My husband and I booked this cruise last year as we were planning our wedding. We chose Carnival cruise line because it seemed to have a great bang for our buck. We were very excited to find that by booking so early we locked in a decent rate and were able to get the coveted extended aft balcony. The balcony was worth the extra money compared to the inner cabins I have stayed in before, especially for a honeymoon.
Parking at the Long Beach terminal was hassle free and safe for our car. Though the $105 we had to pay for the parking was unfortunate, it was a great option for us to know that we didn't have to worry about our car, and enabled a quick escape at the end of the cruise (we got out of the ship and terminal in a matter of 20 min including customs!). We were able to board the ship earlier than the 1 o'clock time stated on the website. We got on about 12:30 and there were already so many people on board that we had trouble finding a seat on the Lido deck while we waited for our room to be open at 2pm.
As stated in many other review across the web, the decor of the ship is very pink and a bit tacky, but nothing so bad to ruin a cruise. We don't choose a ship solely based on the decor anyways. The layout of the whole ship had both of us and many other guests finding it hard to find a way across the ship without being stuck behind a dining room. Also, the ceilings are very low at around 7 feet in most of the areas.
We knew ahead of time that the only sodas on board were of the coke family and were a bit disappointed, but again, it wouldn't keep us from booking the cruise.
The room was absolutely fantastic! It was large and had plenty of space near the door for our 2 very large and one small bag. With three closets and 5 drawers, there was plenty of space for all of our stuff! Our room stewards were always nice and friendly and kept the room so nice that I'm sure I'm spoiled for good. They made adorable towel animals every night and made sure that we always had everything we needed. The balcony was worth every penny we spent. It made our honeymoon special as we were able to lounge together without feeling like we were being bothered by anyone else.
The food on the ship was as to be expected for those of you who have already cruised. The lido buffet was decent and the deserts were kinda ugh. The chocolate buffet everyone was so excited about was barely so-so. The pizza and burger/hot dog and grill were good and always cooked right in front of you, so you got hot, fresh food. The best buffet type food however was the Mongolia Grill. Basically it was stir-fry with a choice of three proteins (that rotated between pork, beef, shrimp, chicken and calamari). Not only was it delicious (get the Szechuan... not to hot, but packed full of flavor!) but it felt like one of the more healthy options in the Lido area. Also was cooked to order, so came out nice and hot.
The food in the main restaurant very good. Don't miss the Lobster (duh), the chicken with lemongrass soup, the gazpacho, or the St. Louis style Ribs. Avoid the penne pasta (cooked very hard and tasted like Chef Boyardee made it) and the Mahi-Mahi. The only deserts worth mentioning were the Warm Melting Chocolate Cake (so good and served every day) or the old fashioned apple pie.
The activities offered by Carnival are classic and tired staples in the cruise industry. However, unlike other cruise lines, the trivia bordered on infantile and the daily puzzles were impossible to do, due to the lack of actual clues for crossword puzzles. The pictures were perfectly fine but had an extra fun "old fashioned" night, which is worth checking out. Also, the Grand Piano bar was fun until the piano player was literally fired and kicked off the boat after 2 days. A must catch is the Mini Martini tasting. Even my girly drink loving husband loved them! The Spicy Chipotle martini is a definite try. However the cost is $17 per four mini martinis, so if you already know what drink you like, just buy the big kid version for around 8 dollars. Also a must catch is the Sail away party the last night of the cruise where free drinks are served, but is not advertized except once at the beginning of the cruise. It lasts only 45 minutes, but the waiters are generous with the refills. The hot tubs were nice, but almost like a warm bath and not a hot tub. The pool was filled with salt water with was odd and unexpected.
The major disappointment was with our dinner server. He never remembered who we were and could barely speak any English. Our dinners would always take an hour and fifteen minutes, with eating time being around 30 min or so. Tons of waiting around, and the "show" put on by the staff each night made waiting for the dessert horrible. Sitting at a table for two is usually nice because of the extra attention, but we were ALWAYS served after the two other huge tables who would always show up after us and still got their food first. After reading our daily news bulletin we saw that we could redistribute the tips for the crew and were anxious to give our room stewards extra money that our waitstaff was almost refusing to earn. When we went to guest services, we were met by a very harsh and condescending woman who informed us that we needed to talk to the maitre 'd first. When we explained that we would do it later, but still wanted to change the tips, she then informed us that because we prepaid the tips, we would be unable to change the tips, but only after spending 5 minutes trying to understand how we wanted the tips changed.
We'd give the Carnival Splendor a grade of
Dining Room Food: B+
Room and Room Service: A+
Ship layout and decor: C-
Overall: C- The greatness of the room and the food couldn't get us to overlook the other portions of the cruise that were extremely lackluster. Unless we cruise with family who chooses Carnival, we will not be sailing with them again.