Carnival Splendor is a big vessel with a huge personality -- and it sets itself apart from the Carnival pack in grand style. For starters, Splendor inaugurated a new cabin category for the line, the spa cabin, which is as much about lifestyle as real estate. A retractable sky dome covers Splendor's pool deck, which marked something new for Carnival when it debuted (and remains the most notable example of the innovation within the fleet). It means that passengers can swim when it's balmy -- and when it's not -- and it's also the setting for the line's signature Dive-In Movies, fun film screenings set poolside under the stars.
Splendor is one of Carnival's largest ships, with 13 decks. Designed to accommodate up to 4,914 passengers at maximum full-berth capacity, it deserves its own zip code, and touts enough diversions to appeal to everyone from kids to seniors. 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 its own class of vessel for Carnival, basically a larger version of the ships from the line's earlier Conquest Class. One of Splendor's most impressive features is its expansive 21,000-square-foot spa, among 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. With more than a dozen lounges and bars, a water slide, mini-golf, multiple age-appropriate kids' programs, nonstop activities and a singing wait staff, Splendor makes good on delivering what Carnival passengers have come to expect: fun.
Splendor is designed around the loosely realized theme of "splendid things," with cheery and playful -- if sometimes jarring -- decor. We're not architects, but when we first walked onboard -- and we are not alone in reacting this way -- we felt under assault by a design that we can only describe as overwhelming. Carnival's longtime interior designer Joe Farcus sees "whimsical" in the massive dining room chandeliers. We 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. We see an amoeba. And we'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. We 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."