With soft blue hues, fiberglass stage curtains and chandelier lights dripping with sparkling beads, the stylish, tri-level, 1,400-seat Spectacular Spectacular sets the stage for the main evening entertainment. The program kicks off with a "welcome aboard" song-and-dance performance, and rotates out several Broadway-style spectacles throughout the course of the cruise (typically with two seatings per night) that tout themes like Latin music ("Fiesta Latina") or, our personal favorite, high-energy rock 'n' roll show "Vrooom," featuring tunes from the likes of Elvis and Pink Floyd. In other evening time slots, the show lounge plays host to game show-style interactive events (a la Family Feud), while during the day, it stages orientations, lectures, Dr. Seuss Story Time, bingo games and more.
What would a Carnival cruise be without bingo, trivia contests (on everything from Dr. Seuss to Star Wars), bean bag tosses, towel animal theater and the men's hairy chest contest? Now that's entertainment. The busy daily program on any given day might highlight spa seminars, cooking demos, art talks and auctions, sports tournaments (e.g., lobby bowling, volleyball and Ping-Pong), shop talks and sales, card/gaming tournaments (Texas Hold'em, blackjack, etc.), early-morning stretch classes and more. Look, too, for one-off events like a sailaway party, ice carving demo, and a Dr. Seuss character parade and Story Time event. DJ-spun or live music is typically held poolside and/or in the main lobby during the afternoon.
The smaller aft-side 425-seat theater/lounge El Morocco exudes an exotic Northern Africa-inspired aesthetic (animal prints, lanterns and tiles), with lounge-style entertainment anchored on evening comedy sets from Carnival's Punchliner Comedy Club program, curated by comedian George Lopez. Sailings rotate a changing roster of comedians who typically perform two nightly sets, one for families and ones for adults only. At other times, El Morocco hosts lectures, game shows and karaoke.
On our cruise, the 8,500-square-foot Royal Flush Casino, open pretty much around the clock when not in port, was consistently packed with gamblers. The space, with capacity for close to 500 gamers, comes with about 200 slot machines and plenty of casino prize games and gaming tables. The decor plays up the "royal flush" theme with a playing card motif that covers the ceiling and literally comes out of the walls with card-inspired sculptures. Numerous evening card tournaments (especially for Texas Hold'Em) are scheduled here, while regular bingo games unfold in the main show lounge.
Art talks/auctions, karaoke and shop events continue through the early evening. Nighttime game shows are especially popular, like Family Feud or the Love & Marriage Show (held in the Spectacular Spectacular). On one night of the cruise, there's a grown-up late-night scavenger hunt held onboard, dubbed the Carnival Quest.
Another big evening draw are the photo ops -- Carnival is quite good at setting up diverse photography backdrops around the ship, and getting pro shots taken is a big draw, especially on elegant nights.
For live music, look to the lobby stage for a live band or acoustic performer playing variety music or the casino stage for lively party music. The Robusto Bar hosts regular Latin music, while the Grand Piano Bar puts on live piano tunes nightly. There's a Caribbean-themed beach party on the Lido Deck one night of the cruise, and a handful of special scheduled evening gatherings (held at assorted venues) that cater to LGBT groups, singles (ages 40-plus) and more.
Another fun Splendor feature is its Dive-In Movies, held poolside on the Lido Deck, under the stars (a retractable roof ensures all-weather access), with films screened nightly on a 270-square-foot screen.
Carnival Splendor Bars and Lounges
About half of the Splendor's 20-plus lounges and bars are distinctive spaces touting their own personalities, while the other half are more discreetly hidden away in eateries and in the main theater. The Promenade Deck, on Deck 5, is the social and imbibing center of Splendor, with the casino and a number of distinctively themed lounges.
Most beverages -- and all alcoholic ones -- are priced a la carte; unlimited alcohol (with a 15-drink daily limit) and soda packages are available at a daily rate (though they must be purchased for the duration of the cruise).
Splendor Bar (Deck 3): Though this pink-and-gold hued lobby bar itself only has seating for 10, surrounding tables with comfy seats invite lingering near this always-crowded ship hub. The space anchors the soaring, illuminated atrium above, and touts a stage (and dance floor) for live music, trivia events and more.
Robusto Bar (Deck 4): The most sophisticated venue on the ship, this dark wood-paneled room comes with brown leather seating for nearly 150 patrons and a stage for live nightly Latin musical entertainment.
Our House (Deck 5): Don't miss the big game just because you're at sea, thanks to this 55-seat sports bar outfitted with numerous flat-screens, brown leather banquettes and stadium-inspired decor, set just off the casino.
Oceanview Bar (Deck 5): This slender strip of a lounge proposes intimate seating nooks with expansive windows overlooking the sea on one side and a bustling pedestrian promenade on the other. Great for people-watching, the bar boasts a stage for nightly musical entertainment with an area for dancing, and is serviced by a busy bar just adjacent to the casino.
El Mojito (Deck 5): This circular Havana-inspired wine and mojito bar offers an intimate space with seating for just 30 patrons, tucked into a circular nook marked by dark wood paneling, oversized pillars and wooden stools.
The Red Carpet (Deck 5): This red-hued 18-and-over dance club (you'll be greeted with mannequins waiting in line on the "red carpet" out front) is the ship's hub for late-night action, with a live DJ (trained in Carnival's DJ IRIE's Spin'iversity program) spinning tunes with themes like '80s hour and "electric white night."
The Cool (Deck 5): Designed as a jazz club, with a stage and dance floor, leather seating (with room for nearly 90 patrons) and murals depicting jazz great Miles Davis, this lounge has been surprisingly relegated to serving as little more than the onboard smoker's lounge, where cigar-and-whiskey events are hosted some nights.
Grand Piano (Deck 5): Tune in to near-nightly singalong piano music at this atmospheric piano bar, with seating for 100. Pull up a stool at the fun keyboard-themed bar that encircles the pianist, and be first in line for requests.
El Morocco (Deck 5): A secondary theater/lounge, El Morocco recreates the famous 1930s New York supper club of the same name with its zebra-patterned banquettes and palm trees. Nightly comedy shows are held here, along with frequent karaoke events.
Splendido Lido Bars (Deck 9): These twin bars flanking the Splendido Pool and its stage for live music are probably the most used on the ship, turning out buckets of beer and frothy cocktails to the daytime pool crowd and evening drinks for Dive-In Movies spectators.
Liner Lido Bar (Deck 9): This popular daytime watering hole services the adults-only aft-side swimming pool, and also turns out beverages for diners in the adjacent Lido Buffet.
Carnival Splendor Outside Recreation
Not surprisingly, Splendor's pools, sun decks and sports decks are big draws. In all, there are three pools and five hot tubs, along with a water slide and water-spray park for kids.
The central Splendido Lido pool is popular with families, featuring a large, open, glass-walled area that's two decks high. It can be closed in inclement weather with a retractable sky dome. A highlight of this dramatic space is the Seaside Theater with its 270-square-foot, outdoor screen, which shows concerts, sports, movies and more throughout the day and into the night. One particularly nice touch is the placement of two hot tubs; they're inset into both sides of the deck and offer terrific sea views.
Splendor's aft pool deck is airy and welcoming, offering transporting views over the ship's wake and open sea. Because of its proximity to the buffet and bars, its two roomy hot tubs and adults-only status, it's a favorite hangout for those traveling without kids.
A small lesser-used pool, the so-called Thunderball Pool, is located midship on Deck 11, just adjacent to the water slide's landing zone.
Kids of all ages get a kick out of the spiraling 214-foot-long Twister water slide (access to the top of the slide is from Deck 14), which empties out next to the Thunderball Pool on Deck 11. Nearby, a small kids' splash park offers slides and water features geared toward the 11-and-under set.
On Deck 14, look for an elaborate nine-hole mini-golf course that's free to play, as well as a convertible basketball/volleyball court. Deck 10 is home to a pair of Ping-Pong tables. There is also a nearly life-size chess set for alfresco strategizing on the Lido Deck.
All three pools come with surrounding sun decks that are equipped with cushioned loungers; there are some additional loungers up on Deck 12, overlooking the main pool. Adults traveling alone will enjoy Serenity, the quiet adults-only sun deck, way up on Deck 12 at the front of the ship, which is outfitted with comfortable lounge chairs and tables.
Carnival Splendor Services
In the main lobby, at the base of the ship's multistory atrium on Deck 3, passengers can access the guest services and shore excursions desks; guest services is open around the clock, though you'll need to consult the daily program for shore excursion desk hours. Travelers interested in booking a future cruise can check in at the designated reception desk on Deck 5.
Atlantic Deck, on Deck 4, houses the library, which, while tastefully appointed with leather seats and Alexandria-inspired murals, has limited hours (as in, an average of just one hour per day on our sailing) and a limited selection. Our advice? BYOB -- bring your own books.
The Internet cafe, open 24/7 on Deck 4, is tucked away, midship, in a small room that adjoins the Robusto Bar. If you can find it, there are some dozen computers. Passengers can also use their laptops throughout the ship, which offers wireless Internet access. Pricing is the same for the ship's computers as it is to access the Web on personal laptops: $16/day for Internet access (or $25/day for a premium high-speed connection), or $5/day for access to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; bulk full-cruise plans are also available.
Splendor also has several do-it-yourself laundry and ironing rooms. Washers and dryers cost $2 each and take quarters.
An art gallery is located near the entrance to The Black Pearl restaurant on Deck 3. To review photos or purchase camera- and photo-related gear, visit the Pixels Gallery on Deck 4.
Also on Deck 4 is a boardroom for meetings, hidden away in a little-trafficked area of the ship. A doctor-equipped medical center is situated on Deck 0.
Shops come clustered together on Deck 5, outside of the entrance to the show lounge. Look for a special occasion shop selling candy, flowers and the sort; as well as a duo of duty-free shops. One focuses primarily on apparel, Carnival-branded gear, chocolates and liquor; the other on perfume, jewelry, watches and cosmetics.