We have cruised 10+ times over the past 10 years on NCL, Princess and HAL. I'm always looking for a good deal, preferably a mini-suite, for us three adults (myself, my wife and my 27 year old son). This cruise had the very forward cabin on the Lido deck at a great price ($2,800 for the three of us). The cabin was just a little smaller than a Ocean Suite, but it was the largest we've ever had.
I've read that Carnival will nickle and dime you, so I tried to be prepared by accumulating over $500 in on board credits and by pre-paying drink coupons and shore excursions. Even so, I left feeling somewhat taken advantage of. Stupid little things bothered me. For instance, on Princess, the coffee bar will sell you special coffee, but then give you little pastry treats or other goodies for free. Not on the Carnival Splendor. Here, you pay for the coffee and again for the pastries. Another example is the drink coupons. I pre-purchased 12 drink coupons. I thought I'd find them waiting for me in our cabin. No, you have to wait to get them at your first dinner. Then, they are only good for the cheapest price drink. If you want anything else (like a Pina Colada), you pay an additional $1.75. It's frustrating, constantly signing for these additional charges.
We had any-time dining. Food quality and service was inconsistent. If we came to eat just when the dining room opened, and asked for one of the better wait staff, things were great. But, if we arrived for any-time dining later, the food was cold and took a long time to arrive. Also, Carnival wait staff will stop serving in order to perform short shows in the dining room. We would rather that they didn't do this. You can watch your food sit on the serving stand while your waiter takes five minutes to sing and dance. Not fun if your hungry.
We enjoyed the Thermal Suite package. For $400, the three of us had full access to the special whirlpool, two saunas, two hot-bed area, and showers. The area was crowded early in the cruise, but thinned out later on. The $400 deal also included a one hour mud bath for myself and my wife. You have a sauna area set aside just for you with salts, mud, and milk to apply to each other. This area and and the cabin were the highlight of the cruise.
Entertainment seemed lacking. Four different comedians, a couple of production shows, and the normal deck events were there. But everything seemed packed with people and there were no really outstanding musical acts brought on. I don't know exactly how to describe this, but an example would be when the Sapphire Princess had a musician who had recorded with the Beach Boys. Or when we were on NCL and they had a musician who had recorded with the Commodores.
Public spaces are decorated in "loud" styles, with lots of pink circles everywhere. And, the areas seem designed to pack as many people in as possible. I never found any special areas on the ship's interior to sit and relax.
Finally, we enjoyed the benefit of special treatment getting onto the ship because we had a suite. That was great. But, disembarking using the self-assist method didn't go so well. They tell you to stay in your cabin until called and then proceed to the lobby area. We did this and were dumped into an overwhelming crowd of passengers who had apparently been in the lobby area for a long time. A couple of passengers tried to form a line, but this was impossible because the elevators kept dumping more and more people into this fray. This left us with bad feelings at the very end of our vacation. Not good.