Timing of Cruise:
Overall, this was probably not the best time to cruise out of Long Beach to the Mexican Riviera. Leaving Long Beach, it was very cold and windy. The cruise had one day at sea, three days in port, then another two days at sea. The only warm days were the days in port at Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. All three of the days at sea were extremely cold, windy, cloudy and misty. The last day, they pulled the cover over the Lido deck pool to try to warm things up. The last two days at sea, when the ship is traveling from PV back up to Long Beach, the route must be against the wind and currents because it was quite rough. The crew had to tape up vomit bags by the elevators the last night at sea.
Embarkation was a bit chaotic, but moved well. Probably wouldn't have seemed so painful if it had been warm weather outside.
We had a balcony room, and our kids (college-age) shared an outside ocean view room. Probably because we had a balcony, our kids' ocean view room was actually bigger than our balcony room. Both were fine, with plenty of storage space. Nice showers with hot water that could be set to just the right temperature. We took advantage of the policy that allows passengers to bring aboard up to 12 cans or bottles on board, and stuffed those in our mini-fridge for throughout the trip. Bed was comfortable with soft, clean sheets and pillows.
Our cabin stewards were terrific, very friendly and very accommodating. Learned our names right away and tried to help whenever we had a question.
The food was simply awful. The Lido buffet was always crowded, and the food was about what you'd expect from a high school cafeteria. No soda or pop is available at the buffet restaurants, only water, ice tea, lemonade, coffee, etc.
The dining room food was a little better, but very uninspired and bland. I tried the Caesar salad, but the dressing tasted like pure mayonnaise. Lots of fish and seafood on the starter and main menu, but not a lot of fresh fruits or fresh vegetables. The fruits (melons) they had were not ripe and hard.
Excellent! The waiter and all assistant servers were very friendly, and as efficient as they could be, but perhaps because it was such a full passenger load, they seemed very rushed and overworked. We would often see our meals, which arrived on trays with covered plates, sitting on the side board for several minutes before being brought to our tables.
Other than gambling, or activities that involve some sort of drinking, the only activity for an adult in the evening are the shows, which in this case, were actually pretty good. Good dancing, choreography, costumes, etc. The vocalists were difficult to listen to however, as they were one-note and very loud.
There were two comedians at the beginning of the cruise, and two on the last two days at sea. Most were very funny, especially at the adult-only gigs. One of the comedian's material was rather dated, and there's something creepy about listening to a 50+ year old man talk about sex with his 20-something wife.
There were a couple of quick (30 min) dance "classes" where a mass of people would crowd on to the stage and one of the Splendor dancers would teach a few steps. They had a Cha-Cha, line dancing and "Thriller" dance lesson. It was fun, but there was no place to practice what you'd learned, e.g. the Cha-Cha. No adult dancing, like swing, or country swing that we found on the ship, or at least none advertised. With the Mexican itinerary, it would have been fun to learn to salsa and to have a nightclub to dance salsa in.
The fitness center and the running track were both far too small for a ship of this size. The running track requires 10 laps to make a mile. Don't even try the fitness center in the morning, you'll never get a machine. The best time to go is just before dinner, at around 4-5pm.
The cruise director Tod, and his assistant Bryan, were horrible. All the games and events they participated in seemed to involve sex, and the gay innuendos and jokes got very old, very fast. We didn't see activity staff around as much as on other cruises (maybe because the at sea days were so darn cold no one was out on deck).
Carnival is known for its tacky interior decorating, but this ship is truly horrendous. Way too busy, too gaudy, with no actual theme to the interior design. There is a pervasive smell throughout the ship, couldn't tell if it smelled like sewer or just old stinky socks. Particularly bad in the Lido deck buffet. Starting to show its age, with shabby carpet and upholstery in some area, such as the dining room.