We were attracted to this cruise by both the price and the itinerary. We had never taken a cruise down the West coast of South America, and this seemed like a a great opportunity. Although the ship was going all the way to New York from Long Beach (48 days) we had only the time to go to Santiago Chile (17 days). We were a little hesitant about taking the Splendor because of its history (caught fire and towed back to Los Angeles in 2010) but we also knew that this history would result in a great bargain, which it was. We had an ocean-view room, and the whole thing, including gratuities but excluding shore excursions, came to less than $100 per day per person.
To start at the beginning, embarkation was a nightmare, since Carnival had not specifically warned passengers who were continuing to Brazil that they would need a visa, even if they stayed on the ship. Many didn't realize this, and had to make long and complicated changes at check-in. Check-in wasn't helped by the fact it was superbowl Sunday, and there were just five clerks (there were 16 possible stations) who showed up for work. We got there at 11:30am and ended up waiting 2.5 hours to board, but we know of others who got there a little later and waited six hours in line to check in.
Throughout the cruise there were many more glitches, with announcements about ports and activities often being confusing or wrong, and not enough forethought in organizing things. The naturalist who was supposed to be on the ship never made it, and they pressed the photography expert--Mickey--into doing that, but it clearly wasn't his thing. The cruise director--Malcolm Woo Hoo Burn--was personable and seemed to try hard, but was just not up to organizing things properly.
We went to all the shows and comedians, and generally enjoyed them, especially the production numbers, the ventriloquist, and the comedy juggler. A couple of comedians and shows were a bit underwhelming, including Laura Ernst, who had a novelty act performing in a hamster ball. Although she was athletic, she just wasn't funny, even though she tried hard. Didn't really enjoy the guy whose main act was hammering three-inch nails up his nose.
We almost always ate the evening meal in the main dining room, and the food was always good and served hot. The buffet was quite small, poorly organized, and limited, especially in the evening. Because of our late departure from Long Beach, we always seemed to be running late, so the early dining proved to be a challenge, and we often got there 30-45 minutes after it opened. However, our server--WiWi--was very good and always made sure we got our food. We were at a table for 8, and everything was always correct and served hot and on time.
As for the staff we almost always found them friendly and courteous. Our cabin steward--Voltar--was just excellent, and the room was always made up promptly and efficiently, even including the towel animals that we still somehow enjoy.
When we got off at Valparaiso, we took the tour that ended at Santiago airport, but had possibly the worst tour guide in our lives. Not only was she not knowledgable, she was prone to long silences, and even lost members of our tour group in Santiago, after failing to mention the bus would be in a different place from where we got off. She didn't go looking for the missing passengers at the drop-off point, and finally another passenger found them. When we got to the airport, we found all our suitcases just sitting on the sidewalk outside the terminal, with no supervision whatsoever.
However, we are not the type of people who let various glitches spoil our cruise, and we still enjoyed it overall. It helped that we took a separate tour to Easter Island after the cruise, which is just an awesome place, by the way!
Cabin was clean and well kept, and quite spacious. Cabin steward was great! Only problem was that there was some mechanical noise coming from underneath us. A bit annoying at night but not a serious issue.
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