By Ellen Uzelac, Cruise Critic contributor
Carnival Splendor Overview
Carnival Splendor is a big vessel with a huge personality -- and it has already set itself apart in grand style. For starters, Splendor has inaugurated a new cabin category, the spa cabin, which is as much about lifestyle as real estate. A retractable sky dome covers Splendor's pool deck, which is something new for Carnival; it means that passengers can swim when it's balmy -- and when it's not. And with Splendor, the line introduced its first-ever itineraries in the Baltic and South America, a notable expansion for the fleet.
Splendor is also Carnival's largest ship. Designed to accommodate up to 3,744 passengers, it deserves its own zip code. Remarkably, there is only an occasional sense of overcrowding, and there are plenty of quiet spaces -- like Serenity, the adults-only sun deck -- to seek respite.
The 113,300-ton Splendor marks a new class of vessel for Carnival. One of Splendor's most impressive features is its luxurious, 21,000-square-foot spa, the most elaborate in the fleet. Pan-Asian in design, the Cloud 9 Spa spans two decks and includes a state-of-the-art fitness center that easily rivals any at sea. And, with 22 lounges and bars, outdoor movies, a water slide and a singing maitre d', Splendor also delivers what Carnival passengers have come to expect: fun.
Splendor is designed around the theme of "splendid things," a celebration of the magnificent, lustrous and elegant. The center of it all is the atrium. I'm no architect, but when I first walked on board -- and I am not alone in reacting this way -- I felt under assault by a design that I can only describe as overwhelming. Carnival's longtime interiors designer Joe Farcus sees "whimsical" in the massive dining room chandeliers. I see a DNA helix. He sees "drama" and "excitement" in the squiggly pink and black image that appears on table tops, elevator panels and walls. I see an amoeba. And I've never stayed in a cabin that had bright pink crown molding and a pinkish couch before. Let's just say there is nothing understated about Splendor. Understandably, some passengers have nicknamed it "The Pink Ship."
Decor notwithstanding, Splendor has great bones and a festive spirit. I talked to a lot of passengers, many of them Carnival loyalists, and asked a single question: "Are you having fun?" In just about every case, the answer was an emphatic "yes."
Carnival Splendor Fellow Passengers
On our cruise, most of the 3,150 passengers were American, along with nearly 400 Canadians and a handful of other nationalities. There were a lot of families and groups of as many as 80 people, who routinely travel together. The age spread was all over the place -- from retirees to kids in strollers. In all, there were just fewer than 200 guests younger than 21 on our non-school-holiday sailing.
Carnival Splendor Dress Code
Casual attire is the order of the day. However, there is a dress code at night. On cruise casual evenings, men are encouraged to wear slacks, khakis, jeans or long dress shorts and collared sport shirts. Casual dresses, skirts, pants and tops, Capris, dress shorts and jeans are fine for the ladies. Not permitted in the dining room on cruise casual nights: flip-flops, bathing suit attire, cut-offs or sleeveless shirts for men.
On cruise elegant nights, men should wear dress slacks and shirts, and sport coats are recommended. Women should pack cocktail dresses, pantsuits or fine skirts. Expressly not permitted are T-shirts, sportswear and baseball hats.
One of the recurring complaints we heard from Carnival loyalists was the failure of many passengers to adhere to a dress code on more formal nights. It's a valid complaint. Probably one-third of the diners at our early-seating dinner on one cruise elegant night were dressed inappropriately -- any number wearing sports jerseys and ball caps. I, of all people, do not enjoy getting dressed up, but I agree with those who complained: It's time to raise the bar.
Carnival Splendor Gratuity
Carnival recommends $11.50 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $5.80 to dining room services, $3.70 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff.
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