While the vessel represents a new ship class for Carnival, it's not a complete departure for the line, and passengers will find the standard Carnival features: a large casino, flashy design schemes, a top-notch children's program, and a plethora of bars and discos. The ship's platform isn't entirely new either. It's based on Italian sister line Costa Cruises' Concordia-class ships, the first of which debuted in 2006.
However, there are some firsts being introduced, most notably in the areas of spa and itineraries.
Cloud 9 Spa. Decked out in Asian decor -- dragons, seated Buddhas, rice paper -- the 21,000-square-ft. facility houses a thalassotherapy pool, a thermal suite and 17 treatment rooms. Splendor will also introduce Carnival's first "spa staterooms." Passengers booked in one of the 68 spa-adjacent staterooms will receive unlimited use of the thermal suite and thalassotherapy pool, and other perks such as priority spa appointments and free fitness classes.
Passengers who've sailed on Costa Concordia or Costa Serena will recognize Cloud 9 as it is nearly identical to the spa on those ships.
Itineraries. Carnival will be introducing its first Northern Europe itineraries aboard Splendor, a series of 12-day summer voyages running through August 30, 2008; ports of call include Copenhagen, Warnemunde (Berlin), Helsinki, St. Petersburg (two days), Tallinn and Amsterdam.
After a stint in the Mediterranean, the line will reposition to the Caribbean, offering seven-night Eastern Caribbean sailings this winter out of Ft. Lauderdale. Carnival Splendor will also offer three South America cruises ranging from 14 to 18 nights, the first ever offered by the line and the voyages we're most excited about.
The ship will then head to its homeport of Los Angeles, offering year-round Mexican Riviera sailings beginning March 29, 2009.
Carnival Splendor debuts July 2 with an inaugural eight-day Western Europe voyage from Genoa to London (Dover). Once in Dover, the ship will be officially named on July 10 by British singer and celebrity personality Myleene Klass.
Cruise Critic will be reporting live from the christening, so stay tuned!
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor