running the halls. Walls are thin on cruise ships!
The staff, well...
Our room attendant was nice. He did get my name wrong at one point but at least he got the first and last letters - and he did try to remember. So I have to give him credit for that. He even set out my kid's toys neatly for them at night.
There was room-service food sitting out in the hall longer than it should have. Other than that, the room attendants seemed very nice and friendly.
The staff in the buffet don't really try to please you, they just get their job done - whether it's cooking or picking up. When you ask for a bottle of Tabasco it takes them SO LONG to find one. Or if you ask where the napkins are, they'll point it out but won't go out of their way to fetch one for you. I guess we've been spoiled on our first two cruises where the service was way above par and we've come to expect that from others.
The wait staff in the main dining room was good. I'm used to crumbs being quickly picked up on my table but that never happened. We only saw the Maitre'd once. The wait staff did "showtime" every night where they either sang or danced. They seemed to enjoy being the entertainment. Whenever we'd leave before "showtime" our waiter's assistant would have a disappointed look on his face and say, "no dessert?" Our waiter, Randy, delivered our food quickly (sometimes before other tables who have seated before us), with the kids being served first. He wasn't that engaging but did remember that my husband wanted escargot from day 1 and gave him an extra helping when it was on the menu on day 6.
The ship seemed small from the inside because of the 2-story Black Pearl dining room cutting through-access on the ship. It was hard to get around when you have to go up and over the restaurant to get to another place on the same floor. So it led to a lot of confusion and I finally got it down on the 5th day. There wasn't really an large open "promenade." It was more of a lobby on the 3rd deck and stores surrounding it on the 4th and 5th decks.
There were a lot of bars/lounges that seemed under-utilized. At any given point, there were 2-3 lounges that were empty. It was quite disappointing and led you to believe that there wasn't much going on.
The Sushi bar seemed to be the teen hangout - which made sense since it was outside of the teen club (O2). It was nice to see kids hanging out and not causing trouble.
The spa area looked nice and was enviable! We didn't utilize any of it but would love to if we didn't have to constantly be called on our ship-issued phone. We did, however, use the gym. The gym was small and PACKED. The treadmills faced the side of the ship instead of the front, so it looked like you were going to run off your machine at times. There were a few weight machines tightly packed next to each other and a good selection of free weights. There isn't much floor space when the group exercise room was being used.
So you had to scrounge for a spot to stretch or do yoga or even lift a few weights.
The track is on the opposite end the ship from the gym. It felt weird to do my run then cross the jacuzzis and people eating to get to the gym and finish my workout. You have to run the track 10 times to get a mile and man, people were aggressive! I think I lost count at times but I think I managed to do 1.5 mile (I could have done more, but I was done with the crazy running man passing me with his sweat blowing in my face).
We visited Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. The itinerary initially stated two consecutive days in Cabo San Lucas and the third day in Puerto Vallarta. Due to hurricane Dora, the captain decided to head to Puerto Vallarta a day early to beat the storm. Once we got on the ship after visiting Vallarta, it started to rain the lightning storm gave us quite a show! It was very exciting. We soon found out that we were going to return to Cabo the next day.
I think this cruise needs a third port since they've removed Mazatlan. We've cruised to the Mexican Riviera before and it was nice to have the change of scenery with the 3rd port - and it felt like it added more value to the cruise.
All in all, it was a good cruise, but certainly not relaxing for me and my husband. I think the ship could be better - it seems very casual, which is nice for some people, but it didn't make me feel particularly special. I probably would wait a few more years for the kids to get older to go another family cruise. But for now, I think I'll look in another cruise in the near future... for two.
We chose self-assist. It was easy - even with customs. We docked at 5am or 6am and people were getting off the ship around 7:00am. We probably started making our way off the ship around 7:40 and were out of the parking garage by 8:00am. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Pros: Cheap beer. You can get $1 and $2 beers at the OXXO close to the marina.
Fun bargaining. There's a lot of vendors to bargain with - even the companies who have water activities.
If you are a geocacher there are a few to find here!
Cons: Dangerous waters at Pelican Rock/Lovers Beach. It's beautiful and you can see tropical fish. Our boat driver questioned our decision to spend time there with the kids. We thought we would be okay since we live in a beach city and go to the ocean practically every weekend when it's warm. However, we almost lost our 6 year old after a huge wave knocked her off of a rock and sucked her into the ocean - I almost went along with her while trying to help. Luckily my husband was able to save her and a few men were able to help my husband back on shore. After that incident we saw 3 more people get pulled out on the water, with one guy having to be resuscitated. Medano beach is much more calm, I've heard.
Not much to do with young kids. It's more of a party-atmosphere.
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Bring a sweater!