Splendor gets it right on the dining front, offering everything that's become an industry standard, along with a few surprises: a super Indian tandoori grill, a stir-fry station, great pizza and a superb chef's table experience that includes an entertaining pre-dinner tasting session in the galley. Special dietary requests can be made when booking, including vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher, low cholesterol, low sugar, etc, plus there is the option to speak to the restaurant managers on boarding. Dedicated kids' menus are on hand, too.
The Gold Pearl and The Black Pearl (Decks 3 and 4)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D)
Seating a combined total of 1,866 passengers, The Gold Pearl is the larger of the two venues, with room for 1,122 diners, and also offers pleasant aft-view seating, overlooking the ship's wake. The majority of tables accommodate four, six and 10 diners with a limited number of two-tops.
Open-seating a la carte breakfast and lunch are offered in The Gold Pearl. Dinner tables are assigned in two seatings -- at 5.45 p.m. and 7.45 p.m. -- or passengers can opt to walk in at whim via the "Your Time Dining" option available at Black Pearl Restaurant. When the wait staff -- friendly and attentive as they are -- start singing and dancing, a signature Carnival twist, you know it is nearly time to leave.
The three-course dinner menu is robust and focusses on familiar favourites and international flavours. There's always at least one vegetarian choice and designated healthy main plate, that's lower in calories, sodium, cholesterol and fat. Some half-dozen desserts include the line's signature decadent warm chocolate melting cake with vanilla ice cream.
The International Flavours selection changes daily and includes an appetiser and entree (and cocktail) inspired by a destination around the globe such as Italy. For AU$30, you can enjoy a number of steakhouse selections such as lobster tail or surf and turf, in the main dining room.
One downside of eating in the main dining room is the service can be somewhat slow, which can be a problem if you want to attend a show. If you have somewhere to be, order as soon as you arrive.
Spendido Lido (Deck 9 and 10):
B, L, D
The Spendido Lido, a self-serve buffet that rises two levels on the Lido Deck, is a crowd-pleaser because of its uncommon variety and its proximity to the pools, hot tubs, water slide and sun decks. With capacity for nearly 1,400 diners, there is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and enough ocean views to go around. However, the lines can get long, especially at breakfast, so be prepared for waits.
Splendido Lido serves a continental breakfast, beginning at 6.30 am, and then breaks out into a full-blown breakfast, offered from 7 am to 11.45 am. This is a ship that stays up late and sleeps in -- it's not unusual to see cruisers enjoying bacon and eggs close to midday.
The buffet lunch served from 12 pm to 1.30 pm can be pretty grand. At the Mongolian Wok, for instance, you select a bowl of fresh vegetables -- onions, mushrooms, snow peas and carrots, for example -- that the chef then fries with chicken, salmon, pork, duck or squid and a choice of sauces. Every day, look for a rotating daily selection based on the chef's choice, such as a Mexican culinary theme.
In the evenings, from 5.30 pm until 9 pm, Splendido Lido serves buffet-style dinner for a laidback night of dining. The salad bar and carving station will seem familiar because they're a repeat from lunch, but other items are typically from the main dining room menu.
During lunch and dinner, the dessert bar offers a choice of tempting cakes. A self-serve ice-cream and frozen yoghurt machine is available 24/7.
There's no wait staff in Splendido Lido, so if you want a glass of wine or an aperitif to accompany the meal, you'll have to walk to a poolside bar to get one.
Carnival Deli (Deck 9)
Meals: L, D
Open from about 11 am to 11 pm, the deli counter is located on the Serenity Deck and is open when the hot buffet is closed. You'll find sandwiches such as pastrami, along with favourites like grilled cheese or chicken wraps. There is usually a line, but it's a handy, free go-to for whenever you're hungry or want something a bit healthier.
Masala Tiger (Deck 9)
There are a big queues at this popular free dining spot for a reason. Masala Tiger dishes up some of the best Indian food you'll find on land or at sea. Dine al fresco at one of the tables adjacent to the counter or take your meal inside to enjoy in the main buffet seating area.
Swirls Soft Serve and Fro Yo (Deck 9)
These soft-serve machines are dispersed throughout the Lido Marketplace, and are open 24 hours a day. Soft-serve ice cream comes in vanilla, chocolate or swirl; while we usually saw chocolate, strawberry or vanilla frozen yoghurts. Choose between cup or cone.
Pizzeria del Capitano (Deck 9)
Located near the pool, Pizzeria del Capitano dishes up pizza slices and pizzas made to order. It's tasty, free and offers enough variety to justify multiple visits. Gluten-free pizza is available by request.
Guy's Burger Joint (Deck 9)
Guy's Burger Joint serves a selection of burgers for lunch, with the option to customise with cheese, onion rings, or chili options, along with an entire toppings bar. Salty but tasty, they're a hit with all ages.
The Chef's Table (Deck 3); $AU120 per person
Available on all of Carnival's ships, the Chef's Table dining experience includes a multicourse dinner with wine matching, pre-dinner drinks and a tour of the galley, which includes an entertaining tasting session. On Splendor, this dining option takes place in the 28-seat Pink Pearl (an annex to The Black Pearl main dining room). The experience can be booked onboard at the guest services desk for guests ages 12 and older only.
Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast (Deck 3); $AU12
On select sea days, the main dining room hosts a "Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast," a play on the line's Dr. Seuss partnership, which features characters like the Cat in the Hat and, you guessed it, green eggs and ham.
JavaBlue (Deck 5); a la carte
Splendor has a premium coffee bar that sells barista coffee, herbal teas, iced lattes, milkshakes, cookies and cakes, which are not priced at more than a few dollars each. This coffee bar-style spot is always buzzing.
Juice & Java (Deck 5); a la carte
Freshy squeezed juices and caffeine are the order of the day at this popular drinks outlet. The queues here tend to be shorter than those at JavaBlue, especially at peak times.
The Seafood Shack (Deck 9); a la carte
Located inside the Splendido Lido, this seafood venue dishes up everything from classics such as fish and chips and oysters to seafood platters, and lobster priced by the kilogram.
Fahrenheit 555 (Deck 11); $AU55 lunch, $AU35 dinner
Meals: L, D
Carnival Splendor's steakhouse is great value when you consider the robust menu and polished service, and the stylish top-deck venue. Reservations are recommended at the 108-seat eatery, which oozes classic Art Deco-style steakhouse decor. If you are looking to indulge your sweet tooth and your love of Instagram, order the Art at Your Table dessert, which tastes as good as it looks.
Room Service; a la carte
Food, soft drinks and bottled water are available 24 hours a day, while beer, wine and Champagne can be delivered to your cabin from 10 am to 11 pm. Each item is priced individually. While breakfast is free everywhere else on the ship, you have to pay for it if you use room service.
Pizza Delivery; $AU7
Use the Carnival HUB app to order a fresh pizza and have it delivered to wherever you are on the ship.
* May require additional fees