Carnival Splendor is a big vessel with a huge personality -- and it sets itself apart from the Carnival pack in grand style. For starters, Splendor inaugurated a new cabin category for the line, the spa cabin, which is as much about lifestyle as real estate. A retractable sky dome covers Splendor's pool deck, which marked something new for Carnival when it debuted (and remains the most notable example of the innovation within the fleet). It means that passengers can swim when it's balmy -- and when it's not -- and it's also the setting for the line's signature Dive-In Movies, fun film screenings set poolside under the stars.
Splendor has 13 decks. Designed to accommodate up to 4,914 passengers at maximum full-berth capacity, it deserves its own zip code, and touts enough diversions to appeal to everyone from kids to seniors. Remarkably, there is only an occasional sense of overcrowding, and there are plenty of quiet spaces -- like Serenity, the adults-only sun deck -- to seek respite.
The 113,300-ton Splendor marks its own class of vessel for Carnival, basically a larger version of the ships from the line's earlier Conquest Class. One of Splendor's most impressive features is its expansive 21,000-square-foot spa, among the most elaborate in the fleet. Pan-Asian in design, the Cloud 9 Spa spans two decks and includes a state-of-the-art fitness center that easily rivals any at sea. With more than a dozen lounges and bars, a water slide, mini-golf, multiple age-appropriate kids' programs, nonstop activities and a singing wait staff, Splendor makes good on delivering what Carnival passengers have come to expect: fun.
Splendor is designed around the loosely realized theme of "splendid things," with cheery and playful -- if sometimes jarring -- decor. We're not architects, but when we first walked onboard -- and we are not alone in reacting this way -- we felt under assault by a design that we can only describe as overwhelming. Carnival's longtime interior designer Joe Farcus sees "whimsical" in the massive dining room chandeliers. We see a DNA helix. He sees "drama" and "excitement" in the squiggly pink and black image that appears on table tops, elevator panels and walls. We see an amoeba. And we've never stayed in a cabin that had bright-pink crown molding and a pinkish couch before. Let's just say there is nothing understated about Splendor. Understandably, some passengers have nicknamed it "The Pink Ship."
Decor notwithstanding, Splendor has great bones and a festive spirit. We talked to a lot of passengers, many of them Carnival loyalists, and asked a single question: "Are you having fun?" In just about every case, the answer was an emphatic "yes."
Carnival Splendor has a total of 1,503 staterooms, all fairly standard in their respective categories, with balcony, ocean-view and interior cabins all equally configured at 185 square feet. The balconies themselves add an additional 35 square feet (or more) of outdoor space to equipped staterooms. Apart from some extra perks in suites and designated spa cabins, and, of course, different ranges of cabin sizes, there aren't all that many big differences in stateroom amenities. As one ship executive explained: "This is a one-class ship."
To that end, every stateroom has a telephone, individual climate control, hair dryer, safe (though note it's not laptop sized), mini-bar (which can be locked on request), bathrobes and a flat-screen television. (One thing we particularly liked was Splendor's interactive TV system, which lets you do everything from checking your account and selecting pay-per-view movies to ordering a bottle of wine or shore excursion tickets.)
Luggage is typically stored underneath the beds, and there is a multisection wardrobe with hangers, shelves and drawers for storage, as well as some additional drawers/shelving within the desk/vanity table and nightstands. Every stateroom, excluding interiors, also comes with a table and sitting area. The decor matches light-wood furnishings with rose accents on the carpets, curtains and even moldings, while an eclectic shipwide sprinkling of artwork, depicting everything from pop art to impressionism, affords a decorative accent to the rooms.
Truthfully, the rooms feel a bit dated and could use a refresh. The ship hasn't had any major refurbishments since its 2008 launch, and in the staterooms especially, it shows.
With the sole exception of the spa cabins, no stateroom has much in the way of toiletries -- except for shampoo and bath gel dispensers in the showers and soap bars. Apart from the suites, bathrooms are shower-only, and only bathrobes are provided. (Slippers are provided in spa suites only.)
Smoking is not permitted in any cabins.
Twenty-nine of the staterooms are handicapped accessible. Some family-friendly staterooms (spanning category types) can accommodate up to four with bunk beds or discreet Pullmans that fold unassumingly into the wall when not in use. A cluster of connecting ocean-view rooms are available exclusively on Deck 1, while some adjacent balcony cabins can have their balcony divisions removed to connect the exterior spaces.
Interior: Splendor offers a generous number of interior cabin options, with nearly 600 such designated units aboard the ship. All measure 185 square feet, and some tout unique configurations -- one unit has an upper/lower format that offers more floor space than the standard double twin beds, with a single twin bed and an upper Pullman. Nineteen others actually have windows overlooking walkways on outdoor decks (which allow natural light, but are not so ideal for privacy); they're situated near the front of the ship, on Decks 6, 7, 9 and 10. There are even 14 cabins designated as "insides" that offer two porthole windows; they're scattered around Decks 1 and 2 forward.
Ocean-view: There are nearly 350 ocean-view staterooms onboard, at 185 square feet apiece. The majority are standards with two twin beds that can be pushed together as a king. Some units only afford obstructed views (though at better rates).
Balcony: Balcony cabins (of which there are 537 units) are no roomier than inside or ocean-view staterooms, at 185 square feet, but offer a variety of balcony sizes, ranging from the standard 35 square feet to 60 square feet (extended balconies) or even 75 (wraparound balconies). All balconies come with two seats and a table. The aft-view extended balcony units are especially popular for their vantage point out over the ship's wake.
Mini-suite: Splendor has two junior suites on Deck 9 (units 9205 and 9206), measuring 275 square feet, with standard 35-square-foot balconies. The spacious mini-suites offer sitting areas, combination shower/whirlpool tubs and double sinks, and two large closets, along with a walk-in dressing area.
Suite: The suites, which grant passengers VIP check-in for priority embarkation, all come with private balconies and are clustered largely on Decks 7 and 10. They include 275-square-foot Ocean Suites (42 units, on Decks 7, 9 and 10) and 345-square-foot Grand Suites (10 units, on Deck 7); those measurements don't count balconies (which add another 65 or 85 square feet of space). There's also one spacious, wheelchair-equipped 450-square-foot modified Ocean Suite (cabin 7226), trimmed with a massive 110-square-foot balcony. The size doesn't really buy much in the way of extra elbow room, in terms of moving about the cabin. The "extra," instead, is found in larger bathrooms and walk-in closets and, in a few cases, slightly larger balconies. Unlike the other cabins, which are shower-only, the suites feature bathrooms with combination showers/whirlpools/bathtubs, bidets and double sinks. (Suites also have a second sink outside of the bathroom itself.)
Spa: Splendor's 68 Cloud 9 Spa cabins (spanning interior, ocean-view, balcony and suite configurations) were a first for the line, and have since been introduced on other ships. Located on the Panorama and Spa Decks -- 10 and 11, respectively -- the spa cabins offer the same sizes and layouts as other non-spa-designated units on the ship; the four spa suites measure 275 square feet, with 65-square-foot balconies. Unlike the rest of Splendor's cabins, the design theme is Asian to reflect the serenity of the Cloud 9 Spa. That includes drapes, bed linens -- even the carpet in the hallways. Passengers in the spa cabins also are treated to upgraded terrycloth robes, slippers and Elemis toiletries. Most of the cabins are located on Deck 10, directly below the spa, and are accessed by a private spiral staircase or glass elevator. Other amenities include unlimited use of the thermal suites and thalassotherapy pool, priority spa appointments, two complimentary fitness classes per passenger and in-stateroom yoga mats and fitness bands. Spa suite passengers get priority embarkation.
Splendor largely gets it right on the dining front, offering everything that's become an industry standard, along with a few surprises: a super Indian tandoori grill, a stir-fry station and a generous sea day brunch.
The Gold Pearl and The Black Pearl (Decks 2 and 3): Splendor's twin main dining rooms -- The Gold Pearl, aft, and The Black Pearl, midship -- are grandiose bi-level venues, so-named for the strings of decorative pearl-inspired accents that swirl through the room (along the lighting fixtures, carpets, ceilings and moldings). Seating a combined total of 1,866 passengers, The Gold Pearl is the larger of the two venues, with room for 1,122 diners, and also offers pleasant aft-view seating, overlooking the ship's wake.
Dinner tables are assigned in two seatings -- at 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. -- or passengers can opt to walk in at whim via the "Your Time Dining" option (perhaps the reason there always seemed to be some congestion when at the dining room entrance). The majority of tables accommodate four, six and 10 diners with a limited number of two-tops. When the wait staff -- friendly and attentive as they are -- start singing and dancing, a signature Carnival twist, you know it is nearly time to say good night.
The three-course dinner menu is robust and features a half-dozen entree choices each evening, including a "Comfort Kitchen" option that highlights comfort food like barbecued pork spare ribs, baked meatloaf and bacon mac n' cheese. Other entree choices are wide-ranging -- panko-crusted jumbo shrimp, Chateaubriand with Bearnaise sauce, seafood Newburg or perhaps broiled Maine lobster tail. There's always at least one vegetarian entree -- black bean and vegetable enchiladas or grilled tofu steak, for example -- and one designated healthy main plate, that's lower in calories, sodium, cholesterol and fat. A supplementary fixed "every day" menu offers favorites like shrimp cocktail and Caesar salad starters, and entrees like salmon filet or Southern fried chicken with mashed potatoes. Some half-dozen desserts include the line's signature decadent warm chocolate melting cake with vanilla ice cream that had our table repeat ordering -- and practically drooling -- night after night.
Open-seating breakfast and lunch are offered in The Gold Pearl. Breakfast includes seasonal fruit, an array of hot and cold cereals and, from the bakery, muffins, bagels and toast. You'll find your standard breakfast entrees: smoked salmon with cream cheese and a toasted bagel, eggs Benedict, buttermilk pancakes, French toast and omelets and eggs made to order, along with traditional sides. We found the formal dining lunch selections fairly original -- among them, Mongolian steak salad, egg and spinach fettuccini and chilled curried apple soup.
Especially popular here is the "Seaday Brunch" service (held on sea days from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.) that allows passengers to sleep in and still dig in on brunch favorites like French toast, loaded mac n' cheese and huevos rancheros (plus, an extra-fee Bloody Mary bar).
Special dietary requests can be accommodated when made at booking, including vegetarian, gluten free, kosher, low cholesterol, low sugar, etc. Dedicated kids' menus (with spaghetti and meatballs, chicken nuggets and other favorites) are on hand, too.
Spendido Lido (Decks 9 and 10): The Spendido Lido, a self-serve buffet that rises two levels on the Lido Deck, is a crowd-pleaser because of its uncommon variety and its proximity to the pools, hot tubs, water slide and sun decks. With capacity for nearly 1,400 diners, there is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and enough ocean views to go around. However, the lines can get long, especially at breakfast, so be prepared for waits.
In addition to the main buffet stations, including a "chef's choice" entree station, carving station, salad bar, dessert bar, burrito bar, Asian wok and upstairs rotisserie, there are smartly positioned satellite stations out on deck that serve Indian, New York deli-style sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs, as well as 24-hour pizza. There's also a well-used 24-hour soft-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt station.
Splendido Lido serves a continental breakfast, beginning at 6:30 a.m., and then breaks out into a full-blown breakfast, offered from 7 a.m. to noon. This is a ship that stays up late and sleeps in -- it's not unusual to see cruisers enjoying bacon and eggs at close to midday. Breakfast includes a made-to-order egg station and daily specials like eggs Benedict, an egg-and-cheese burrito and cheesy chicken rolls.
The buffet lunch can be pretty grand. At the Mongolian Wok, for instance, you select a bowl of fresh vegetables -- onions, mushrooms, snow peas and carrots, for example -- that the chef then fries with chicken, salmon, pork, duck or squid. There's also a choice of sauces: black bean, Thai barbeque or Sichuan. Every day, look for a rotating selection based on the chef's choice, featuring, for instance, a French, Caribbean or Mexican culinary theme. Last but not least, the dessert bar tops lunch off with selections that include cherry Jell-O, Linzer torte, orange diet cake, banana cream pie and cookies.
Evenings, from 6 until 9:30 p.m., Splendido Lido serves buffet-style dinner. It's not terribly inspired, but sufficient for a laidback night of dining. The salad bar and carving station will seem familiar because they're a repeat from lunch, but the entrees, at least, are fresh and mostly come from the same menu served in the ship's main dining rooms. You won't see each and every menu item, of course, but there's a sampling that, on our cruise one evening, included penne alla Siciliana, lemon confit-topped grouper fillet, grilled flat-iron steak and cinnamon, pumpkin squash and yam pot pie. Among the featured desserts were diet New York cheesecake, amaretto cake and cherry upside-down cake.
There's no wait staff in Splendido Lido, so if you want a glass of wine or an aperitif to accompany the meal, you'll have to walk to a poolside bar to get one.
Room Service: One weak link in Splendor's offerings is the complimentary room service menu. The Continental breakfast is fine: cereals, fruit, smoked salmon, breakfast breads, yogurt, coffee, hot chocolate and juices. But, the 24-hour menu pretty much begins and ends with sandwiches (true, there are 12) and salads (just two). There are also a few desserts, but overall, the menu is scant.
The Pinnacle Steakhouse and premium coffee bar are the only venues that come with an extra price tag, which seems like a fair deal, given the standout quality of the steakhouse and the otherwise ample complimentary offerings.
In the main dining rooms, there's additionally a "Steakhouse Selections" option featuring grilled lamb chops, broiled filet mignon and prime New York strip steak entrees, at a supplement of $20 per person. On a select sea days, the main dining room also hosts a "Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast," a play on the line's Dr. Seuss partnership, which features characters like the Cat in the Hat and Seuss-worthy plates like, well, green eggs and ham, of course ($5 per person).
The Pink Pearl (Deck 3); $75: Available on all of Carnival's ships, the Chef's Table dining experience affords up to 14 participants a multicourse dinner with a master chef, a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley and its operations. On Splendor, this dining option takes place in the 28-seat Pink Pearl (an annex to The Black Pearl main dining room). The experience can be booked onboard at the guest services desk for a per-person cost of $75 (for ages 12 and older only).
The Coffee Shop (Deck 5); priced a la carte: Like most ships, Splendor has a premium coffee bar that sells barista coffee, herbal teas, iced lattes, milkshakes, cookies and cakes, which are not priced at more than a few dollars each. This stand-up coffee bar-style spot seems to always be buzzing on the popular Promenade Deck, which houses the casino, multiple lounges and shops nearby.
The Pinnacle Steakhouse (Deck 11); $38: The Pinnacle, at $38 per person, is a great value when you consider the robust menu and polished service, and the stylish top-deck venue. Reservations are recommended at the 108-seat eatery, which oozes classic American, Art Deco-style steakhouse decor.
As for the menu, starters include options like escargot, beef carpaccio, jumbo shrimp cocktail and lobster bisque. The salad selection is basic but serviceable with choices like a classic Caesar or baby-leaf spinach and mushrooms. Selecting your entree can be a brain teaser, given the expansive options -- among them are broiled New York strip loin, filet mignon, surf and turf, broiled lobster tail, rosemary-infused chicken and grilled lamb chops. The dessert menu is no less tantalizing: cheesecake with a hazelnut biscuit, caramelized Washington apple pastries, a chocolate sampler and fresh fruits or international cheeses. When the maitre d' tells you to expect to linger over dinner for as long as two and a half hours, he means it.
Casual attire is the order of the day onboard. It's recommended to wear rubber-soled, flat shoes with good traction while walking around the ship, especially when out on the open decks.
However, there is a dress code at night. On cruise casual evenings, men are encouraged to wear slacks, khakis, jeans or long dress shorts and collared sport shirts. Casual dresses, skirts, pants, capris, dress shorts and jeans with tops are fine for the ladies. Not permitted in the main dining rooms on cruise casual nights (or on elegant nights, for that matter): flip-flops, bathing suit attire, cut-off jeans, sportswear, baseball hats or sleeveless shirts for men.
On cruise elegant nights (held once on sailings that are five nights or less in duration, and twice on sailings that are six nights or longer), men should wear dress slacks and shirts; sports coats, suits and tuxes are an option, though we didn't see a single tuxedo on our sailing. Women should pack cocktail dresses, dressy pantsuits or fine skirts; based on our cruise, it seemed as fine an excuse as any to get a second wear out of those old bridesmaid dresses. Note that children are also expected to adhere to the set dress codes.
Passengers who prefer casual attire at dinnertime, even on cruise elegant nights, can overlook the main dining rooms in favor of the Lido buffet restaurant, which has a more relaxed dress code throughout the cruise. The only real requirements are wearing a shirt, for those coming in from the pool area, and to wear shoes, though even flip-flops are OK here.
One of the recurring complaints we heard from Carnival loyalists was the failure of many passengers to adhere to a dress code on more formal nights. We saw several diners dressed inappropriately in sporty tops and ball caps at our early-seating dinner on one cruise elegant night. Officially, ship staff is supposed to ask passengers not adhering to the dress code to change before returning to the dining room.
With soft blue hues, fiberglass stage curtains and chandelier lights dripping with sparkling beads, the stylish, tri-level, 1,400-seat Spectacular Spectacular sets the stage for the main evening entertainment. The program kicks off with a "welcome aboard" song-and-dance performance, and rotates out several Broadway-style spectacles throughout the course of the cruise (typically with two seatings per night) that tout themes like Latin music ("Fiesta Latina") or, our personal favorite, high-energy rock 'n' roll show "Vrooom," featuring tunes from the likes of Elvis and Pink Floyd. In other evening time slots, the show lounge plays host to game show-style interactive events (a la Family Feud), while during the day, it stages orientations, lectures, Dr. Seuss Story Time, bingo games and more.
What would a Carnival cruise be without bingo, trivia contests (on everything from Dr. Seuss to Star Wars), bean bag tosses, towel animal theater and the men's hairy chest contest? Now that's entertainment. The busy daily program on any given day might highlight spa seminars, cooking demos, art talks and auctions, sports tournaments (e.g., lobby bowling, volleyball and Ping-Pong), shop talks and sales, card/gaming tournaments (Texas Hold'em, blackjack, etc.), early-morning stretch classes and more. Look, too, for one-off events like a sailaway party, ice carving demo, and a Dr. Seuss character parade and Story Time event. DJ-spun or live music is typically held poolside and/or in the main lobby during the afternoon.
The smaller aft-side 425-seat theater/lounge El Morocco exudes an exotic Northern Africa-inspired aesthetic (animal prints, lanterns and tiles), with lounge-style entertainment anchored on evening comedy sets from Carnival's Punchliner Comedy Club program. Sailings rotate a changing roster of comedians who typically perform two nightly sets, one for families and ones for adults only. At other times, El Morocco hosts lectures, game shows and karaoke.
On our cruise, the 8,500-square-foot Royal Flush Casino, open pretty much around the clock when not in port, was consistently packed with gamblers. The space, with capacity for close to 500 gamers, comes with about 200 slot machines and plenty of casino prize games and gaming tables. The decor plays up the "royal flush" theme with a playing card motif that covers the ceiling and literally comes out of the walls with card-inspired sculptures. Numerous evening card tournaments (especially for Texas Hold'Em) are scheduled here, while regular bingo games unfold in the main show lounge.
Art talks/auctions, karaoke and shop events continue through the early evening. Nighttime game shows are especially popular, like Family Feud or the Love & Marriage Show (held in the Spectacular Spectacular). On one night of the cruise, there's a grown-up late-night scavenger hunt held onboard, dubbed the Carnival Quest.
Another big evening draw are the photo ops -- Carnival is quite good at setting up diverse photography backdrops around the ship, and getting pro shots taken is a big draw, especially on elegant nights.
For live music, look to the lobby stage for a live band or acoustic performer playing variety music or the casino stage for lively party music. The Robusto Bar hosts regular Latin music, while the Grand Piano Bar puts on live piano tunes nightly. There's a Caribbean-themed beach party on the Lido Deck one night of the cruise, and a handful of special scheduled evening gatherings (held at assorted venues) that cater to LGBT groups, singles (ages 40-plus) and more.
Another fun Splendor feature is its Dive-In Movies, held poolside on the Lido Deck, under the stars (a retractable roof ensures all-weather access), with films screened nightly on a 270-square-foot screen.
About half of the Splendor's 20-plus lounges and bars are distinctive spaces touting their own personalities, while the other half are more discreetly hidden away in eateries and in the main theater. The Promenade Deck, on Deck 5, is the social and imbibing center of Splendor, with the casino and a number of distinctively themed lounges.
Most beverages -- and all alcoholic ones -- are priced a la carte; unlimited alcohol (with a 15-drink daily limit) and soda packages are available at a daily rate (though they must be purchased for the duration of the cruise).
Splendor Bar (Deck 3): Though this pink-and-gold hued lobby bar itself only has seating for 10, surrounding tables with comfy seats invite lingering near this always-crowded ship hub. The space anchors the soaring, illuminated atrium above, and touts a stage (and dance floor) for live music, trivia events and more.
Robusto Bar (Deck 4): The most sophisticated venue on the ship, this dark wood-paneled room comes with brown leather seating for nearly 150 patrons and a stage for live nightly Latin musical entertainment.
Our House (Deck 5): Don't miss the big game just because you're at sea, thanks to this 55-seat sports bar outfitted with numerous flat-screens, brown leather banquettes and stadium-inspired decor, set just off the casino.
Oceanview Bar (Deck 5): This slender strip of a lounge proposes intimate seating nooks with expansive windows overlooking the sea on one side and a bustling pedestrian promenade on the other. Great for people-watching, the bar boasts a stage for nightly musical entertainment with an area for dancing, and is serviced by a busy bar just adjacent to the casino.
El Mojito (Deck 5): This circular Havana-inspired wine and mojito bar offers an intimate space with seating for just 30 patrons, tucked into a circular nook marked by dark wood paneling, oversized pillars and wooden stools.
The Red Carpet (Deck 5): This red-hued 18-and-over dance club (you'll be greeted with mannequins waiting in line on the "red carpet" out front) is the ship's hub for late-night action, with a live DJ (trained in Carnival's DJ IRIE's Spin'iversity program) spinning tunes with themes like '80s hour and "electric white night."
The Cool (Deck 5): Designed as a jazz club, with a stage and dance floor, leather seating (with room for nearly 90 patrons) and murals depicting jazz great Miles Davis, this lounge has been surprisingly relegated to serving as little more than the onboard smoker's lounge, where cigar-and-whiskey events are hosted some nights.
Grand Piano (Deck 5): Tune in to near-nightly singalong piano music at this atmospheric piano bar, with seating for 100. Pull up a stool at the fun keyboard-themed bar that encircles the pianist, and be first in line for requests.
El Morocco (Deck 5): A secondary theater/lounge, El Morocco recreates the famous 1930s New York supper club of the same name with its zebra-patterned banquettes and palm trees. Nightly comedy shows are held here, along with frequent karaoke events.
Splendido Lido Bars (Deck 9): These twin bars flanking the Splendido Pool and its stage for live music are probably the most used on the ship, turning out buckets of beer and frothy cocktails to the daytime pool crowd and evening drinks for Dive-In Movies spectators.
Liner Lido Bar (Deck 9): This popular daytime watering hole services the adults-only aft-side swimming pool, and also turns out beverages for diners in the adjacent Lido Buffet.
Not surprisingly, Splendor's pools, sun decks and sports decks are big draws. In all, there are three pools and five hot tubs, along with a water slide and water-spray park for kids.
The central Splendido Lido pool is popular with families, featuring a large, open, glass-walled area that's two decks high. It can be closed in inclement weather with a retractable sky dome. A highlight of this dramatic space is the Seaside Theater with its 270-square-foot, outdoor screen, which shows concerts, sports, movies and more throughout the day and into the night. One particularly nice touch is the placement of two hot tubs; they're inset into both sides of the deck and offer terrific sea views.
Splendor's aft pool deck is airy and welcoming, offering transporting views over the ship's wake and open sea. Because of its proximity to the buffet and bars, its two roomy hot tubs and adults-only status, it's a favorite hangout for those traveling without kids.
A small lesser-used pool, the so-called Thunderball Pool, is located midship on Deck 11, just adjacent to the water slide's landing zone.
Kids of all ages get a kick out of the spiraling 214-foot-long Twister water slide (access to the top of the slide is from Deck 14), which empties out next to the Thunderball Pool on Deck 11. Nearby, a small kids' splash park offers slides and water features geared toward the 11-and-under set.
On Deck 14, look for an elaborate nine-hole mini-golf course that's free to play, as well as a convertible basketball/volleyball court. Deck 10 is home to a pair of Ping-Pong tables. There is also a nearly life-size chess set for alfresco strategizing on the Lido Deck.
All three pools come with surrounding sun decks that are equipped with cushioned loungers; there are some additional loungers up on Deck 12, overlooking the main pool. Adults traveling alone will enjoy Serenity, the quiet adults-only sun deck, way up on Deck 12 at the front of the ship, which is outfitted with comfortable lounge chairs and tables.
In the main lobby, at the base of the ship's multistory atrium on Deck 3, passengers can access the guest services and shore excursions desks; guest services is open around the clock, though you'll need to consult the daily program for shore excursion desk hours. Travelers interested in booking a future cruise can check in at the designated reception desk on Deck 5.
Atlantic Deck, on Deck 4, houses the library, which, while tastefully appointed with leather seats and Alexandria-inspired murals, has limited hours (as in, an average of just one hour per day on our sailing) and a limited selection. Our advice? BYOB -- bring your own books.
The Internet cafe, open 24/7 on Deck 4, is tucked away, midship, in a small room that adjoins the Robusto Bar. If you can find it, there are some dozen computers. Passengers can also use their laptops throughout the ship, which offers wireless Internet access. Pricing is the same for the ship's computers as it is to access the Web on personal laptops: $16/day for Internet access (or $25/day for a premium high-speed connection), or $5/day for access to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; bulk full-cruise plans are also available.
Splendor also has several do-it-yourself laundry and ironing rooms. Washers and dryers cost $2 each and take quarters.
An art gallery is located near the entrance to The Black Pearl restaurant on Deck 3. To review photos or purchase camera- and photo-related gear, visit the Pixels Gallery on Deck 4.
Also on Deck 4 is a boardroom for meetings, hidden away in a little-trafficked area of the ship. A doctor-equipped medical center is situated on Deck 0.
Shops come clustered together on Deck 5, outside of the entrance to the show lounge. Look for a special occasion shop selling candy, flowers and the sort; as well as a duo of duty-free shops. One focuses primarily on apparel, Carnival-branded gear, chocolates and liquor; the other on perfume, jewelry, watches and cosmetics.
It's difficult to imagine how Splendor's programming for kids and teens could get much better, with three dedicated spaces for younger kids, tweens and teens and a Dr. Seuss partnership.
Camp Carnival, for ages 2 to 11, is a 5,500-square-foot playroom on Deck 10 that has an arts and crafts component, a plasma movie screen and video and board games. Scheduled activities typically run from around 8 or 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., and dinner accommodations can be made. Just above the playroom, connected by a private, secured stairway, is a fun-filled water-spray park. Age groups for supervised activities are 2 to 5, 6 to 8 and 9 to 11. Specialty programs include H2Ocean, a science-based program that involves hands-on projects; SeaNotes, which introduces kids to different musical instruments and genres; and ExerSeas, a recreational fitness program. Note: Unlike many other lines, Carnival does not require that children be potty-trained.
With the line's popular "Seuss at Sea" program, families can expect character encounters with interactive Dr. Seuss story times, parades, a themed "Green Eggs and Ham" breakfast, photo ops and more.
Splendor also offers babysitting services -- infants through age 11 -- in the Camp Carnival playroom from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. and during specified hours on port days. The cost: $6.75 per hour, per child (plus a 15 percent gratuity). For under-2s, there is also paid babysitting services (from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on sea days and select hours on port days) at the same rates. Parents and guardians are also free to use the Camp Carnival facilities under their own supervision during 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on sea days only. In-cabin babysitting is not provided.
Circle C, catering to ages 12 to 14, is a club on Deck 4 that features gaming consoles, late-night movies and a state-of-the-art sound system. Activities include dance parties, karaoke and a Wii Sports showdown.
With its hip decor, Club O2, a lounge serving 15- to 17-year-olds on Deck 5, could easily be mistaken for an adult lounge. Activities include dance classes, smoothie and ice cream socials, teens-only parties with professional DJs, and mini-golf and foosball tournaments.
Activities for both teen spaces are typically scheduled from mid- to late afternoon through to late night.
Adjacent to Club O2 is a 24-hour video arcade, loaded with plenty of games (though at an extra fee). The on-deck basketball court, Ping-Pong tables and water slide are also quite popular with teens. Even the spa caters to teens via its ZSpa concept, with special salon and spa treatment geared specifically toward cruisers ages 12 to 17.
Carnival Splendor sailings attract an overwhelming majority of American passengers looking for close-to-home, value-packed cruise vacations. While much of the clientele is U.S. based, the ship does attract a good amount of Canadian travelers, with a smattering of other nationalities. The ship attracts lots of families and groups of as many as 80 people. The age spread is all over the place -- from retirees to kids in strollers. Shorter sailings and itineraries that overlap with school holidays host the most kids onboard; for example, on an end-of-summer sailing, some 800 passengers onboard were under 18.
With the bi-level Cloud 9 Spa, one of the largest and most elaborate in the Fun Ship fleet (spread out over Decks 11 and 12), Splendor outdoes itself. First, the two-story spa, with its Pan-Asian design, is gorgeous and features another first for the line: a soothing thalassotherapy pool covered by a glass dome and featuring heated, ionized water and pulsating water jets. There's a thermal suite of climate-controlled rooms, including steam rooms, offering varying degrees of warmness and coolness. Heated ceramic loungers are lovely. If that's not enough, passengers can apply different muds to the body as they inhale herbal steam in the mud lounge (extra fee applies). A day pass to the thalassotherapy pool and thermal suite is a $40, though it's free for passengers booked into one of the 68 spa cabins and suites.
Cloud 9 offers an impressive menu of services in 17 treatment rooms: facials, various kinds of massages, acupuncture and body treatments, such as Ionithermie cellulite reduction and colon therapy. Elemis beauty products are used exclusively. One interesting offering is the Elemis SkinLab Facial Mapping Analysis, where therapists use advanced clinical imaging to identify specific skincare concerns. The spa services can get pricey -- $100 or more. It's a good idea to check for port specials, which tend to be less expensive. And be prepared for a no-frills locker room that doesn't offer spa-goers flip-flops or sandals to use in the facility. (The electronic lockers were malfunctioning, too, on the day we visited.)
The salon offers everything from highlights and teeth-whitening to French pedicures and "regrowth tinting." Grooming services are also available for men.
There's also a ZSpa concept, offering teen-inspired treatments, salon services and fitness classes for passengers ages 12 to 17.
The spa is operated by the ubiquitous Steiner, so beware of post-treatment product pitches; feel free to just say no.
The fitness center, open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., is first-rate. In addition to free weights and resistance weights, there are more than 30 treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes, each with its own TV screen. For a fee, consultants are available for personal training, metabolism testing and nutrition planning. On our cruise, there were also spinning, yoga and Pilates classes, $12 each or $30 for three sessions.
The gym also offers some complimentary classes, like stretching, aerobics and body conditioning, along with tabloid-titled seminars like "Eat More to Weigh Less" and "Secrets to a Flatter Stomach."
Finally, you have no excuse to give up your daily walk while you're onboard. On Deck 12's open-air track, 10 circuits equal a mile.
Carnival recommends $13.99 per person, per day, for gratuities ($15.99 per person, per day, for those in suites). The guidelines allocate a portion to dining room services, cabin services and alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel services. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but it can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills and spa treatments. Tipping a couple dollars for room service at delivery is appreciated by the service staff.
Country of Registration: Panama
Regular Capacity: 3012
Maximum Capacity: 3012
Number of Crew:1150
Crew Nationality: International
Officer Nationality: International
Language(s) Spoken:< Multiple Languages
It's hard to tell which onboard space best represents Carnival Splendor - they all seem to hint at the amazing time you're going to have. El Morocco Lounge hosts comedy shows, musical performances, karaoke and more... and wears its 1930s namesake clearly on its nameplate. The words "Royal Flush Casino" incite visions of winning, while our onboard jazz club's moniker - The Cool - simply says it all without saying a word. And the Pinnacle Steakhouse can be found not only at the height of elegant dining, but at the apex of the ship.
If you like your fun to flow, there are options aplenty. If you list "splish" and "splash" among your favorite terms, there's the Splash Park. Those into sitting and sliding are invited to try the signature Carnival Twister Waterslide. How about floating or swimming around? Carnival Splendor has pools all over the place, including the midship pool featuring a retractable roof that makes any day a pool day. So whether you splish or splash, you'll find hydro-excitement galore.
If relaxation is more your thing, Serenity Adult-Only Retreat is more your place. Or if you're looking to take relaxation to the extreme, direct your attention to the Cloud 9 Spa, featuring more (and better) ways to kick back than just about anywhere else, on land or at sea. You haven't lived until you've relaxed in a Thalassotherapy pool, or chilled - so to speak - in a dry heat chamber.
Health and Beauty
No. of Dinner Sittings: 2
No. of Dinner Sittings: 5:30pm; 7:45pm; Anytime
Special Diet: Available upon request
Dress Code: Daytime: Casual / Evening: Resort wear to formalGratuity Policies
All Crew tipping not required