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Carnival Splendor

March 21-23, 2009

2 Day Cruise to Nowhere ~ Travel Agent/Media Preview

This review will be a bit different than most.  This was a 2 day cruise to “nowhere”, preview of the brand new ship for travel agents and the media.  This ship was built with the intention of making Los Angeles it’s permanent home and on its’ way to L.A., agents from all over were invited for a 2 day cruise out of San Francisco to “nowhere”.

GETTING TO THE PIER AND EMBARKATION PROCESS:

Always easy getting to S.F. Pier and parking very simple.  Because this cruise was so short, we opted to park at the garage located on Francisco St. (there are two – on at 50 and one a 80 Francisco St.)- very affordable, about $12/day.  Now for  a long cruise it may not be the best value, but this worked for us on this cruise.  From the parking garage it is a very simple walk across the street.


OUTDOOR SHIP FEATURES:

What doesn’t this ship have? I will address the features located on Deck 9 and upwards from there.  There are two pool areas, first the aft pool area with two hot tubs, not covered.  Then you have the mid-ship main pool area that has a retractable roof.  The pool area that is covered spans 2 decks high and on the upper deck you have 4 hot tubs that overlook the ocean and are covered when there in inclement weather.     There is a basketball court, a golf putting cage, a miniature golf course.  There is a special adults only “serenity area”- quiet lounging area ~ my only peeve on this is that I think it should be located with a pool, this is just a relaxing/lounging area- no way to get wet nearby!  There is also a jogging track.

 

DINING VENUES AND LOUNGES:

One will never starve on this cruise!  There are many dining options available to you.  First of all, 24 hour room service, 24 hour pizza on Deck 9 by the pool and 24 hour ice cream machines in the Lido Restaurant on Deck 9.  The Lido Restaurant is the “buffet” location on the ship for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night buffet options.  Also, on deck 9 by both pool areas you have a few more options for dining:  sandwich/deli, pizza, grill for burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, etc.  Up on Deck 10, you have the Pinnacle Grill, this is a specialty deluxe restaurant that warrants a $30 surcharge per person for the experience ~ the venue is beautiful and has its’ own dance floor- although I’ve heard it gets under-used, so they may opt out on the dance floor and put in more tables!  Only real downside of the Pinnacle is if you have a non-window table, you are likely looking down over the buffet below, which I think was poor design.   On Deck 5 you have a Sushi Bar and then Decks 3 and 4 are the two level main dining rooms the Golden Pearl and Black Pearl restaurants ~ both offer a main and late dining seating which is pre-assigned.  They are identical except for the Gold vs. Black pearl décor AND the fact that the Golden Pearl has windows – the Black Pearl does not.  Now if one is prone to sea sickness- the Black Pearl is mid-ship and a better “ride” regarding motion.

Lounges- well one will never go thirsty on this ship either!  I think I counted 4 bars around the Lido deck pool areas.  The rest of  the lounges are located mostly on Deck 5, starting aft you have the El Morocco Lounge which is a pretty decent size place, great huge dance floor and on our short cruise they did have a variety of entertainment at this venue, including music for dancing.  They also held Karaoke in this lounge and a late night comedy adult only show.  Next to this lounge is “The Cool”, a smaller lounge with an even smaller dance floor with dance music and a duet that would play to your liking.  Across from The Cool was the “Grand Piano”, which is the ship’s Piano Bar and just outside was a Lobby Bar with limited menu of drinks, but seemed to be a good pre/post dinner stop for a cocktail.  Walking down the inside promenade here on Deck 5 going forward you would then come into the Red Carpet Disco which was a pretty good size and had a large dance floor.  My pet peeve with most cruise “discos” is that the floor is a glass substance which is sticky and makes dancing a bit of a challenge…at least our type of dancing!  

Still walking forward the next “lounge” is really all along this promenade as there are lounge chairs where one can sit and people watch, ocean watch, enjoy a cocktail in comfy chairs or listen to some music being played right outside the casino.  Of course there is a casino bar next to the casino and as you walk past the casino, you’ll find yourself in the “atrium”.  You’ll find the sports bar which I never actually entered ~ it was always crowded and extremely smoky!!    Looking down the atrium to Deck 3 you have the Lobby Bar with good music and another small  dance floor.  

ENTERTAINMENT:

As is the case with any Carnival Cruise that I’ve been on, these 2 days did not lack for quality entertainment!  Our first night in the main showroom, located forward on Decks 3-5, the “Spectacular Spectacular” Theatre we saw a Motown Singer who was excellent!  Our second evening we saw the Carnival Dancer’s production “Vroom”, which was a wonderful song and dance production that kept you fully entertained for the entire time!   The El Morocco Lounge was the venue for Karaoke the first night and then on night two we had an adult comedy show and a band that played great dance music before and after his performances.  We also had great musical entertainment throughout the ship.   Our full day at sea we were entertained with the Motown  Singer poolside and again it was a great show.   Of course the cruise staff did its’ part with the audience participation games and dances.  Carnival is now adding entertainment on its’ ships with members of the act “G-Force” on each of their ships.  We got to preview some of their talents.  For the most part they are acrobats/dancers that do some pretty amazing tricks and they get the audience involved.  They were very fun to watch!  The ship also has a pretty sizable casino; however, it was not opened for gaming for this short 2 day cruise.    They did seem to have all the games that you could possibly want on a cruise, so I’m sure it is a very popular place whenever it is open.  Down on Deck 3, there is also the Robusto Bar, which is the location for Latin Music, it is also the only place where Cigar Smoking is allowed- so hopefully if you enjoy Latin Dancing you don’t have a problem with Cigar Smoking.

 

 

 

OTHER FEATURES ON THIS SHIP:

A few more things to report on the Splendor, she has an internet café which is relatively small and tucked away next to the Robusto Bar, you need to go through the Bar to get to “the Web”.  However, this ship has wi-fi throughout, so not a great need for a massive internet area.  There is a Library which was pretty small and small selection of books and games.  There is a Meeting Room, which was a pretty good size. 

The Fitness Facility on this ship is absolutely amazing!! State of the art equipment, a large separate group exercise room for yoga, pilates, spinning and other group classes.  The Spin bikes are all equipped with computers that read your heart rate (if you’re wearing a chest strap) and cadence.  The fitness facility is attached to the Cloud 9 Spa which is enormous!! Countless treatment rooms, a “to die for” couples massage suite with in room Jacuzzi, a beautiful- but small Thalassotherapy pool, all treatments that you can imagine and a full salon for any hair and nail service needs.  What is nice about the spa is that if you have a treatment scheduled you can use the spa “features” for that full day!

There are in-room movies on the television and then there are movies aired on the big screen T.V. by the Lido pool and because the roof is retractable, even on cold, rainy nights, you can still be poolside watching a movie.  I did see people with popcorn, so looks like you can have popcorn with your movie. 

The kids facilities on board the Splendor are wonderful, Carnival has 3 levels of kids clubs and within those 3 levels, sub-divided groups all based on age so that activities are appropriate for each kid.  They have all the games you can imagine, toys, the Nintendo Wii system and fully staffed with people who love to work with kids. 

 

 

Carnival is known for its’ signature water slide and the Splendor is no exception.  This particular slide ends in a “chute” instead of landing you in the pool  I kind of like this because then as a person in the pool you don’t have to worry about people coming down the slide and accidentally “plopping” on you. 

There is of course the shopping area with all the shops for you to buy souvenirs, cosmetics/perfume, formal attire for rent and for sale, jewelry, etc.  I didn’t think there were a lot of shops, so perhaps they are  learning that the shops are not what people go on the cruise ship for- they go to the ports for shopping!   

 

 

 

CABINS:

We were able to tour a few different cabin types on the Splendor and I would say that all of the cabins were very nicely decorated and I felt that they were overall pretty spacious.  We had an ocean view cabin located aft on Deck 2 and it was huge; however, it was also a corner/aft cabin- so that corner gives you a bit more space.  My colleague had an inside cabin on Deck 7 and her cabin was fine, ours was a bit larger- but again that was location.  Typically, all ocean view, inside and balcony cabins on Carnival are going to be the same size- of course balcony cabins have more space overall when you include the square footage of the balcony.  I was also able to tour a few of the suites and they weren’t super large, but definitely gave more room for the person who really wants the extra space.  You also have upgraded toiletry amenities in the suite category cabins.  This ship is a new breed and with it they have launched the Spa Cabins which are located near to the Cloud 9 Spa and they have special access to the spa.  For anyone who is really on a cruise for the spa benefits and features, then these are the cabins for you!  There are also special spa packages for those who stay in the spa cabins and suites.

 

 


PORTS OF CALL:

Nothing to report here since our cruise was going “nowhere”!

OVERALL SUMMARY:

Was this my favorite cruise?  I certainly think that it could have been if it were a real cruise of length.  We had a great time for a 2 day cruise!!


Did I have a good time?  We had an amazing time!


Would I do it again?  Yes, absolutely.  I would actually go to Mexico (again) just to sail on this ship.  I think it is an excellent option for us to have here on the West Coast- yeah, finally a brand new ship!!


Food?  Did not have a bad meal on the entire cruise- everything was cooked to perfection.


Service? The Service on this ship was excellent, which just backs up my theory that crew and ship staff is excited to work on a new ship and that comes through in their service.  There were times when bar service seemed to be lacking, but that also might have been because it was an “open bar” for the entire cruise and they weren’t in a rush to “give it away for free”!    However, the dining room staff were excellent and also very entertaining!! Both nights at dinner the Maitre’ D gave his performance with the help of the waiters and they did a few dance/singing routines that were very entertaining. (I’ll try to post videos!)


Entertainment/Activities?  Nothing to complain about, I thought all of the entertainment was top knotch!

 

 

 

Closing Comments:
I really enjoy Carnival Cruises. We always have fun, they have plenty of options for nightlife entertainment, you are never lacking for something to do.  Food and Service very good, I would not hesitate to recommending this Ship!

 

To see a slide show of the pictures I took on this cruise, please click below:

Carnival Splendor Pictures