It's a long long review and I'M SURE I will get haters and critics... But if you don't like something I said... Tough luck... that's what this is MY Review. Ok? Cool! Enjoy!
Sailed on Splendor 4/8 - 4/16 from NYC... OK... A little background details about myself. 5th cruise on Carnival, but 14th overall. Others have included Princess, HAL, Cunard & Seabourn. My last cruise on Carnival was 2004 & I greatly enjoyed it. I sailed on the Legend and I loved the ship and the cruise overall however I wanted to try other lines plus I have no kids and like relaxing more then parting so HAL/Seabourn/Cunard fit the bill better. I picked the cruise to take my family (siblings & the parent of 2 of my siblings, but not my parent) on their first cruise. I'm always talking about cruising and just CruiseTalk all the time that it was time to drag them on one. I chose Carnival because of a few reasons. While not my personal favorite, I had enjoyed my previous cruises with them, it sailed from NYC, and we live in NYC. The itinerary was nice, I'd done it 2 times before, and Carnival does deliver what they promise of Fun For All... So everyone in my family would have things to do. So Done Deal!
Embarkation: Super quick. 20 Minutes from getting out of our car and into the ship. I've sailed out of NYC too many times, both the west side and Brooklyn. We arrived at around noon. However.... we had priority embarkation because we were in suites so that is why it was fast. However... it was disorganized. I actually waited in one line for a few minutes until someone came and took us to the front because we had priority. There were limited signs. Pier 92 is way better... but the Russian billionaire with his big yacht is parked there till further notice.
Cabin: We had 2 suites... An Ocean Suite and a Grand Suite. Grand suite was for 3 people, and Ocean suite was for two. Small suites compared to HAL or Cunard and even some Princess ships but I knew that coming in. They were great though. Most time was spent in the Grand Suite. I had not originally booked the suites and was upgraded a few weeks before by Carnival... however I later found out my company had paid for the upgrades for me as a gift. They just need bigger TV's in all rooms. But no issues with the cabin. The Grand Suite was even able to accommodate a little cocktail party I hosted at Sail Away from St Thomas. Not all so spacious, but not cramped either, & we had about 15 people.
Ship: I did not like the ship. I could live with the "Pink Ship" that has been coined for it, however I felt it wasn't flow friendly. Several areas had hallways, stairs and rooms that lead people to one area that was too narrow and would back up "traffic". If you live in NYC or NJ, I compared it to the Holland Tunnel on the Jersey Side. Like 12 lanes of traffic that have to at the end converge into just 2 lanes of the Holland Tunnel & overall I did not like the layout. I hated were the Steakhouse was located. Such a challenge to get there. You learn the layout after a few days... but the term I coined and a few people agreed with me is the ship isn't "flow friendly". People traffic just doesn't flow. It backs up. Did like the covered dome over the mid ship pool. That was nice, my siblings loved the slide, the poolside TV, and the pools. Serenity deck should have a hot tub at least.
Ports: San Juan, St Thomas, Grand Turk. For me its been there done that, but for my family it was their first time going to these places. San Juan I got a private car. This super super super super nice guy. I have his card and info if anyone wants to use him, just email me... (email@example.com) and as soon as I unpack. I mean he was so patient with the girls which aren't easy in my family. For $50 a person, he took us to the Bacardi Rum Factory, escorted us to get the free admissions, waited for us by the bar while we did the tour, took us to El Morro, waited for us again, then drove us around old and new San Juan showing us a few highlights and then I had asked for REAL Puerto Rican Food! Not tourist stuff, but where the locals go. We went deep to straight up localville. Food was super cheap and super good, even the picky kids were happy. People were sooo friendly, and since he had been so patient with us all day, like 4 hours already, I asked him to join us for dinner. He started conversations, spoke English with no problem, even though I speak Spanish, he was super super nice. We then got back to the port and we saw some cops, we chatted with them and were so friendly that me and little brother wrangled a few pictures on there cop bikes.
- St Thomas: I had booked para-sailing on my own, not the cruise line. However it was canceled due to high winds. I was really bummed as I really wanted my family to enjoy it. Anyway... we ended up in Coki beach as we had a large roll call group on CC and we all just hit it off right off the bat that many had said they were going to Coki so we went and joined them there. Got a bunch of chairs, umbrellas for cheap and you can buy food and drinks right on the beach & they will bring them to you. We then headed back to Havensight, did some shopping and back to the ship we went.
- Grand Turk: Got the cabana at Margaritaville and just relaxed there all day with fellow roll call members.
Food: The steakhouse food was excellent. Made reservations for one night, ended up there 2 more nights. It was just excellent. MDR food was good or ok, depending on what you got. Lido food sucked. I think I ate there once or twice at most. Though the burgers were really good. Room service menu is limited but it was actually good. Ordered room service many times and was never disappointed. I heard pizza was good, but just stick to the pizza. My brother who isn't picky with food and would rather eat what he doesn't like instead of wasting food actually threw out the Calzone type thing he ordered. My siblings which love chocolate were not impressed with the chocolate buffet in the terms of taste. Presentation was cool but that's about it. Punchliner brunch was a hit and miss. Pancakes are good, don't order a bagel toasted or it comes out rock hard, stay away from the eggs. Didn't try anything else. Bacon comes out really greasy, but it wasn't bad actually. Just don't have a heart condition. (LOL)
Service: Ok... Here comes the tricky one. There was no median with service. We either got someone who went above and beyond, or someone who was just trash. Now... the company I work for went above and beyond (I learned after I boarded) in working with Carnival to make sure we were treated amazingly and everything went smoothly. My company sent us dozens of things for bon voyage, bottles of wine, champagne, fruit baskets as well as covering the entire on board expense I was to rack up. The cruise director sent us wine, the cruise line sent us wine bottles to our MDR tables, the hotel director sent chocolate covered strawberries and my very first ship on a stick :-).... Malcolm Burns, the cruise director called us to make sure all was good, and stewards were amazing, the Steakhouse staff was just superb, the senior Maitre' D (Vivek) was ridiculously attentive and visited us several times in the MDR during, breakfast, brunch, lunches and dinners. Guest services was being a little difficult in helping me organize the cocktail party in the suite and one quick word with Vivek and he said "DONE"... I'll take care of it and sure did. Everywhere I went on the ship, senior member of the staff knew my name and greeted me and my family all by names... it was a great touch. Now... just because I was getting that treatment, I wasn't expecting it. I did not board the ship expecting it, yet from my previous Carnival Cruises, the staff have always been friendly and attentive. Many staff members who I did not deal with on a regular basis, like bartenders, the bar staff taking drink orders, lido staff, while some were so nice and funny and sweet, some were just down right nasty that they just left a bad taste in your mouth and ruined your day. I wasn't doing this cruise for myself, but for my family. I was not the one Carnival was trying to convince to like cruising and come back, it was my family who needed convincing, but some crew were just NASTY! About half way through the cruise I had a problem which began several hours before and escalated as the evening passed. I was on the Cheers program, even though my company was covering expenses, I did not find out till the first sea day, so I had purchased the cheers program the night we sailed out. Now...regardless of them paying for my on board charges, Again, I was not expecting it. I had put down my credit card, I had determined I would spend a certain amount of MY money, and being my families first cruise, I had no limit. Whatever they wanted, we would get and that was that. That was the mentality I went into for this cruise. Now... me being in the cheers program... I understood that if I got a drink, it was not charged and went towards my 15 drinks a day, however if I wanted to buy drinks for others, I could be charged at regular prices for the additional drinks... & until day 4, that was the case and there was NO PROBLEM. So when I bought drinks for friends or family, we had no issues. On the 4th day... I was in the casino with a friend from the roll call. I wanted a drink and offered her one as well. So the server comes, I tell him, "I'm on the Cheers, so one drink for me, and whatever she wants just charge it". He goes and comes back and tells me, Sorry! Can't do it and proceeds to walk away. So I called him back, "How come?" I asked. He replies... "I don't know". So I'm like seriously, but alright who can i speak so I can ask? He says, "The bar manager but he is too busy so I'm not going to call him". I said "Ok, Wow, but fine, where can I find him so I can speak to him?" He just points to the bar in the casino. So I walk over and ask why is the server telling me this when I have had no issues till now. He says I don't know, new rules, and he can't do anything about it. I'm not the fighting type, I will ask to speak to people. So... I brush it off... I'm heading to the showroom with the friend I was in the casino with, plus i'm meeting her family, another family, my family and a couple. We had the entire row. In my mind I said, just forget the casino thing, I'll order the drinks in the showroom, I haven't had any problems there and the servers have been super nice there. So the server comes, "I would like my drink from the cheers, and I'm buying a few people drinks, so whatever they want, put it on my card" Now what happen next is now kind of a blur to me because I got so mad. He took the order, then came back and said NO! Can't Do It! & just started walking away. Before he gets and further, I say "Can I ask you a question" & he says, NO! I'm too busy to answer questions and turns away. My Blood Boiled! My siblings lost it, the people around me were like ***... All I remember is one of my sister started yelling at him. I got up and bolted for the front desk. So I get to the front desk... and I said I'm trying to buy drinks, I'm not arguing to pay, I'm not trying to get anything for free, I'm not trying to get money back, I'm not even paying for this, so why is it that I'm being very rudely told I can't get drinks If I'm willing to pay for them? What company turns money away? This woman says "I don't know, I really can't help you with that, You have to speak to the Senior Bar Manager but she isn't available at the moment". I look at he and tell her... "I'm not moving from here till I speak to her, so I would appreciate it if you call her now because I'm not asking for anything for free from Carnival, my company clearly did all these things to make my life easier so if they are paying EVERYTHING I SPEND without question or limit, then there is NO REASON for me to need to milk Carnival for anything. She saw my tone has started to increase, and while I didn't mean it, once you get to a frustration level, you can't help it. She called the lady and the problem was corrected, I was profoundly apologized too, but the fact that some staff were THAT rude, and not only to me but many members of our roll call experienced similar situations of extremely nasty people and many people we met expressed similar situations. I felt later on I may have made the issue bigger then it really was, however, I was disrespected as a guest, and embarrassed in front of other fellow guests, family and friends and that bothered me greatly. Not to mention that about a dozen people, even up until the point of getting into our limo in the port leaving the ship, recognized me because they were sitting around me in the showroom when the final incident happen and asked me what did Carnival do to make the situation right. Thanks to my company... I was treated incredibly well... but I feel that had that not been the case, the service I would have experienced, would have been more in line with some of our fellow roll call members who adjusted tips and had more issues with more crew. I've noticed that has been a recurring role with past reviews though so I should have listened.
Entertainment: One deck party was really cool, the first one when sailing San Juan. The second one is when sailing Grand Turk which I think they should reconsider. Barely anyone showed up to it and they ended it 20 minutes after it started. Now from reviews I heard the production show VROOM is really good, but I missed it because that was the day I had the incident. The show on the second formal night was very good IMO. A Latin theme it was. For some reason I can't remember the first formal night show which can't be good. All other entertainment is pretty standard, just depends on what you like to do or participate in such as pool games and such. Malcolm Burns the cruise director is quite funny, my family loved him so when he called my room I did swell his head with compliments because they loved him and that's all that mattered to me, that they were happy. Some supporting staff such as the guy in charge of comedy (Dominic) was funny. There was one comedian, Percy Cruz II, he was just a wonderful highlight to the cruise. His shows would get packed very early and they would be forced to close the doors because the room would just get filled well over capacity.
Overall the cruise was great... most importantly my family loved it and are looking forward to their next cruise. I believe they are addicted now. I noticed the cutbacks everyone has been talking about and boy are they noticeable. Miss the reggae bands up on deck, I don't like the DJ things, the drawing you got of the ship on the last night of the sailing in the MDR, and the food quality and service has deteriorated. I have repeatedly said to many the Carnival does deliver what they advertise and for the prices they have you get just that. However, the fact that on my last Carnival Cruise I walked away very happy and without any hesitation of sailing Carnival again, this time... the tone has changed. I won't say never, but... I will put it in some serious consideration if a Carnival Cruise pops up in my radar in the future, regards if I'm paying... or my company picks up the tab once again.