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Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Splendor Cruise Review


Tom Ogg
TomOgg at aol.com

Pre-Cruise | The Ship | The Cruise

The Ship


The Carnival Splendor and Mariner of the Seas Docked in Victoria, Canada

 

The Carnival Splendor is one of Carnival's newest ships. Launched in July of 2008 at a little over 110,000 tons, she is currently ported in Long Beach, California competing with Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas on the Mexican Riviera run. With a maximum passenger load of 3,700 and a crew of only 1,150 the crew to passenger ratio of 3.1 to 1 is evident in both the level and quality of service that is provided on the ship.

Cabin 7414 Balcony cabin on deck 7 aft.


Cabin 7414

We enjoyed a balcony cabin on the 7th deck of the ship near the aft elevators. The cabin was well laid out and offered enough space for two people to enjoy it during the cruise. The bedding was excellent and was extremely comfortable with just the right density of the mattress and thread count of the linens. Actually, the bedding was one of the high points of the cruise and would satisfy just about anyone I would imagine. However, there were no reading lights which was odd and the table lamps residing next to the beds were not bright enough to read by.


Flat Screen TV

A flat screen LCD television adorned the wall adjacent to the bed and offered several channels of programming, which included two movie channels that played current movies each day. There was also several pay-for-view channels for those that wanted to watch current releases. Of course, there were dozens of channels of advertising for Carnival Cruise Lines and their sister brands. It got to be rather funny actually.


The Sitting Area, Closets and Vanity

 

The sitting area is actually quite large for the cabin category that we had. I can make two recommendations though. First, if you bring your computer, be sure to bring an extension cord with three prong outlets. There is only one electrical outlet in the cabin, so if you want to operate more than one electrical appliance/gizmo at a time, you will need an extension cord. Second, ladies bring your own hair dryer. Carnival must have purchased the hair dryers that are supplied with the cabin at an outlet sale for lousy appliances, as they simply do not have enough power to dry your hair within a reasonable time.

The bathroom is ample enough to actually take a shower, however one could literally take a shower and shave at the same time. While Carnival is generous with their towels, there are virtually no amenities other than a body soap and shampoo dispenser in the shower. There is a basket of give-away trial samples of various products in the bathroom and I suspect that Carnival charges companies to distribute them to their passengers, as there are products there that make no sense at all.


The Balcony in Cabin 7414

Ummmm, we enjoyed leaving the door to the balcony open at night to hear the ocean. Other than that, we didn't spend much time there. As you can see, it doesn't offer much in the way of space to enjoy. I suspect that this is another Carnival gimmick. Maybe the next ship will have "French Balconies". You know, the kind where you can open a window and pretend there is a balcony?

All in all, the cabin is probably the best part of cruising on the Splendor. I am not sure that I would book a balcony again, but opt for the cheapest thing available at the last minute. Tom and Sue (my brother and sister in law) resided in a small suite (7270) and it offered just that much more space and included a Jacuzzi tub to boot. Was it worth the extra thousands of dollars? Absolutely not.

Let's take a tour of the ship. I will first go all the way forward and to the top and start there.

Deck 12


The Splendor's Miniature Gold Course

I have never played a miniature golf course in my life. But, if anything states the difference between the Carnival Splendor and the Mariner of the Seas it was the miniature golf course. As you can see, this miniature gold course looks like one that someone would put down for a kid's party. Instead of 18 holes, there were only 8 or 9.


Mariner of the Seas Miniature Golf Course.

I promise that I will not do this again, but here is a picture of the Mariner of the Sea's miniature golf course that I took a few years ago on a Western Caribbean cruise. Can you see the difference? This pretty much marks the difference between the two ships. Sure Carnival is cheaper....but?


The Thunderball Pool and Slide

Aft of the miniature golf course is the Thunderball pool and slide. While this was designed for kids, I saw mostly inebriated adults going down the slide when it was open. One group of men in particular took great pleasure in enjoying the slide by screaming all the way down and then trying to make the biggest splash possible. If they could get people laying in the lounge chairs adjacent to the slide wet, they would howl with glee. Gee, they were really having fun.

Aft of the Thunderball Pool and Slide is the Jogging Track on deck 11. 10 laps equals one mile, but be forewarned, it is open to the elements and difficult to run on when at sea.

Deck 11


Entrance to Cloud 9 Spa

While Joanie nor I did any of the spa treatments, those that did felt that they were pressured to purchase stuff during their treatment. The Splendor aggressively markets its spa treatments and has a special nearly every single day. Port days find specials of multiple treatments for discounted prices.


The Spa Treatment Rooms

The spa actually takes up two decks of treatment rooms It is quite dark in some places in the spa, which seems out of place.


The Gym

The gym has some excellent machines and offers enough equipment to do a maintenance workout. I found it too warm for comfort while Joanie used the cardio equipment everyday.


Cardio Equipment

There is a thalassotheropy pool that adjoins the gym and that can be used for a $25.00 per day user fee. It was never that crowded, but those using it were on clear display for people working out in the gym. I am not sure what the thinking was behind the design, but there was no privacy whatsoever.


One of the Sculptures in the Spa

Some of the strangest artwork I have ever seen exists throughout the ship. The Splendor uses nude sculptures in several locations and I found it very weird given no one on the ship looked anything like this.


More Spa Sculptures

Weird.


Splash Jacuzzi

There are two Jacuzzis located one deck above the Lido Pool that are far removed from a lot of traffic. This is a great place to hide out during inclement weather.


Pinnacle Entrance

Aft on deck 11 one finds the Pinnacle Restaurant. This is the Splendor's alternative restaurant. The service fee was $30.00 to dine in the Pinnacle. Now, I have to share that Joanie and I love good restaurants and generally dine in alternative restaurants on a ship by choice. We find the nominal service fee is generally made up for by increased quality in the service and food.


The Pinnacle Restaurant

We had made two advance reservations to dine in the Pinnacle and had decided to enjoy it when it was available on top of that. Our first dining experience left all five of us questioning our wisdom. All five of us came to the decision to simply cancel our reservations in lieu of dining in the main restaurant independently.


My Pinnacle Lobster

I ordered a shrimp cocktail, Caesar Salad and broiled Lobster. The shrimp cocktail was OK, the Caesar salad was limp and yucky. The Caesar salad in the main restaurant was much better. But, it was my lobster that shocked me. The presentation was interesting, but when I extracted the meat from one of the tails, I realized that it had been over cooked to the point of almost being rubberish. I decided not to send it back since all entrees were served simultaneously and service had been exceedingly slow until this point. Another delay would have pretty much ruined the entire experience.


Pinnacle Porterhouse

 

My brother-in-law ordered the Porterhouse Steak and was served an enormous 24-ounce chunk of meat. While huge, it wasn't the best quality and Phil could only finish about half of it. In all fairness, Joanie ordered a Filet Mignon and completely enjoyed it. Our dining experience in the Pinnacle was marked by slow and unprofessional service coupled with intermittent food quality in both preparation and delivery.

Our wine steward (definitely not a sommelier) was extremely put off that we did not want to order bottles of wine. We already had open bottles in the main restaurant and each of us enjoyed our own bottle, as our tastes varied. We decided to simply order a glass of wine in the Pinnacle for that reason. I got the impression that the wine boy was under pressure to sell bottles of wine to increase onboard revenue and really didn't care about what made sense to the guests.

When I ordered a second glass of Pouilly-Fuisse and it was served in a small carafe and then poured into my existing wine glass, I decided that the Pinnacle Restaurant wasn't for me. 

Deck 10


Camp Carnival

While this particular cruise did not seem to have many children on it, the Camp Carnival program was raved about by people who did have their children with them. I tried to get a picture of the main Camp Carnival location, but there were children in it every time that I went.


The Rotisserie

The Rotisserie is kind of an odd dining venue. It offers comfort food in its own little environment, but also it is used as additional seating for the Lido one deck below. This would be a great venue for finicky eaters as it offers mac and chesse every day.

Deck 9


Deck 9 Elevator Bank

Moving all the way forward to the forward elevator bank, we start our exploration of the Lido deck. There are really only two main elevator banks on the Splendor and the way the ship is laid out, several decks are not passable from forward to aft making using the stairwells and elevators mandatory. This causes serious waits in certain circumstances. As an example, when debarking the ship, one must get to the forward elevator bank to access deck 3's gangway. The crowd of people waiting for an elevator with their luggage is overwhelming. Booking a cabin near the forward elevator bank would be the most desirable location, while being located aft requires traversing the ship on deck 5 to access decks 4 and 3, which is not desirable.


The Splendido Lido Pool

Deck 9 has a lot going on. The main pool area on the Splendor is known as the Splendido Lido Pool. It features a retractable two-story cover, which was covering the pool during the entire cruise because of inclement weather. There is also a huge screen for playing "movies under the stars", which also acts as a television during the morning and throughout the entire day. This is is also the location of the Splendor's fabulous pool side activities like the hairy chest contest and scavenger hunt. If you want a loud and crowded public area to watch T.V. in, you can't beat this place. If you want a little peace and quiet, head elsewhere. I suspect that the noise was exasperated by the roof being in place and would have been more suitable during a sunny day with the roof retracted, but it was what it was.


One of the Lido Bars

Because of the level of noise in the pool area we didn't frequent any of the bars or dining venues located here. There are two bars forward of the pool that serve the pool area and those that want to drink at the bar. Carnival has a very liberal drinking policy in that the waiters will serve you no matter where you want to drink. Drinks are served in the pool and in the Jacuzzis too.


The Pool Grille

Located on the aft side of the pool starboard is the Lido Grille. This is the hamburger and French fry frill for those wanting to dine pool side.


The Pizzeria

The Pizzeria is located on the port side and offers several types of pizzas. Since we never dined at either location, I can't speak as to the quality of food served at either venue.


The Lido Buffet

The main buffet area on the Splendor is the Lido Buffet. This is quite a large area and features several different options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Notable is the Stir Fry Station in the center of the most forward buffet line. Everyday is offered freshly cooked stir fry to order. It was set up Mongolian Bar B Q style and one could pick and choose their own ingredients to have stir fried to order. However, it was so wonderful compared to the rest of the buffet, that long lines always prompted a 15 to 20-minute wait.


The Lido Dessert Buffet

The aft section of the Lido Buffet features another complete buffet line and an omelet station in the morning. I would liken the quality of food in the buffet (other than the stir fry station) as "Home Town Buffetish" There was never any fresh vegetables, the fruit was tasteless and ho hum, the fish just not up to speed (other than the fish and chips served on one day) and the overall selections boring. The salad bar was OK, but that is about it.


Soft Served Ice Cream Machines

One of the features that was a hit with the kids on board was the free ice cream that was always available. There was a machine on each side of the buffet and they were used heavily by kids and adults alike.


Coffee Cups in the Buffet

Coffee anyone?


Tandooori Aft of the Lido Buffet

There was also an additional grille aft of the buffet area that served specialty items such as curry, Mexican and other ethnic dishes. It was never very busy when I was back there.


The Deli

The Deli was open from 11am until 11pm serving panini sandwiches and other deli treats. There was always a long line here, hence we never tried it once. Based on the continual lines, I suspect that it was excellent.


The Linear Pool and Jacuzzis

The Linear Pool area was supposed to be for adults only and for the most part it was. This was my chosen area to enjoy what little outdoor time we had on the Splendor. The Jacuzzi on the right is where I learned all about tattoos, life in the Phoenix jail, Mexican jails and generally what it is like to get DUIs and other such trivia all while enjoying beer from a bucket served by the adjacent bar.


The Linear Bar

Next to the Linear Pool one finds the Linear Bar. This bar was never crowded and was an excellent place to head to enjoy breakfast and lunch from the buffet. In my opinion, this entire aft area was the best spot on the entire ship.

Decks 8, 7 and 6 are all passenger decks

Deck 5


The Carnival Splendor Atrium

If you like pink and love circles, you are going to think that you died and went to heaven.


The Spectacular Showroom

All the way forward on deck 5 is the Spectacular Showroom. This is the main entertainment venue on the Splendor and other than a bunch of bad seats with blocked views, it as a great showroom. I only spot checked on the entertainment, which was on par with other mass-market lines.


The Fun Shops

Just aft of the Showroom are the Splendor "Fun" shops. The Fun shops featured the usual stuff for sale on any cruise ship, but it was the way that it was promoted that made me laugh. On most cruise lines the cruise director will get on the mic and announce the going-ons for the day. This might include entertainment, games, enrichment seminars and so forth. Not on the Carnival Splendor. The typical announce went something like this;

"Hi, this is Brad, you cruise director speaking to you from the bridge. We have a lot of fun activities for you today and I wanted to make sure that you were aware of them. Be sure to visit the spa for today's specials. You can have three treatments at a discount. And, don't forget the art auction at 11 am. You can purchase that once in a lifetime painting to take home with you. And as a special for our guests, we are going to have a fun watch sale in the fun shops at 11 am too." and on and on with every sales pitch known to mankind. I suspect that Carnival could pay people to take their cruises and make their money selling them everything known to man. Paying to take a cruise on Carnival is kind of like paying to go to your local mall.


The Fun Watch Sale

You thought I made it up, didn't you?


Our House

Our House is the ship's sports bar and features several television sets all tuned into different channels watching sports. Unfortunately, this is also a smoking bar and it is always laden with cigarette smoke making it uncomfortable for those that do not smoke.


The Royal Flush Casino

The Splendor's casino is quite large and was heavily populated with slot machine players. Much of the casino was allocated for smokers, so once again, cigarette smoke was an issue for those that did not smoke.


The Oceanview Bar

Pink, circles, oh my!


The Coffee Club

We completely enjoyed the Coffee Club's specialty coffee drinks. They offer a prepaid card for five specialty coffee drinks, which we purchased. The gal working the coffee bar was efficient and made an excellent latte and cappuccino. Specialty pastries were also on sale here. While we did not purchase any, they looked decadent and well worth the money they were asking.


The California Roll

While it was my understanding that the California Roll was to be strictly a sushi venue, it was actually serving tapas many evenings. Loving tapas, I stopped on a couple of occasions, but was disappointed in both the variety and quality of the tapas being offered. I am not sure why they changed the venue, but I would certainly go back to serving sushi exclusively here, even if it were for an additional charge.

This seemed to pinpoint the difference between Carnival Cruise Lines and others. If you like healthy dining, you probably are not going to like Carnival much. If you like all-you-can-eat comfort food buffets, you will love Carnival. I got off the ship craving fruit, vegetables and fresh fish and felt deprived of food that I liked.


Club Oz

Club Oz was for 15 to 17 year old passengers only. If I were a young teenager and had my own club to go to that looked like this, the Splendor would be my favorite ship. Club Oz was actually one of the better designed cliubs on the ship.


The Red Carpet Club

The Red Carpet Club is the disco for adults. It is large enough to hold a fair sized group, but I never saw it very crowded, but then I was never up all that late either.


More Nude Bodies Waiting to Enter The Red Carpet Disco

I am not sure I got the significance of these statues. Is the disco just for really fit people? Do you have to undress to go into the disco? I don't get it.


El Mojito

This was kind of a ho-hum bar, but the gal running it from Thailand was spectacular. I made it a point to come here to purchase a glass of wine if I were any where near it to support the gal. If you are cruising the Splendor be sure to stop by and introduce yourself. You will find a new friend here. By the way, be sure to remember her first name, as she has a very unique one.


The Grand Piano

We loved this bar and choose to spend almost every night after dinner here enjoying the music and antics of Ron the pianist. Extremely talented and also entertaining, Ron can play just about everything and completely enjoys doing so. This was one of the best piano bars that I have seen on any ship.


The Cool

The Cool is the ship's dedicated Karaoke bar and was very busy every night. Because we enjoyed the piano bar so very much, we never once came here to enjoy it, but would have liked to.


El Morocco

The El Morocco is the Splendor's other main entertainment venue. It is used for the daily art auctions and turns into a dance / music venue in the evening. We spent one evening dancing here and had a wonderful time.

Deck 4


The Photo Lab

One thing that there is no shortage of on the Splendor is photo opportunities. While many cruise lines have increased the number of types of photos one can buy, the Splendor has taken it to the next level. Each evening all along deck 5 there are small studios set up where one can get portraits and themed photos done. Remember that old west photo that you could have purchased at the state fair? You know, the one where you dress up in authentic western garb and hold a shotgun? They offer that one and many, many more. It is crystal clear that Carnival's photo business is highly profitable, as there is so much attention paid to it.


The Alexandria Library

The library is quite small for this sized ship and there are probably more board games than books in it. Even so, the library was popular when it was open, which was infrequently.


The Black Pearl Restaurant

Just aft of the atrium on deck 4 is the upper entrance to the Black Pearl Restaurant. We dined at a table in this restaurant, but down one deck and had a great time. Our waiter was from Bali, Indonesia and went way out of his way to please us without being intrusive. Our wine was always waiting at out table when we arrived and he did an excellent job at orchestrating our evening meals. Even though the food just was not up to par (in my opinion) our waiter did an excellent job of making dinners enjoyable. We all gave him an extra tip at the conclusion of the cruise. I can't speak for any other waiter, but ours was wonderful.

Carnival encourages the waiters to perform songs and dance practically every evening and the effort comes off as genuine from the waiter's perspective. All in all, dinner in the Black Pearl was excellent (all but the food itself)


The Board Room

Tucked away down a small staircase one finds the Board Room. This is the ship's meeting / special event venue. There were several meetings in process during the cruise so I never got to capture a picture of the inside. The Board Room was also used for an on-board wedding that took place on the last day at sea.


The Entrance to the Robusto Bar

Across from the entrance to the second restaurant one finds the cigar bar known as the Robusto Bar. This is a weird use of space simply because it is quite a large bar and quite convenient to the main restaurant.


The Robusto Bar

One would have thought it to be a great location for an evening dance location rather than a cigar bar. Obviously, we never visited the bar when it was open, as smoke was an issue here.


The Web Internet Cafe

Thank God that the Splendor offered excellent wi-fi connectivity throughout the ship. I could not have spent much time in the Internet Cafe because not only was it full of lingering smoke from its location within the Robusto Bar,


The Web Internet Cafe Interior

it was also small and crowded. If you are going to go online during your cruise, be sure to bring your own notebook computer with you. Rates are $.75 per minute open rate, $.60 per minute when you buy 100 minutes and $.40 per minute when you purchase 250 minutes.


The Gold Pearl Restaurant

Virtually the same layout as the Black Pearl Restaurant the Gold Pearl holds substantially more people. I assume that the experience in this restaurant was the same as the Black Pearl.


The Main Atrium Lobby

I was told long before getting on the Splendor that I wouldn't like the decor of the ship. They were right, I didn't.


The Atrium Bar

There were entertainers that performed every evening in the Atrium and we met here a couple of times because a couple in our group liked to smoke. The bar service was friendly but somewhat on the slow side.


The Reception Desk

The Reception Desk was always manned, but the only time we used it was to request Express debarkation, as we wanted to meet our son for brunch in Corona. After describing what we wanted you would have thought we were speaking in tongue. After three or four minutes she finally got it. It was weird considering Carnival was really pushing it on this cruise.

 
The Shore Excursion Desk

I have to give credit where credit is due and the shore excursion staff did an excellent job of sharing port information with the passengers. Each port was extremely easy to do on your own and the staff was sharing the details on how to do it.

Pre-Cruise | The Ship | The Cruise


 

Copyright 2009, 2010 Tom Ogg & Associates * All content and information is property of Tom Ogg & Associates