We went on the Carnival Splendor for one reason: The Spa Cabins for a very competitive price. I am glad we made this choice as it turned out to be a wonderful cruise.
Reading so many negative reviews beforehand and having been on other -not always so great- Carnival ships, we did not really expect too much from the beginning. After all it is not a premium cruise line so you have to adjust your expectations.
The embarkation process was a bit slow, however reading about it on CruiseCritics we came prepared. We arrived shortly after 11am and were on board shortly after 12noon.
I am not sure why so many cruisers mention the overwhelming pink as I must have been either blind or on another ship :) Carnival Cabins have always been on the pink/beige side and the ships interiors are designed bold and exaggerated. Only the newest ships in the fleet are having a more stylish european influence.
They are called Carnival and they mean it! I found the ship's interior rather fancy and not disturbing in any way.
The layout, as some have mentioned, can be a bit confusing, however once you found out that you can walk through the whole ship on deck 5 it is not bad at all. You only need to get down a flight of stairs to get to the dining room. Though I agree that this might cause trouble for passengers with reduced mobility however it was never a problem to get an elevator which is pretty awesome for a ship this size with so many people on board.
The spa cabins are very nice with a different colour theme and different and/or additional amenities such as slippers and spa products. Our stateroom steward was very nice and efficient always addressing us by our names.
The Cloud 9 Spa is very nice and relaxing and was never too crowded. Two things I disliked was that the same music played over and over again every day for seven days. I think actually one channel played only one "spa" tune endlessly and the other played maybe 10 songs. That's it. If TV companies can manage to offer a 24hr Spa-Channel I think Carnival should be able to at least own a few different CD's. Very annoying. Also the fact that you always need to present yourself at the spa desk to exchange your sail and sign card for an access card and to get an arm bracelet (a different colour each day) is very inconvenient. No point of having a dedicated spa entrance if I need to pass by the desk all the time.
The food choices are decent enough to be able to find something delicious to eat at all times. Aside from the usual Pizza- and Sandwich corner and the Lido buffet they offered Indian dishes, Mongolian BBQ and a Rotisserie. Additionally, complimentary 24hrs In-room-dining is also available. The Golden Pearl dining room was not the best choice for breakfast however very nice for Lunch and Dinner. Although I agree that not all food choices might appeal to everyone there is still plenty of choice each day. Our dining room crew was very professional, polite, very efficient and truly caring always informing us about the choices offered and constantly assuring themselves that everything was to our taste.
The ship offers plenty to do for a 7 day cruise. From relaxing by one of the three pools or in a hot tub; having fun on the waterslide; enjoying the view from the adults only retreat; using the gym; having a Thirsty Frog (Carnival's own brew) in a bar; trying your luck in the casino; seeing one of the comedians, a show or some Karaoke; dancing..... whatever your mood is or the occasion, there is always something to do.
If you love loud music you are going to love the singers on the lido deck. However if you do not appreciate the same songs played over and over again in a volume that makes you regret you forgot the ear plugs you might opt for a more quiet area of the ship. Thankfully this is possible.
The scheduled ports of call were Cabo San Lucas (2 days) and Puerto Vallarta. On the first sea day however they announced that Puerto Vallarta had been cancelled due to Hurricane Jova and we were heading to La Paz instead. This was a pleasant surprise as La Paz is usually not a port one could easily get to as most cruise lines do not include a visit to the capital of the Baja California Sur.
Cabo San Lucas was a nice but touristy place with great beaches. La Paz was way more authentic and a great place to discover.
Overall we had a wonderful and relaxing cruise and would not hesitate to sail again on the Carnival Splendor.