This was my husband and I's first cruise. We had researched quite a bit before we left, but we still learned a lot on this first time of what we like and don't like.
In previous reviews, other posters had commented on the decor of the Splendor. When one poster mentioned the "pink everywhere" I had mentally prepared for the hot pink garishness of teen girls' bedroom pink. In contrast, the decor is actually "old Hollywood meets Art Deco". The pink is a muted pink that is mixed with accents of black, gold and silver. I liked the decor. It was different but I thought it was interesting.
Here are the positives of cruising in general (and the Splendor in particular):
-We chose an interior room and it suited us fine. We were barely in the room except to sleep. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the amount of closet and drawer space. The bathroom was not claustrophobic small either.
-Lots to do: it took a few days for husband and I to accept that we just weren't going to have time to do everything we wanted to do. We got our Fun Times every night and just spent about 10 minutes narrowing down what the "must-dos" for the next day were. It was nice to have so many choices. We did various trivias, BINGO, 3 comedy shows, karaoke, played in the casino, relaxed in the hot tubs, and lots of other really enjoyable stuff.
-Cleanliness: I have never been to a public venue with such a great sense of cleanliness. It was refreshing. Hand sanitizer stations everywhere. Crew cleaning everywhere. I mean, literally everywhere we went you could see a crew member wiping something down, wiping the floors, clearing plates and cups. I rarely saw anything out of place the whole time.
-Being "off season" there were few families on this cruise. I'd say 80-85% were couples. Not that I don't love kids, but I left mine at home for a reason. We did not experience any ill behaved children or overcrowding in the pools and hot tubs.
-We met REALLY great people. From the couples we sat with at dinner nearly every night to the groups we ate breakfast with or hung out in the hot tub with, we didn't meet one unpleasant person.
-The cruise director Kevin was great! We even had coffee with him one early morning near the beginning of the cruise and he was just personable and cheerful and seems to LOVE his job. We attended his Q&A about the ship and he provided such interesting and sometimes funny information.
-Our room steward (Sanjaya) and waiters (Joe, Paul) were phenomenal. Some people have probably gotten used to how attentive and great cruise staff usually are but both my husband and I work in the service industry in the "real world" so we were truly impressed by the customer service and efficiency of the staff. One night in particular, we were rushing to get through dinner in the MDR so we could get to another activity and our waiter (without us asking) quickly packed up our desserts "to-go" and helped us make our quick exit.
-Comedy shows: hilarious
-Food: Lido deck buffet was generally good. Step above most on land buffets I've been too. MDR food was hit or miss. Some dishes we liked, others not so much. But that's typical of most land restaurants I have been too. We had a lobster night and that was good. I am a pescatarian (I don't eat meat except seafood) and there was always plenty of options for me. But even a true vegetarian had several options available. On the Lido, I particularly enjoyed the Indian food station.
-CHEFS TABLE! My husband knowing me all too well, booked this for us the first day. It is an extra $75/person but it was worth every penny. This is a private dinner (only 12 people allowed) in a private dining room with the head chef of the whole ship. Chef Rakesh is the most down to earth, interesting pro chef I have ever met. He took us on a tour of the galley which was super interesting to my husband and I (husband works in restaurant) and explained lots of how the food service on the ship works. He had prepared four different "bites" of food for us to try. Each one was more amazing then the last. Interesting enough, the staff had asked before hand if anyone had food allergies or dietary restrictions. I mentioned that I am a pescatarian. (Usually when I say this at picnics and BBQs everyone gives me a confused look and gets this panicked expression like "what is she going to eat???!!!") Not to worry, Chef Rakesh explained that he is originally from India, where several people are different forms of vegetarian and he was very used to cooking in that style. All that said, each dish including all the apps and entrees to follow were made specially for me without meat!! We ate the apps, entrees, and all the champagne and wine we cared to drink in the special dining room with the Chef explaining each course as it was served. He even paused to explain how he modified my dish to make it meatless. He answered several more questions about his job specifically and the food service in general on Carnival. Very fascinating! We will definitely being doing this again. Highlight on the whole trip.
-Excursions: Fortunately, none of our excursions were cancelled although several other people's were. We did Snuba in Nassau. The people at Stuart's Cove are fantastic. So patient and helpful. Snuba seems easy in theory but certainly has a learning curve. I would love to do this again now that I feel like I know what I am doing. In Freeport, we did the "jeep adventure". Another fantastic tour company. Our tour guide Joanne "Jojo" was witty, interesting and patient. She guided us through Freeport and showed us pretty much all there was to see. The gorgeous beaches and serene "Garden of the Groves" was worth the trip.
Here are some of the negatives (or things we know for next time):
- Embarkation/Debarkation: Since Norfolk is still a relatively new and smaller port to the cruise game, you can tell they are still working out the kinks. We are locals to the area so getting to the port was nothing. We are elated that Carnival has come back to Norfolk because it makes it super convenient for us. We took an Uber to the port which saved us money rather then parking and paying. The lines were long, probably due to the comparably small terminal and the fact we just don't have a ship coming and going very often.
-The BED, oh the bed. Now my husband and I can't decide what it is. Is it Carnival's beds in general, is it the bed in our "cheap" stateroom, or is it just us spoiled by our own sleep number mattress at home. Neither my husband nor I slept well at all. We both felt like we could have slept on a park bench and been more comfortable. In fact, it became our running joke as we sat or lounged in other parts of the ship that every other chair/lounger on the ship was more comfortable then our bed.
-Weather: Not Carnival's fault but the winds were really rough the end of Nassau day and then all the next day. So much so, the captain cancelled our stop in Half Moon Cay which was supposed to be our beach day. This gave us an extra "sea day" which was still fun but I was really looking forward to just a laid back day on the beach.
-Motion sickness: I took Bonine almost every day and was able to keep the sea sickness at bay for most of the trip. The last two nights however, I felt rough. I think it was a combo of the motion, being tired from all the activities and some of the rich food I wasn't used to eating all the time.
Ship Layout: I read the comments beforehand and was a little confused until I actually got on the ship what the big deal was. Yes, the ship layout is WEIRD. We were assigned the Gold Pearl dining room. To get to this room, you cannot travel straight across the ship. You have to either go up or down a deck in either a "U" or "N" patter to get where you need to go. It threw lots of people for a loop and I was easily lost a few times just getting from a simple point A to point B.
Cabin was great! Our steward was wonderful. We paid for the cheapest cabin and we were not expecting any bells and whistles. The location of the cabin was good. Not to close to elevators or public bathrooms. The only downside could be the location directly above deck 5 (casino, lounges, clubs) etc. But it usually all died down after midnight and it wasn't so loud to be unbearable. You could faintly hear it through the walls/floors. My neighbor back home playing one of those dance video games through the walls of our townhouse is more annoying. Deck 6 is central to the other decks (right in the middle).
Everything was in good working order and we had no maintenance problems. Everything was clean and neat.
We had plenty of room for just us two and our things.
We are locals so we didn't do anything special here. This terminal is small and our embarkation was during the Wine Festival at nearby Town Point Park in Downtown so traffic was crazy. We took an Uber so we didn't have to pay to park our car. It worked out great.
We did the "SNUBA" with Stuarts Cove. The exact same trip can be booked through Carnival. In fact, almost everyone on our trip had booked through Carnival and were from our ship. The excursion through Carnival was full so I booked through Viator (which is just a middle man) to do the exact same trip. We were picked up at the same place and everything else was identical. The price was about the same as well.
The bus ride to Stuarts Cove is a lot longer then I had anticipated. Probably 30 minutes or more. Once you actually get to Stuarts Cove, you have register, watch a safety video, get outfitted for your gear and load up the boat. The boat ride to the snuba spot is about 10 minutes.
Only two groups of four can SNUBA at a time so we had a full group and several of us snorkeled while waiting our turn for the SNUBA gear. That was really great and the water was beautifully clear.
When it was our turn to SNUBA, we were all set to get right to it, but my regulator had a leak. By the time, I had convinced my husband and the operator (who by the way was with us, helping us the whole time) of the problem and that I was not just "doing it wrong" we had drifted very far from the boat. Then we had to swim back toward the boat to switch out the faulty gear. All this done, and there was not as much time as I had hoped to actaully do the SNUBA. It takes time to get used to the water pressure and your ears hurt bad as you descend. Fortunately, our guides were SUPER patient and took us down very, very slowly allowing us to acclimate as we went. We touched the bottom of the ocean floor and looked around for a few minutes. Then our oxygen tanks were low and we had to return. I would definitely do this excursion again now that I feel like I know what I am doing and know what to expect. I cannot say enough good things about the crew and staff at Stuart's Cove. Pleasant, patient, caring, wanted to educate and make sure you had a good time.View All 255 Snorkeling Reviews
I am giving this three stars as a sight unseen. I don't want to rate it horribly or great since we never got to go. The winds were too bad for the captain to feel comfortable conducting the tender to shore. We had an extra "sea day" instead.
This tour was very fun. Our guide, Joanne "Jojo" was soooo interesting, funny, witty, and helpful. You can tell she loves her job and sharing everything about the islands with you. Very knowledgeable and personable. My husband loved driving the Jeep especially on the "wrong" side of the road. We saw some really beautiful spots. The tour provides lunch (a simple one: deli sandwich, burger, hot dog, chips, lemonade, tea, etc). We ate at the Garden of the Groves, a serene botanical garden with walking paths and a waterfall. My adventurous husband found two or three really neat shells to take home from the various beaches we stopped at. We saw neighborhoods, beaches, the pine forest, pretty much everything there is to see in Freeport. It was just the right length of time, although at points we could have used more time to not feel rushed. The only negative was the last stop at Junkanoo Beach Club. It is only an hour's time so it seems too tight a time slot to actually do anything. Chairs are available to rent (not free) and some watersports rentals but my husband and I were too nervous that we would run out of time to do anything but just sit and talk on the deck with other people from the tour.
Overall, very fun and relaxing way to see all the highlights of Freeport.View All 23 Jeep Tour Reviews