November 2014 - Carnival Splendor to Caribbean - Western
This is my 10th cruise with carnival in the past 10 years, so I've become accustomed to expecting great things from Carnival's cruises. Unfortunately, we had very rough seas for 4 of our 7 days (11-23-14 to 11-30-14), but that didn't seem to affect much inside the ship, thankfully. Rough weather& Seasaside, overall, this cruise was about average... but this specific ship isn't as nice as the others carnival has in this same class that i've cruised on recently...In short, for previous Carnival cruisers, i'd recommend any of carnivals other ships built after 2001 over this one. If you are a first time Cruiser, this would make a fine first experience with Carnival and you would be even more pleasantly surprised on your future carnival cruises, since i'd expect them to be even better. (FWIW, i don't cruise on Carnival ships built pre-2000, since they changed/improved the room layouts of ship designs so much around that time).
This ship was VERY clean and felt, smelled and seemed 'healthy'.
I've never had much interest in noticing much about the decor of previous carnival ships, but this one is so ugly, i couldn't help but notice..This ship's decor & lighting is HIDEOUS!
Even after 7 days of exploring the ship, i have no idea what the theme of this ship is... unless 'tacky and discontinuous' was the theme. (Some of our fellow cruisers suggested it was a Dr Seuss theme, which could make sense, given the dining room ceiling that appeared to have 'sunny side up' eggs as the main decor feature)
Decor aside, the layout of this ship leaves room for improvement in some areas, most notably related with food service. Why in the world did carnival set up drink stations where the cups are in the middle of the drink area ?? (ie, with ice, water and sometimes lemonade on one side and coffee and teas on the other side of the plastic cups) i'd expect them to understand that you first need a CUP before you can make use of the ice, water, and lemonade dispensers. Needless to say, this causes lines to go slower than they should and causes a little congestion in the front of the line since you had to pass the ice & water to get a cup and then return for the ice/water. it seems they are partially aware of this, since some drink stations had a portable dish stand with the cups on it beside the drink station, but not many.
The wait times for breakfast on this ship are the longest i've ever seen with carnival and unacceptable, even though everything was normal (not an overloaded boat, nor sick staff, etc). I experienced 15-20 minute lines for breakfast on several days..just to get the food! (then the drink line was next).
On the other end of the spectrum, the service during the sit down meals was excellent, with the wait staff service among the best you can expect at any upscale restaurant and much better than my last cruise on the Carnival Valor.
Unfortunately, the food at dinner left much to be desired. the filet mignon, (if you can call it that without laughing) was really bad, as was pretty much all of the steaks they served each day, EXCEPT for the Chateaubriand, which was excellent.
the frog legs were among the worst i've ever tried, even by Carnival's standards (they had NO flavor and were a little tough, like when you overcook chicken wings).
Ditto for the warm chocolate melting cake.. 4 of the 5 days i had that, it was undercooked and closer to a soup consistency.
Next year, they should let an american prepare the Thanksgiving meals.. I've never had raw sweet potato pie before, but apparently that's how carnival thinks americans like them.
Also, it was hard to spot the stuffing on our thanksgiving feast, something i think most Americans would look forward to for thanksgiving dinner.
As a very bright spot with food, this ship had the Tandoori station ( indian food section), which was very very good every day- they had several non-spicy foods that were delicious, too.
I was disappointed to find a mini-golf course where the adult-only hammocks, hot tubs, & deck chairs used to be near the serenity spa, since i usually enjoy laying in the hammocks and the privacy of the adult only cabana chair area.
The water slide was nice and the water 'play' area was really cool!
The room attendants on this cruise were about average, they were nice but didn't give the extraordinary service i've experienced on the Freedom or valor. I had to ask to have my ice bucket refilled, probably 3 out of the 6 days... My sister had the same experience in her room with a different room attendant.
However, i got a turkey as one of my towel animals for thanksgiving day.. something i'd never seen as a towel animal before, so that was cool.
One of the great things about Carnival is that I normally want to do more things than i can possibly fit into each day, after going over the days activities in the fun times paper that you get each day. Oddly for this cruise, i didn't have that problem, since Carnival seems to have removed several activities that i enjoy. Most notable is that there was no 'welcome back' party for 2nd time cruisers. They still have the other special party for those who have cruised several times, though. I never saw the galley tour as an option and was looking forward to that on this cruise. I also didn't see the info for the tour of the bridge, although some cruisers said they heard about it but didn't attend. tea time was only so-so.
My biggest gripe with this Carnival cruise (and probably in general) is that far too many of the activities have morphed into thinly veiled sales presentations, instead of being truly helpful for cruisers with no experience at each port. Those sessions were infuriating, since they only focused on pushing merchandise available in the carnival linked shops (think diamonds international, del sol, tanzanite international, etc). These activities used to be helpful with orienting cruisers with each port, the unique qualities of each port/country and how to get around, in addition to mentioning the shopping opportunities. This left me with a big negative opinion and i will likely go with Royal Caribbean for my next cruise, to see if they are also doing this.