Carnival's "Fun Ships" pledge fun for everyone and earn high marks indeed for their cross-generational appeal. The cheery and flashy 3,006-passenger Carnival Splendor is no exception, and as one of the line's largest ships (and the only one in its class), it boasts a large canvas that's been colored with some distinctive features. Not only has Splendor been a launching pad for Carnival innovations (like the line's very first spa cabins or its newer Seuss at Sea program), but it comes chock-full of "wow factor" diversions, too, with an expansive spa, several age-appropriate kids' spaces, a massive film screen for outdoor movies and much more. Here are 10 reasons why Carnival Splendor is just the ship for you.
Carnival Splendor devotes a massive, bi-level 22,500-square-foot space on its forward-facing top decks to the health-and-wellness haven that is the Cloud 9 Spa -- one of the largest spas at sea. Here, spa-lovers can luxuriate with a $40 day pass to the Asian design-inspired facilities, inclusive of a heated, glass-dome-covered thalassotherapy pool with bubbling jets of ionized mineral water; an elaborate thermal suite with four climate-controlled rooms (featuring heated loungers and aromatherapy mists); and a relaxation lounge (bonus: most spaces tout panoramic sea views). Passengers can also book a treatment in one of 17 treatment rooms, with Asian-, Middle Eastern- and European-style services like a "mud Rasul ritual" scrub or a Thai herbal poultice massage. For the ultimate in spa immersion, Splendor is one of only five Carnival ships to offer spa staterooms and suites. The 68 spa-designated cabins come clustered around the spa on Decks 10 and 11, and boast extras like private elevator/staircase access to the spa, unlimited access to the spa facilities, priority spa appointments, complimentary fitness classes and special in-room amenities like slippers, yoga mats and Elemis bath products.
Carnival keeps its onboard comedy offerings cutting-edge and fresh via its Punchliner Comedy Club concept, first debuted in 2011, now available fleetwide. With a performance list curated by comedian and TV personality George Lopez, several comedians are brought on and off Splendor on any given sailing -- so for a weeklong cruise, there could be as many as two dozen performances from multiple comedians, ranging from established comics to up-and-coming talents. Typically, most nights feature earlier family-friendly sets and later adults-only shows. While venues vary from ship to ship, the shows on Splendor unfold in our favorite public onboard space, the 425-seat aft-side lounge, El Morocco, boasting a transporting, 1930s Moroccan-inspired decor complete with exotic tiles, animal prints, lanterns, and more.
Splendor's robust onboard offerings for kids are so exciting that your wee ones will be positively enthralled. The three dedicated kids' spaces onboard include Camp Carnival (ages 2 to 11), Circle C (ages 12 to 14) and Club O2 (ages 13 to 17); each facility plays host to age-appropriate, included-in-the-rates activities helmed by a well-trained and enthusiastic youth staff. For instance, youngsters can get into some serious fun in their 5,500-square-foot playroom and adjacent splash park; tweens will easily take to their club space, equipped with gaming consoles and a booming sound system; while older teens' sophisticated lounge is cool enough that their folks will want to stick around (sorry, ma and pa -- you can't!). Scheduled activities are available for good chunks of the day, and well into the night, thanks to "night owls" programming (offered until as late as 1 a.m.) that features hosted activities for tweens and teens and babysitting (at a nominal fee) for under-11s.
Splendor is nearly unbeatable for its kid-friendly programming, and was the first ship to roll out Carnival's 2014-debuted Seuss at Sea program, which will be featured fleetwide. In partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Carnival allows families to interact with popular Dr. Seuss characters like the Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two, and Sam-I-Am at several events like the "Seuss-a-palooza" character-and-family parade and interactive story time. Plus, there's a Cat in the Hat-hosted breakfast, serving -- what else? -- green eggs and ham.
While Splendor is a fun-for-all-ages kind of ship, it hasn't overlooked the need for some grown-ups-only havens, too. Adults can slip away into the quiet quarter that is Carnival's signature Serenity sun deck, set along Deck 12 forward, where plush lounge chairs (including "clamshell" shaded loungers for two) and tables encourage low-key R&R. It's the perfect spot to soak up some sun, stare out to sea or cuddle up with a good book in kid-free bliss. Or, look to the ship's atmospheric aft-side pool on the Lido Deck, equipped with a duo of hot tubs and a full-service bar nearby -- another adults-only space, it's a favorite spot for grown-up company, expansive views out over the ship's wake and proximity to the buffet, just steps away.
The days of drive-in movies might be behind us, but on Carnival, you can experience a "dive-in" movie. Splendor is one of the line's two dozen or so ships to offer the nifty cinematic experience, which outfits the main pool deck with a jumbo 270-square-foot LED screen and 70,000-watt sound system. During the day, it's known as the Seaside Theater, running a near-constant stream of concerts, news, cartoons and sporting events while families frolic in the pool. By night, it transforms into the setting for popular movie screenings, where passengers pull up loungers (or hang out in the pool) and order up drinks and complimentary popcorn, while a feature film is screened -- all set under the alfresco night sky.
For anybody who's had their poolside vacation dreams shattered by uncooperative weather, the retractable, sliding-glass roof above Splendor's main midship pool is just the insurance policy you're after. When employed, it effectively transforms the pool and its bi-level decks into the largest venue on the ship, containing within not only a pool, but twin hot tubs, a duo of bars, stage for live music, food stations and the aforementioned movie screen. That way, you're ensured that a little chill or rain needn't put a dark cloud over your poolside vacation plans.
Kids of all ages can't help but appreciate a fun run on Splendor's three-deck-high Twister water slide (slides being a signature of Carnival's fleet). Twisting and turning for a lengthy 214 feet, adrenaline junkies will get a respectable thrill, and can make a day of splashing about and hanging out in the small and lesser-used Thunderball pool, just adjacent to the slide's landing zone. Bonus: The Twister's starting point on the ship's highest deck (14) grants one of the best viewpoints aboard Splendor, with vistas stretching out over ship and sea.
Splendor keeps most of its dining options refreshingly fee-free, but its one extra-fee alternative dining venue is well worth the splurge (at $35 a head). A destination dining venue, The Pinnacle Steakhouse dominates a top-level deck with an atmospheric 108-seat setting that boasts large windows looking out to sea and classic American steakhouse-style decor with subtle Art Deco influence. But the real draw is the well-executed menu, running over with juicy, cooked-to-order steaks (like filet mignon or New York strip), lobster tails, grilled lamb chops and fish. And don't forget about gourmet appetizers (like escargot or lobster bisque), tasty desserts and a well-selected wine list, too. Reservations are recommended.
True to Carnival, Splendor isn't necessarily an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of ship, with plenty of diversions to keep passengers dining and dancing into the wee hours of the night. Happily, on sea days, passengers can stay in bed till they please and still catch some breakfast/brunch favorites courtesy of the complimentary Seaday Brunch service, held until 1 p.m. in the aft-facing Gold Pearl. Enjoy soothing views of the ship's wake while tucking in to brunch favorites like eggs Benedict or fat-stack pancakes. Plus, pair the fare with a hair-of-the-dog beverage courtesy of the (extra-fee) Bloody Mary bar, offering custom garnishes.