Our 7 day cruise aboard the Carnival Splendour was overall Splentastic! We had a couple of criticisms but I would give the cruise a 4 out of 5 stars. I travelled with my hubby in our cabin and our daughter, son in law and 2 grandchildren age 7 and 6 in a cabin next door. I'm breaking up the review into the following categories - Embarkation - Cabin - Food - Service - The Ship - Amenities - Debarkation
Embarkation was rough, however I'm not sure how embarkation of a boat this size could be any better at this port. Long Beach's facility is in desperate need of an upgrade, so 3,400 folks getting off while 3,400 folks are trying to get on will cause a problem if you don't have the space to put everyone! Carnival's solution to the problem is zone boarding. We got to the port about 11:30 in the morning and we were assigned to zone 10. That was of course after waiting in line to check in. We were on board with a drink of the day in hand by 2:00 pm and our cabin was ready when we got on board. Not as bad as I have heard others say but still not perfect. Carnival did call us the day before and told us in a pre-recorded message not to arrive before 3:00. I don't know if it is better to wait or not though as my cabin was on the port side of the ship and the lines at 3:00 were way worse than ours at 11:30.
Our Cabin was balcony spa cabin 1103. The cabin itself was very spacious. It had the usual bed that we configured into a King and it had a couch as well as a mini fridge, safe, 3 closets and a bathroom. There are 4 drawers in the dressing table as well as 2 large drawers under the couch to use. Our large suitcases fit nicely under the bed. The room is decorated in an oriental theme. We did have a balcony which was the perfect size for 2 people. Our daughter was right next door so we were able to open the divider between the two balconies so that was nice. The television had an interactive spot where you could view the dining menus, your ship and sail account, and so on and we thought that was fantastic! The spa cabins give you unlimited use of some of their spa amenities to include the Thallasotherapy pool, 2 saunas and a relaxing room with heated chairs. You also got spa products in the cabin as well as free comfy slippers and a robe that was a little more upgraded than the usual cabin robes. The location of the cabin was excellent. Deck 11 is the top of the ship and the placement of the cabin is to the front of the boat. We were steps away from the pool but far enough away that the noise level was not bothersome. The cabin was right off the elevator which was convenient. Lido deck where the buffet and the main pool and huge television is located was just 2 decks below. Overall the cabin was very nice and I felt the location was ideal. I will say you will notice the swaying a little more here since you are at the top, but that didn't bother us at all. Our cabin stewards were fantastic and very very nice!
The food on board was very good. There were several choices for eating but I will start with the MDR. We ate in the main dining room (we were assigned to the Golden Pearl) and we chose early dining option at 6:15. Our dining room waiters were very good and got to know us well enough that they called us by our first names by the 2nd night and automatically brought us the things that we wanted each evening such as a diet coke or a glass of wine. I think overall we enjoyed every meal. We liked the fact that Carnival had some new items in a category they call "Didja Ever" and we were able to try things like alligator fritters and frog legs. We did think there were some nights that had alot of soup choices, but overall we liked the food. We never had a problem getting what we wanted and how much we wanted.
Other choices for dinner included the Lido Buffet, Hamburger Station, Pizza Station, Deli Sandwich station, Indian station and Rotisserie Station. We sampled from all but the Indian station and found all the food to be very good. The lines can be a bit much so go late in the serving times if you want to avoid. For hubby's birthday we did go to the Steakhouse. It was $30 a person but well worth the money. We both enjoyed a fillet and a lobster tail along with 2 starters, bread and a piece of cheesecake that I swear was 7 inches long by about 4 inches high. Neither one of us could finish desert. The service was great and we were able to view a beautiful sunset. If you want to eat at the steakhouse make your reservation before getting on board to insure the best table by the water. I found out that on boat bookings got tables on the other side of the room.
Breakfast choices were room service, the buffet on Lido and the MDR. We honestly used room service 2 times, went to the Lido deck once and the MDR every other day. We preferred the MDR to the rest, but I've never been one for a buffet situation. Again all the food was good with my only real criticism being the buffet on Lido being very crowded and the food being somewhat cold. If you want the best breakfast stick to the MDR.
Lunch choices were the same as dinner with the exception of the MDR. We usually found ourselves just grabbing a snack or a salad since we were full most days. I will say that the self serve icecream machine that is open 24 hours was my SIL's favorite and I'm pretty sure he ate his passage fare alone in that!
There was also a sushi bar that had great food and a coffee bar where you could pay a little for a "starbucks" style of coffee and a sweet something!
Over all our service was great. Cabin Stewards were friendly and very prompt and attentive. Waiters also very friendly and efficient. Throughout the boat all staff that you passed was always pleasant and greeted us. We had the kids in camp carnival and they loved it and really didn't want to leave most evenings. I have no complaints what so ever on the service. I will say that this was my 5th cruise and I have never met the maitre d, however this cruise Dessi Kostova was the maitre d and she was really really fantastic. She went out of her way to make my granddaughter's birthday really special. She saw we had a birthday crown on her head and she personally walked her to our table telling all the other tables that she was a birthday princess and they should wave to her. She then came over and sang to her with the waiters when she got her cake and took a picture with her. That was on day four and each night after that she came over and gave her a hug and a kiss. Completely blew us away with her attention. With all she has to do on a boat that size that personal touch went above and beyond!
This ship does have a very pink tone to it and it is HUGE. You get use to the pink quickly though. I have to say the decor wasn't the best I've seen and didn't have real continuity. Pink zebra stripes, with cartoon like faces in the corridors didn't really flow together well. Our cabin had an oriental theme which didn't really go with the rest. I really didn't like the decor in the dining room at all. Felt their interpretation of a pearl in an oyster shell looked more like a fried egg. I think the atrium was beautiful and I loved the fact that the elevators went straight to the top of the boat unlike some where the atrium doesn't go completely to the top. Deck 3 is the lobby and that is where the guest services, excursion desk was. Deck 4 is the photo gallery where all the pics will be located. I really think Carnival misses the boat on this as they still print out photos for everyone to crowd around and view. They really need to get into the digital age and offer a photo pass so that folks can view their photos directly on their room televisions. To me printing all those photos has to waste a ton of money! Deck 5 is the shops and where the casino is located. Casino is huge! The dining room is located to the rear of deck 3 however you cant get to it thru Deck 3 or 4 as the galley is in the middle so deck 5 to the rear of the ship and then down to 4 if you are on the upper floor of the dining room or 3 if you are on the ground floor. My only complaint was the windows were very dirty. I mean to the point you couldn't see out of some of them! Not good at all.
I thought this ships amenities were great. The spa was wonderful, however we didn't really use the spa amenities that came with our cabin like we had planned mainly because the first day we used them we found the Thallosotherapy pool to be lukewarm at best and the benches make you lay down not sit up. The saunas were so warm it was difficult to breathe in and the one that had the mentholated vapors were extremely overwhelming. We thought the relaxing chairs were great though and would have used them more but ran out of time.
We don't gamble but the casino was huge. Lots of smoke smell in there though so if you can't handle that stay away. The shops were good and had a lot of merchandise. They took tons of photos so you always had a good variety to pick from. The clubs were all good. Piano bar and Karaoke was very popular and crowded so get there early. The Punchliner comedy club had a family show as well as a R rated one. We also got 2 new comedians half way through the cruise so that was nice. Not sure if they do that every time but we literally got to see 2 completely different shows with different comedians. The comedy shows were also packed so get there early.
The main show lounge is Spectacular and I thought the shows were good. The Legends show on the last night has some of the passengers in it that auditioned early in the cruise. We were pretty impressed with our fellow passengers.
Camp Carnival was great and the staff was very good. Kids loved all the activities.
I thought debarkation was very easy and simple. We were zone 10 (not sure if that was because we were when we got on or what?) but we got into the main dining room for breakfast at 8:00 finished breakfast by 8:45 and by the time we got back to our cabins, brushed our teeth and grabbed our overnight bags our zone was called and we had cleared customs and had our bags into the car by 9:45. Simple and efficient.
Overall our trip was great! We did have some "cruise to lose" folks on board with Richard Simmons who were less than pleasant but we attributed that to the fact they were dieting ;-) I will review ports below. I give Carnival Splendour and staff 4 out of 5 stars and have already re-booked a cruise with them in January 2013 to go to Hawaii!