For Thanksgiving 2011, two friends accompanied me for my eighth cruise and second on the Splendor, famous for having suffered a crippling fire that stranded its passengers at sea in November 2010. Carnival is a very decent value; you and 3,000 others can travel on the newish Splendor (it first sailed in 2008) for a relatively low price. In return, you get above-average food, a marvelous crew and a ship with very glitzy, Vegas-type styling with lots of pink circles everywhere. On the downside, areas of the ship can feel quite crowded: lines for the Splendido buffet are often very long and slow-moving, and the jacuzzi pools are always loaded with people (they desperately need to install several more of these). To its credit, Carnival has eliminated smoking from the piano bar and other lounges, although smoking is still allowed in the casino, which you unfortunately have to pass through to get to various popular attractions on the ship. My favorite thing about Carnival is that they offer numerous musical performers; this sailing offered the excellent James Morris at the piano bar; SummerBreeze, a male-female Filipino duo in the lobby; and a wonderful Latin-jazz performance by the ship's main orchestra, led by a Russian woman named Kate. The crew of the Splendor (mostly Filipino, Thai, Indian and Indonesian) is absolutely first-rate, efficient and friendly to a fault. Since my original trip on Splendor, Mazatlan has been eliminated from the ports of call in favor of a second day in Cabo, reportedly because of crime concerns, which is an excellent decision on Carnival's part. In the Black Pearl dining hall, maitre d Dessi was friendly and flawless, making guests feel very welcome; her servers are uniformly excellent. The ship is clean and nicely appointed, and I've even come to grow rather fond of the glitzy decor. Carnival desperately needs to resolve the overcrowding in the Splendido restaurant and can we please do something about kids punching all of the buttons in the elevators? Otherwise, I fully expect to sail on a Carnival ship again in the future—perhaps even on the Splendor. It's a excellent value.
Not sure if I'm allowed to post my video from the cruise, but let's try it: