This was our 19th cruise and 17th with Carnival. We have cruised two other cruise lines and always enjoyed Carnival much more than the others. The last couple cruises we were surprised to see some changes that involved the removal of things that we liked about Carnival and unfortunately we saw more of the same on this cruise. We are loyal platinum members and are really starting to wonder if Carnival's direction is away from the things we have enjoyed so much over the last decade. We have an NCL cruise booked in March and if it goes really well this may have been our last Carnival cruise ever.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale and rented a car before and after the cruise. We rented with AVIS before and Budget after and the rates were very reasonable. We dropped off the car at the downtown Miami locations on SE 2nd St and picked it up in the same location with dropoff at FLL. There are shuttles from the car rental to the port but they are VERY busy - so we just took a $12 cab ride back and forth to the port to save time.
Embarkation was AMAZING. We showed up and pretty well walked onto the boat. We were on the ship by 11 am and didn't get to the port until 10:30 am. The new method of just showing a boarding pass and walking onto the ship worked really well. Our room key was waiting for us at our door. Our luggage (and it appeared most other people's luggage) was all on the boat well before 3 pm. The most efficient I have seen in all my years. Since it was New Year's Eve there was plenty of champagne flowing! We had a fantastic deck party that night. A perfect way to ring in the New Year.
The Splendor is very Pink but not too overwhelming. We travelled as a group of 6 and enjoyed the decor. There was always staff cleaning on the stairwells at all times of day - something we see on Carnival all the time but not so much other cruise lines. The layout is a little strange and different from all other Carnival ships. The pool area is very small thanks to a cathedral type setup with multiple layers of decks hovering over the pool. The middle Lido deck pool has a retractable roof but space is small and busy if bad weather hits.
The theatre is very nice as is the atrium. The casino is very smokey and the smoke trickles into the Atrium and can be overwhelming. To get back and forth across the boat you need to take deck 5 where the casino is and the smoke is unbearable at times. There is a sports bar and library off the main atrium but seldomly used. In the aft of the boat is the assigned seating dining room that is also used for breakfast and brunch. Also in the aft is the comedy club and buffet on Deck 9. The buffet has a BBQ pit area up the stairs that serves some great BBQ food. The was a Tandoor restaurant at the back of the boat that had the best food every day.
There are a pool and two hot tubs on the back of the ship, on Deck 9. These areas used to be adult only but for some reason is now open to children. The serenity deck at the front of the ship on Deck 12 is children only but has no hot tubs or pools and is a long way from any relief and very little shade. We the middle pool, kids club and another waterpark at the top of the ship I'm not sure why Carnival decided to remove the adults only pool area at the back of this ship and others in the fleet. A big loss for us and others we spoke to on this cruise.
There is a Taster Bar on Deck 5 but it was NEVER open the entire cruise. This is one of our favourite Carnival features and was shocked to see it NEVER open. We would often come by the Taster Bar on other ships for a nibble before dinner with a drink and some music/dancing at the nearest band. So sad to see this closed with no explanation. Not sure if this is happening fleetwide.
My wife and I went for a massage. It was amazing and we paid $109 each for a 75-minute treatment that involved a facial and full body massage. I was super happy to not be harassed by the masseuse to by products after the treatments! On other Carnival cruises, we did massages for a substantial price, only to be pitched to spend even more on products we 'need' in the masseuse's opinion. Nice to see a relaxing experience that ended well.
We only had one excursion booked and it was cancelled.
Our ports were Princess Cayes, Grand Turk, San Juan and Amber Cove.
At Princess Caye, we tendered to a little port that had beach chairs and a sandy beach. The water was cool and there was a decent amount of rock under the water. The water itself was disgusting with floating debris including band-aids, cigarettes, straws, etc. Too bad cause it was a nice beach. If doing it again we would have turned right instead of left off the tender to go to a quieter beach. There was a free lunch offered on the beach by Carnival with plenty of food options like you would find on the ship.
This was our third trip to Grand Turk and was shocked at how different it was because of the Hurricane earlier this year. The old beach with chairs spread around under palm trees we now a sea of chairs with umbrellas with a few palm trees to the rear held up by two-by-fours. The beach was still nice but there were a lot of chairs and umbrellas that were now being rented by locals at the water's edge. This was never the case before and ruined what used to be a tropical oasis. You could see many trees in the distance that were stripped of their leaves. The Margaritaville seemed different and doesn't have the all-inclusive drink/eat option anymore.
We made our fourth trip to San Juan. Old San Juan was just as we remembered. The weather was great and we spent the day exploring the city.
Our last stop was Amber Cove. The rain pounded down all day. We couldn't even get off the boat. It looked like the beaches were beautiful and quiet with scenery that looked right of Jurassic Park all around the cove. A real shame that we didn't get to enjoy a great stop. We hope to get back here again!
We ate in the dining room for all dinners and breakfast. The menu is new for the last couple cruises. I'm not a big fan of seafood and red meat and found the changes now really restrict my choices. We had a child with a peanut allergy with us and we had to be on guard all the time. In past cruises, the waiter would come up to her each meal and point out what items were not free but this didn't happen even after we spoke to them about the allergy. This is a little thing but very important for us to avoid a potentially deadly situation. They have finally stopped doing the 'apple bottom jeans' dance but did the other usual ones.
We were unhappy with the overall Entertainment and 'fun squad'. Carnival continues to try and market the Cruise Director and team as 'celebrities'. The Welcome Aboard party was extremely amateurish with tacky towel animal videos that reminded me of something someone would do for a high-school project. The cruise director really did think he was the reason we were at the shows - not realizing we came to see the actual entertainers. The grand big shows with dancing girls and quality singers are gone. There are 6-8 singers/dancers now that struggle to do either one well. Most shows had obvious off-tune moments. The theatre shows were always a highlight of our cruises but the impression we have now is that head office just lets the cruise director do what they want - making it all very immature and downright embarrassing to sit through. Thank goodness there is still comedy because high school variety shows are not to the standard of what we have come to expect and falls well short of other cruise lines. The musicians that played throughout the ship were really good and saved the night sometimes after a bad show. Too bad some of the best acts were stuck at the smokey casino stage. I feel bad for the entertainers having to suck in the second-hand smoke all night and not being able to have even more people around to listen and dance.
Disembarkation was seamless and we were off the boat by 9 am - and we took our time.
Overall we enjoyed the cruise but the loss in quality for entertainment, the loss of the Taste Bar and the lack of adults only pool is really cutting into the perks that we have come to enjoy with Carnival. Carnival used to kill NCL on entertainment and atmosphere but with the changes that gap is closing. The crazy drink package price on Carnival and NCL offering it as a perk on many cruises for free could be the deciding factor. We are looking closely at jumping ship to NCL and leaving our Platinum status behind. Very sad because Carnival has given us so many amazing memories. :(
This was a standard Carnival balcony. Everything was clean and functional. Lots of storage with a balcony big enough for 2 chairs and a table. The air conditioning wasn't critical since the weather was cool for all but one day. One that day the A/C was just good enough to keep the room tolerable but nowhere as strong as the older smaller boat. You now have to decide when you want your room serviced. We tipped $10 on the first day when the cabin steward brought us an ice bucket. The timing for room cleaning was unpredictable and ranged from 8 am to 1 pm regardless if we were in the room or not. Sometimes the glasses were cleaned or replaced but not always. The first night the beds were not turned down and used towels were not taken or replaced.
Debris in the water on main beach.
Obvious hurricane damage. The once peaceful beach is now crowded with umbrellas and private seat sellers.
Great weather, great people and a beautiful spot to walk around.
Looked gorgeous with quiet beaches and stunning scenery. Too bad it rained all day and we couldn't get off the ship.