Carnival Splendor, Cruise to Nowhere - DONE!!!

Well, first off, it was only two days - but it seemed longer, as I wasted very little time sleeping.

The Carnival Splendor is an absolutely beautiful ship. Much of the commentary has been about the "Pinkness" - personally, thought it was okay, mostly a soft pink, and with compementary colors that toned it down...and it is far from Joe Farcus' (Carnival's long-time Architect, responsible for some of the boldest and glitziest ships at sea) wildest interior. The layout of the Splendor would be familiar enough to anyone who has cruised the Conquest Class ships of Carnival - with some elements added. The most noticeable being in the Lido Deck "buffet" area. I use quotes because this section has gone beyond any traditional definition of "buffet", having a pretty vast array of food available. Unique to the Splendor is an Indian Tandoori line, which was quite good. There is also a Deli for cold sandwiches/salads, a Burger Grill, Pizza, the Taste of the Nations (ethnic food that changes daily), Mongolian BBQ, all on top your normal buffet lines. Oh, and for some reason the Fish and Chips area on the Conquest class ships has been replaced by a rotisserie....Guess you can't have everything - but they are definitely trying.

While the Buffet area on the Lido is, I think, a step up, the Pool area is a step back. Instead of Carnival's typical tiered levels of seating rising up from the Pool on Lido deck, which leaves most of the loungers in the open sun, the Splendor has, basically, three levels, straight up. This leaves not only half the Lido deck seating, but ALL of the middle deck basically shaded all day. This area is also enclosable by a sliding Magradome, and was obviously designed with inclement weather cruising in mind. However, with her home ported in Long Beach for the Mexican Riviera 7-day run, I think there is too much shade. My sense (and the observation of the veteran California cruisers with me) is that the Mex Riviera crowd much prefers to lay out in the sun and get that tan going. We shall see, but I suspect sun-drenched middle of the deck loungers will be at a premium, with chair hogs having to hit the Lido by 5 in the morning to get a spot, and LOT's of unhappy passengers forced to sit in shaded areas. And I, personally, was not thrilled that they were using the Big Screen all the time, including showing CNN News while I was trying to relax in the jacuzzi - I think the screen should be reserved for evening movies and special events, like Football Games and Concerts and such...but, while mildly annoying, it was not overpowering, and could be ignored, mostly.

The Promenade deck is pretty much the same layout as the Conquest class, with a lounge all the way aft, and various bars, lounges, disco and Casino as you go forward. Sadly, the Casino was closed for our trip, but I did walk through, and it was very nicely done, huge, with all the latest slots and video poker, and what looked like plenty of Blackjack, Roulette and Craps for her usual complement of 3,000 passengers.

The staterooms are pretty much the same as every Carnival Ship I have sailed since the Tropicale was new...your basic peach and pink. Measuring 220s.f., slightly larger than the industry standard, and a tad larger than on the Fantasy and Spirit Class ships, but the same basic layout.

Food on this cruise was excellent. Over the two nights I had a Chateaubriand that was perfect, Roast Duck that was perfect, and Lobster that was perfect. I know - three dinners in two nights...don't ask! The various appetizers/soups/salads were all good, and typical of other Carnival ships I have sailed, although the service, especially the first night, was over and above. This probably had to do with the 3 Carnival employees at the table. Breakfast and lunch I tried as many of the buffet stations as I could manage, and they were all pretty good, which is as good as buffets get.

Since the Casino was closed I was forced to spend much of my entertainment time dancing. Not my usual thing, but, hey, it was fun for all that. The Disco was pretty much what you would expect, their was a very cool Pool Party the first night out that was a lot of fun, especially as there were cameramen moving around and simulcasting to the Big Screen. So I could laugh at the other dancers, when I needed a break from laughing at myself. The Piano Bar, with Ron Pass, one of Carnivals better piano players, was great, especially after he closed the doors the last night and did the strictly adult stuff. Both nights it was a lively crowd, though, and he plays a good range of music, and I quite enjoyed myself.

I have it on good authority that the various Camp Carnival childrens areas are as good as any at sea. They were certainly spacious and well equipped with top of the line toys and games. The one exception I heard was that the Splash Park area needs seating for mom's and dad's to watch the kid's play....it seems they have exactly one wooden bench...

Also, a step up on this ship is the Spa and Fitness area. The Splendor has a new class of Spa Suites, directly below the Spa, with private elevator, and such. These suites are an entirely different decor than all the other staterooms, and the Spa itself is huge, and includes a thallasotherapy pool. Not at all my thing, but I am guessing it will be popular with Mother/Daughter and Ladies Only groups and such.

Finally, as far as accessibility - the Splendor appears to be as accessible as any. The wheelchair accessible staterooms are, again, typical of all the later classes of Carnival Ships, I did not see any thresholds that would be a problem for wheelchairs or scooters, most of the doors out to the Pool area and around the buffet area are automatic - there was even a ramp down to the dance floor in the Disco. So, wheelchair users can book the Splendor with complete confidence.

To sum up, the Splendor is, in my mind, probably the best ship in a long time doing the Mexican Riviera 7 day from LA/LB. And, as far as I know it is the youngest ship to be sent to the West Coast since the Tropicale, back in 1982 or whatever, so - Thanks, Carnival!!!

And, of course, when you're ready to book that 7day Mexican Riviera cruise on the Carnival Splendor, we here at www.daveholmantravel.com are ready to help.