This was my 3rd cruise on Carnival. Carnival is more of a budget cruise line and I had cruised the Mexican Riviera previously on NCL. I had planned to take another NCL cruise, but they no longer sail in the Mexican Riviera.
We saw the reviews of the Splendor and were prepared for the strange "pink" decor. I have to say, I'm stumped as to what Carnival or the designer was thinking. They could have done anything, but a good amount of the ship had very strange design elements with clashing colors and patterns. We opted for assigned dining in the Golden Pearl and some of the elements were nice, but what's up with the "fried eggs" all over the ceiling? The Lido deck areas looked like a kids craft project.
Some of the show lounges also had too many competing designs going on - the Morrocan had blue stars plus multicolored flowers on the ceiling, red/yellow carpet, red chairs, zebra print chairs, palm trees, etc. Too much going on!
The Spectacular Spectacular theater was actually tastefully decorated in blue and silver (although the decorations are somewhat cheap looking).
The hallways to the rooms had this vintage 40's vibe with muted colors which was nice...too bad they didn't do more of this around the ship!
We had an aft balcony room (more on that later) that was mostly pink tones, but this wasn't too bad - it reminded me of plenty of hotels I've stayed in.
The food was pretty much what we expected with a few good surprises. For breakfast, we tried a few different options - the buffet and the dining room. In general, we liked the dining room best because we got more refined choices and didn't have to wait in line. We woke up too late to do this a couple of times, so the buffet was fine.
Lunch is served in the dining room on days at sea only and I recommend this option if you can make it work with your schedule. We had lunch on 2 different days and it was really nice and included dessert options.
The lunch buffet was ok as well - we ate at the grill, had pizza, tried the Mongolian Grill and did the standard Lido buffet. There were always different options and for the most part we found something we liked. We also ordered room service one day and had some really tasty sandwiches.
Dinner was decent. We ate at the Steakhouse the second night and we heard from our Golden Pearl table mates that dinner on the second night wasn't very good. I did like that they had a standard menu and then a new menu each night. There were always choices on the standard menu (steak, chicken, etc.) in case we weren't digging what they had on the daily menu. Dessert options were pretty good and each night they offered a "diet cake" option which was essentially a cake made with Splenda. We noticed that the same diet option would appear in the lunch buffet the following day, so I'm not sure if they were serving dinner leftovers or what. However I did try a couple of the diet cakes and they were very good.
The steakhouse was better than we expected. We had read in reviews that it was only so-so, so we didn't have high expectations. But it was a very nice dining experience and I would say it was close to a 4-star restaurant. Everything was extremely tasty and the service was excellent. I didn't quite get why they went around to each table with a tray of raw meat to show the dinner choices - I don't tend to find raw meat appetizing. I know they were trying to give people an idea of the different cuts of meat before ordering and I appreciate that, but raw meat isn't necessarily the way to go.
We got a great deal on an Aft Balcony room. It wasn't until after we had already booked that we came across several reviews for the exact cabin we had booked where we discovered it was directly above the Morrocan and suffered from quite a bit of noise from the sound system and vibrations from the base. I tried calling to see if we could switch, but the upcharge was more than I wanted to spend, so we decided to roll with it.
It helped knowing this going in and I would recommend to Carnival that they have a disclaimer that goes with this cabin. It didn't end up being a problem for us because we went to the late shows and usually by the time we returned to our cabin, there was no more music from below. The rest of the time, the cabin was quiet and peaceful - with the exception of some loud guests one night. I think we would have been annoyed had we not known about this in advance.
We LOVED LOVED LOVED our cabin! This was our first time with a balcony and I won't ever get anything else. We had a good amount of space and the balcony was nice sized. Having space to move around and the option of going on the balcony meant we could spend time in our room if wanted and actually enjoy it! The bathroom was more spacious than the last cruise we took. While the bathrooms are never huge on cruise ships, there was room for both of us to put our toiletries.
I did have trouble getting hot water the first night - I'm not sure how the system works so maybe everyone was taking showers at the same time. It was better after that.
We propped open our balcony door several nights - it was great to sleep to the sound of the ocean. We did get a fair amount of boat motion in our room on a few nights. The water was a bit choppy, but we didn't mind it - I just mention it because someone else might have an issue.
Our room steward was very nice and helpful. We also had a very competent waiter at dinner although he was newer to the staff, so his English was still a bit rusty. I have seen a lot of folks complain about the dining room entertainment - not sure why. It's was a nice break for the night and everyone had a lot of fun! There were a few people who REALLY got into it and they were entertaining to watch.
The rest of the staff we encountered were helpful and polite.
We did a few things - but maybe not as much as some people. We caught a couple of shows and they were just ok. I will say this is one area that I'm a bit disappointed. The very first cruise I took with Carnival a few years ago had some really cool shows and NCL also had great entertainment. The past couple of Carnival cruises we have taken, the entertainment has been a little boring. We do really like the comedy shows. This cruise had a total of 4 comedians - 2 for the first half, and 2 for the second half. Out of the the 4, only two of them were really funny - and we truly enjoyed them. The others were just meh.
We played bingo one day - it was ok. Not much fun waiting in line for cards though. The deck parties were not really our thing. We stopped by, but didn't stay.
We had a spa treatment on the first Cabo port day (you can get the best specials on port days) and it was very enjoyable.
We are "gym rats" so we did visit the gym several times, but it was lacking in a lot of ways. If there were a lot of people, it was impossible to even complete a workout because of the lack of equipment. I have seen bigger and better gyms on other ships. If all you are looking for is a treadmill or elliptical, they had plenty of those.
Not to put anyone else off, but I personally don't understand why people bring kids on a cruise. I have 3 kids but I leave them at home! Regardless, there were plenty of adults-only areas which was very nice. Towards the end of the cruise, the were huge groups of kids just running around up and down the stairs which was annoying. They were obviously bored and out of things to do. There does seem to be plenty of kid friendly activities on the ship, but 7 days may just be too long for little ones.
We were due to go to Cabo twice and Puerto Vallarta once. A day or so into our cruise, there was word that a hurricane was headed straight for Puerto Vallarta. The captain/cruise director made the decision to not go to Puerto Vallarta for safety reasons and were able to put together a stop in La Paz. I was pretty impressed with how quickly they were able to organize a stop in La Paz - a port that doesn't really even have room for a cruise ship and obviously doesn't get them regularly. The had a handful of excursions to choose from - shopping or beach/diving options. La Paz (means "Peace") was just that - a peaceful fishing village. It is apparently a marine biologist mecca where many come to study all the marine and plant life. They have an 8-mile boardwalk with artwork and sculptures along the shore that was very nice. I would have liked to have gone to Puerto Vallarta (been there before), but considering we could have not stopped at all, I was glad they worked so hard to come up with an alternative. We did a Carnival-sponsored excursion the second-day in Cabo. The Port had plenty of folks trying to sell cheap stuff. We picked up a couple of t-shirts and then did the beginner scuba which was really cool. The water was the perfect temperature!
We got to the terminal around noonish and stood in a pretty long line where they were checking people in outside. We were then directed to go inside where we went through security and onto the ship. It was apparent that they had begun checking people in inside as well - I think this option opens later. There weren't any lines - so I guess you can wait in line and get checked-in or wait a little while and go inside and check-in. I'm not sure when the indoor terminal opened.
We opted to do the self-assist debarkation. We got up a little late and had to rush - they were doing last call by the time we got ourselves together. That actually worked in our favor because we pretty much walked straight off the boat. The zone debarkation sounded like it had the potential to be chaotic and we didn't really want to leave our luggage outside our cabin...it really depends on your preferences. We missed breakfast because we got up late, but on past cruises, getting breakfast on debarkation day is a hassle.
The Queen Mary is docked at the Long Beach Harbor and we were really intrigued so we opted to go over and have Sunday Brunch there since we missed breakfast. They let us leave our luggage while we ate and took a tour of the ship. Brunch was AWESOME (but a bit pricey). The Queen Mary is rich with history and we really enjoyed walking through the ship. I would have loved to have stayed at the hotel (they let people stay in the ship cabins) and we probably would have come a day earlier to do this had we thought about it. It's worth seeing!
All-in-all we had a relaxing and enjoyable time. Carnival offers a lower cost cruises in general - which to me means you can get more for your money. It does also mean that it's not going to be a five-star luxury experience, but for the price, you really can't beat all the options!