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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Carnival Splendor Cruise ~ 7 day Eastern Caribbean Cruise from Miami, Florida

February 2016

1st sunset at sea
This was the second time we have sailed on the Carnival Splendor. The first time was November 2009 out of Long Beach, California before I started this blog. We had stateroom 6447 in 2009 and 7434 this cruise. I could not fit all of the photos I have of the Splendor and cabins in this blog post. Please visit the Splendor Facebook album for more photos and information.

Pre-cruise

We booked a dinner reservation at Pinnacle Steakhouse for the first evening of our cruise, and received a confirmation email before the cruise. When we did this on the Carnival Sunshine, we never received an email confirmation, and I was not able to check on the reservation until after we boarded. It would be nice if this information would show under Carnival booking information, like shore excursions.

Arrival and check-in ~ Port of Miami

The last time we departed from Miami on the Carnival Breeze, our departure experience had been superb, so we decided to arrive at the port around the same time, 11:30 a.m. Things started out well; we quickly passed through security and got our key cards. Even though we had tied our son's account to ours, his room key was not with ours. Our travel agent had specifically called Carnival about this a few days before our cruise, and she told us we would be all set to board together. It only took the representative a few moments to get him his card, and then we sat down in the VIP waiting room to wait.

There was one restroom in the waiting room, which I did not recall from our last cruise out of Miami. Beverages and danishes were available. It was over an hour later when VIP boarding started. The seats in the VIP room were full before this, and several guests were standing along the wall. When the Carnival reps came to lead us to the entrance, we had to walk from the VIP room across the general waiting area to enter through the boarding gate on the opposite side of the room. It was not easy for guests to follow the person in front of him or her because the area was crowded, and guests in the outside waiting area cut in between boarding guests. I kept as close to the guest in front of me as I could without stepping on his heels, and people still cut in front of me! Apparently, I do not look very gruff. We then had to follow the non-boarding guests who were pulling their luggage (there was no room to go around them) until they veered off, and then we had to relocate our line in the distance.
photo taken of guests in cruise port after we went up escalator to board
Boarding had been smoother on our last cruise out of Miami, because we started boarding before noon, and we had boarded through the entrance by the VIP lounge. All-in-all, I do not have any serious complaints, and we were on board shortly after 1:00 p.m. The only guests that boarded before VIP guests were guests attending a wedding on board.


cabin 7434 balcony
balcony cabin 7434





Balcony cabin 7434, category 8B


We had been told that our room would be ready by 1:00 p.m., and our stateroom was ready when we boarded. Our ice bucket was even filled with ice, even though I had read that this is no longer provided unless it is requested.

Deck 7 is one of our favorite decks, since there are usually staterooms on the decks above it and below it, which means less noise from activity. We chose this cabin because it has a larger balcony. We loved the large balcony. It contained two chairs, a lounge chair, and a small table. The pilot boats met up with our ship on this side when we departed each port, so there was always activity to watch from our balcony when leaving a port.
stateroom 7434

The room is odd-shaped, and it does not have a couch. There was a long hallway into the cabin with closet space and wall hooks. Behind the three closet doors were shelves and plenty of hangers. Two bathrobes were hanging in one of the closets, and a full length mirror was hung on the inside of one of the doors. Two hooks on the wall between the wardrobe cabinet and the door held continental breakfast menus and our "cruisin" or "snoozin" door hanger.

view from door - cabin 7434
A chair and a small table were located in the area with the wall hooks near the door. We moved these items next to the other chair by the window near the foot of the bed. This made it a tad crowded in that area and difficult to get to the safe; however, we did not think it made any sense to have the chair and table in the dark corner by the door. And, we did not need to access the safe very often.
chair and table moved into room 7434

The stateroom area at the end of the hall contained a king size bed (two twin beds pushed together), nightstands with lamps, chair, vanity area with large mirror, minibar, ice bucket, glass wine glasses, safe, small footstool, and a small flatscreen TV. There were five drawers for storage. A hairdryer was located in the top drawer.

click on photo to enlarge it
and read the labels
Two liters of water were on the vanity when we arrived - a new perk for all past guests. I assume Carnival started this after they stopped allowing guests to carry on bottles of water or soda. We had each brought a bottle of champagne on board, as allowed, and we put one in the minibar to chill it. Later during the week, the items in our minibar were removed. This was fine with us, as we did not end up purchasing anything from the minibar.

We do not drink enough soda to warrant a bottomless bubbles card, although we did want some soda. We had not brought any cans of soda on board (cans are still allowed; just not bottles), because we would only go through about one a day. In the past, the least expensive way to purchase soda had been from the minibar, as the cost was less than from a bar. This time, the soda cost from the minibar was the same as purchasing a can in the bar; $1.95 + 15%. I found out I could purchase a 6-pack of soda from the Fun Shops online for $10 total; no tax or gratuity added. This was .58 cents a can less than purchasing through the minibar.  We tried to do this at the Fun Shop on board, and we were told we had to place the order online. There is no charge to use the onboard computers by the Future Vacation Desk to visit the Carnival website. We ordered a 6-pack of Coke, and it was delivered the next day.
bed when we arrived











Back to our stateroom! We liked that the bed faced the windows and water. The sheets and pillows on the bed were silky smooth and super comfy. The bathroom was located next to the bed, on the opposite side of the TV and sitting area. Shampoo, shower gel, and soap had been provided. We did not receive any samples, like toothpaste or lotion, as is sometimes provided. This is determined by companies that donate samples to Carnival; not by Carnival. Everything in the bathroom was perfectly functional and satisfactory.


We liked the location of this stateroom at the end of the hall. It was usually pretty quiet in our room, and on the balcony. We sometimes missed having a couch, although we still prefer the large balcony.

Food & Beverage

We dined at Pinnacle Steakhouse the first evening. A complimentary bottle of wine is included with dinner the first evening. I had read about this perk online a couple of cruises ago, and we received it on our last cruise, too. This was the first cruise we have been on that heavily promoted the steakhouse and free bottle of wine on the intercom our first day. I do not have any complaints about that; I was just surprised, as the complimentary bottle of wine had seemed like a "secret" when I first found out about it. When we arrived at Pinnacle Steakhouse, we were told we could purchase a different bottle of wine for half price, instead of taking the complimentary bottle, if we wanted. We went with the complimentary bottle of red wine, which I thought was better than the merlot served in the bars.
tuna tartare - twice the size as I received
in the steakhouse on Carnival Sunshine!

Pinnacle Steakhouse is located on deck 11 at the back of the ship. We were seated on the east side, so we did not have a good view of the ending sunset. We were next to the window, and we had a good view of the water until it got dark.

at Pinnacle Steakhouse
The service in the steakhouse was great, although the Surf & Turf entree was not better than the lobster served in the dining room, and the filet mignon was not moist and flavorful like I expected. The appetizer quality was great, and the next time I go to a steakhouse, I think I will stick with just steak (no lobster, or even filet mignon). Between three of us, we had the following: tuna tartare, lobster bisque, jumbo shrimp cocktail, heart of iceberg lettuce, cowboy steak, and surf & turf. I do not recall which sides my table mates had. I have included a couple of photos here, and there are more in the Carnival Splendor Facebook album. Cappuccino was included at the steakhouse, and there is an extra charge for this in the dining room and at the Coffee Shop.

We had early assigned seating in Gold Pearl Aft Restaurant for dinner. We had been assigned a table by ourselves, so we talked with the maitre'd about joining a table with a group of people. He reassigned us to a table for eight. Our dining room team members were great, and all of the food in the dining room was good. 

breakfast - salmon in the dining room
(before my bagel was delivered)
Gold Pearl was also open for breakfast, and this is where Seaday Brunch was served on the two sea days. I am not sure if Carnival has changed their recipe for Eggs Benedict, or if the difference was specific to this ship. My husband commented one day that it was different, and he did not like it. We both tend to have our own opinions, so I ordered this myself a few days later, and I agreed with him. The sauce was somewhat sweeter than usual, and I could not recognize what else made the flavor undesirable. The Seaday Brunch menu was similar to what we experienced on Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Breeze, although the food was not as good, and there was not a comedy show during brunch. The huevos rancheros on the Splendor was not as good as it had been my two previous experiences.

Pizza Pirate was located by the main pool, and open 24 hours. The pizza was excellent, although there was always a wait. In fact, I overheard many guests complaining about this. It did not seem like pizzas were being made until they were ordered. I have always liked the Caesar Salad at the Carnival pizzeria because it does not usually have a strong anchovy flavor. That was not the case on this ship! I thought the Caesar Salad from the pizzeria had an extremely strong anchovy taste, and I hated it. The Grille was also located by the main pool, on the starboard side. The line at the grill was usually long, as well. We never tried a burger, although we had fries from the grill one day, which were good.

Tandoor (Indian food) and the Deli were located by the aft pool on opposite sides of the ship. The deli opened at 11:00 a.m. We all thought the food from both of these restaurants was delicious.

Mongolian Wok, Burrito Bar, and Lido buffet were all located inside between the main pool area and the aft pool. We never had to wait long in any of these areas. I thought Mongolian Wok was delicious, and the Burrito Bar was merely "okay." My husband and our son both liked the burrito bar more than I did. The Burrito Bar became an omelet station in the mornings for breakfast.

Rotisserie was located on deck 10 above the Burrito Bar. The chicken we tried at the Rotisserie was merely "okay."

sign at the taste bar
The taste bar opened at 5:30 p.m. on four days during our cruise. Other than the very last day, this information was not posted in the Fun Times. A sign at the taste bar showed the days it was open; however, the times were not listed. The taste bar was located on deck 5 near the wine bar and Coffee Shop. There is an extra charge for speciality coffees at the Coffee Shop. I had read that croissants at the Coffee Shop are complimentary; however, I never had a chance to ask, as there was always a line for coffee in the morning. The croissants on the counter looked the same as the ones in the dining room and buffet, so I did not wait in line to ask.

room service beverages
The room service menu had changed somewhat since our last cruise, and I overheard another guest who was disappointed in this, also. Salmon was no longer listed on the door hanger menu for breakfast. We got a bagel with our beverages one morning, and it was kind of soggy and not crisp. There were a few sandwich items on the included room service menu, and a second menu offered additional food items for purchase.

Food was available for purchase in Our House Sports Bar - wings and pizza, if I recall correctly. We did not purchase any food on this cruise, other than the steakhouse dinner.

Pool and outside areas

serenity seats and bar
Serenity deck was located on deck 12 forward. There were plenty of comfortable seats and a bar. If you wanted one of the shaded clam shells, they went quickly. We were able to get one with no problem the day we were docked in San Juan. There is no pool or spa tub on serenity level. The closest spa tub was one level down where the water slide came out. 
serenity deck


The water slide entrance was near serenity deck, which we surprisingly never used. The slide was closed a lot of the time, as it was extremely windy during our cruise.

The sliding dome over the main pool was often closed because of the wind, because the wind made the air temperature kind of cool. Seaside Theatre was located at the main pool, although we never watched any of the shows. There were two shows I would have liked to see, Tina Turner and Journey; however, they both aired in the afternoons when we were in port. Popcorn was available in this area in the evenings.

aft pool and tubs
There were two spa tubs on deck 10 along the edge in the area above the main pool. Two more spa tubs were located by the aft pool. We never had a problem with overcrowding in any of the spa tubs.

Mini-golf was located above serenity deck (forward). Clubs and balls were available at the start of the course, although there were not many clubs with longer handles. Most of the clubs were for kids/short people.

The jogging/walking track and basketball court were located on deck 12 aft. It took 10 laps on the track to equal a mile. I was surprised this deck was never closed during our cruise. The extreme wind gave us an extra workout each morning. It was so windy, I felt like I might be blown over the edge! I barely weigh 100 lbs., so I probably felt the wind more than most people.

Spa

I attended the complimentary Ladies Pamper Party on our first sea day. I have attended this before, and it is usually a nice self mini-facial. I thought the one I attended on the Spirit in 2010 was a much nicer experience. This party was offered again on the Splendor near the end of the cruise.
spa coupon from room steward

We received a $50 spa credit from our room steward the day after I attended the party. Most of the spa specials and promotions on this cruise had been about cellulite and loosing inches, so I redeemed my $50 spa credit for a $49 hair treatment.


spa promotions offered
near the end of cruise
The next day, I was disappointed that I had already used my coupon because the Salon Treats offered near the end of the cruise (starting Thursday) were a great value! I could have received two more treatments for only $20 more. If you are interested in a spa visit that does not involve loosing cellulite or inches, I suggest waiting for the promotions near the end of the cruise.

The Phyto Hair Conditioning Treatment listed under Salon Treats is the treatment I received. If I had been paying for this (other than the tip), I would be complaining about this treatment. I thought the person who assisted me was borderline rude, and the treatment did not provide any improvement to my hair. I recently had my hair cut and styled at Sassoon Salon, which included basic conditioning for $100 total. My hair was considerably healthier and silkier after my Sassoon Salon visit for over a week, whereas, the condition of my hair after the treatment on the Splendor did not change at all.

Fun Shops

We got a couple of excellent bargains in the Fun Shops. The Splendor was set for refurbishing a couple of weeks after our cruise, and it seemed like they were trying to clear out the inventory. This was great because of the good prices we got, although it also meant we had a reduced selection of merchandise. I purchased a hat for $10, and a good quality shirt for $6.49. We got two bottles of Absolute for $15 each.

We missed the only complimentary alcohol tasting by just a few minutes. This was offered the first night while we were at the steakhouse for dinner. When we arrived at the tasting, everything was still set up, and a staff member was standing behind the display. We approached the stand with the hopes we could still participate, and the staff member completely ignored us. After a minute or two, I asked him if we were too late for the tasting, and he said yes. I do not recall ever having a Carnival employee ignore us like that before.

Entertainment and lounges

I thought our Cruise Director Kevin was full of energy and entertaining. There was a game in the lobby lounge - something like Beat Your Cruise Director, which was hysterical. The Carnival dancer shows in Spectacular Main Show Lounge were similar to ones we have seen on other cruises. The magician/comedian in the front showroom was good, and there were several comedy shows in El Morocco Aft Lounge. It was not difficult to get a seat in the lounge for the comedy shows on this cruise. None of the shows that we went to were overfull. We did not make it to any of the late night shows, so I do not know how crowded those were.
Grand Piano Bar
The music was good just about everywhere. The piano player in Grand Piano Bar and guitar player Vini, who usually played in Royal Flush, were both good. The seats in the piano bar were super comfy. We liked the band in Robusto lounge best--Party Music with Music Unlimited.

The male bartender in Our House Sports Bar, and the female bartender in El Mojito Wine Bar were both fabulous. The sports bar is next to the casino where smoking is allowed, so we never stayed in that bar for long.
Fun Times showing Captain's Celebration
We went to Promenade deck 5 for the Captain's Celebration before dinner, after we read about this event in the Fun Times. We did not see the captain or any officers, and most of the bartenders did not know anything about the "cocktail special." The bartender at El Mojito Wine Bar said specials were only offered at the casino bar. The bartender at Royal Flush Casino Bar said specials were offered at the casino bar and Our House Sports Bar. We could not get beer at the casino bar, so we went to the sports bar where we were told specials were only offered at the casino bar. Geez! The Fun Times said Promenade 5, All. We ended up receiving $1 off our mixed drinks at the casino bar.

There were a lot of trivia games and outside pool activities during the day.

Ports of Call and Shore Excursions

We stopped at four ports on this cruise: Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; St. Thomas, USVI; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos. To keep this post from becoming too long, I have a separate post about our ports of call.

I suggest attending the ports of call presentation in the showroom at the beginning of the week. Cruise Director Kevin gave away MANY prizes--more than I have ever seen given away before. Shore excursions, soda cards, bottles of wine, and more. This was an enjoyable presentation, even though we did not win anything.

Past guest party and platinum perks

folded duffle bag
My husband and I each received a Carnival duffle bag, a commemorative Splendor 2016 pin, and a beverage coupon to use in the dining room.

open (unstuffed) duffle bag,
and Splendor pin









Chocolates were delivered to our stateroom in the afternoon on our first sea day.


The Platinum/Diamond guest party was held in El Morocco Aft Lounge on the last evening from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. We thought the past guest party was one of the nicest we have ever attended. The setting was intimate, and the service was great. This may have been because there were not as many elite guests at the party. We would have preferred having the party the night before on the second elegant evening, as the last night tends to be a busier time with packing and such.


screen shot of status perks
Our son has Gold status, and a past guest party is now only held for Platinum and Diamond guests. His status information said he would receive a complimentary drink the last night of the cruise; however, he never received a coupon or any information for this. He asked about this at guest services, and he was told this perk had just been eliminated. The Carnival website still has this perk listed over a week later, after we had returned from our cruise. We cruised February 2016, and the screen shot shown here with the beverage perk listed was taken March 1st.

So, Gold status guests have lost the past guest party and a complimentary beverage. On our last cruise, our son received the same complimentary dining room beverage coupon we received.

Debarkation

This was the first time we did self-assist, and it was not difficult taking our luggage off the ship. Alcohol is no longer delivered to guests on the last night of the cruise, so we needed to pick this up in the morning to pack it in our luggage. The debarkation process was very quick even though we were initially directed to the incorrect area. The paper in our stateroom said Platinum guests should meet in the Black Pearl dining room at 7:15 a.m. When we arrived on deck 3 via the atrium/glass elevators, we were directed to the showroom where self-assist and shore excursion guests were waiting. After we entered the room, I asked another team member if we were in the correct room for Platinum guests. She then directed us to Black Pearl Restaurant where Platinum guests were already disembarking. We were off the ship and waiting for our ride by 7:45 a.m.

Misc. and overall

Our son had interior stateroom 6426, category 4D. This cabin has two twin beds that can be converted to a king bed. The diagram and photos on the Carnival website exactly match his room setup. There was no couch in the room, although there was a chair by the desk area at the foot of the bed.

Our telephone in stateroom 7434 quit working during the cruise. Our room steward was bringing us ice when we discovered this, so my husband mentioned it to him. An engineer quickly arrived and immediately fixed the problem.

The service we received on the Splendor was much better than our last cruise experience on the Sunshine. In fact, after our cruise on the Sunshine, I was not sure I ever wanted to cruise with Carnival again. Part of the difference might have to do with the fact that both ships hold the same number of passengers (3,002), while the gross tonnage (internal volume) is larger on the Splendor - 113,323 compared to 102,853. There are also more crew members on board the Splendor - 1,150 compared to the 1,040 on Carnival Sunshine. After arriving home from this cruise, we have already booked a cruise on Carnival Magic. We did not book the cruise while on board, as Carnival no longer gives worthwhile incentives to do so, and the representative working at the Future Cruise Deck had a similar attitude as the spa employees, borderline rude and uncaring.

The Carnival Splendor is scheduled for dry dock from 3/06/16 - 3/20/16, although I could not find any official information stating what will be updated. I found many guesses by others about 2.0 upgrades; however, I was unable to verify any of this with Carnival. Everything I read from Carnival says that additional details are not available at this time. It sounds like just basic maintenance will be performed during dry dock. I will update this post, if I find further information. I thought the ship was in great condition during our cruise for the most part. Some of the seats were a bit uncomfortable/worn, especially the ones in the front showroom. Other than that, the ship looked great!

I suggest packing a sweater or two, as I thought the temperature on the Splendor was extremely cold. I was so cold in all of the inside areas (lounges, showroom, dinner, lobby, promenade) that I told my husband I thought I would skip packing my sun dresses next time, and just pack my sweater dresses instead. I bought a thick sweatshirt in St. Thomas that I ended up wearing just about every evening after that. I had packed some lightweight sweaters and coverups; however, they did not keep me warm enough.

Let me know if you have any questions, and, as always, please feel free to share this post!