Carnival Splendor –
Carnival Cruise Lines has experienced a lot of bad luck and bad press. I had always defended them and stated they were a great cruise line. Lets face it, wouldn’t you rather be on a ship stalled in the ocean than on a plane falling out of the sky, with no chance of survival. But, after 7 cruises on Carnival, the last two not good experiences, we are parting ways.
Carnival Splendor carrying 3006 passengers and 1150 crew members, first set sail in 2008. We had booked a trip to Mexico, looking forward to a new ship experience. But, before we were set to sail, the ports in Mexico were closed due to the Swine Flu. We were able to get re-booked on a cruise to the Caribbean with upgrades on The Valor. Two years later we finally got our cruise to Mexico on Carnival Splendor. We took another Caribbean cruise on The Valor and were not impressed. Among other things, my daughter was actually accused by the staff of cheating on a game machine in the Casino. The Casino manager apologized and gave us some free drinks. Not quite enough but we took it.
So, we decided to give Carnival one more chance. In September of 2015, we sailed to New England and Canada on The Splendor.
We booked the Canada cruise with some concern and expressed our hesitations to the booking agent due to issues we had on Valor. We were promised priority booking, which turned out to be incorrect. After a few discussions of this error with several agents, we were finally taken to the priority boarding area. The booking agent also said he had arranged a Thank You Gift to be delivered for dinner on Wednesday of the cruise — nothing came.
As we approached the port in NY, the bus driver was advised to leave and come back 30 minutes later as the buses were backed up. He pulled away and parked about 4 blocks away. Upon stopping he suggested we should walk from there. Now, we paid for transfer from the airport to the terminal and I was not walking with my 82 year old mother and luggage. There were about 12 other passengers who chose to wait on the bus with us, visibly aggravating the driver as he needed to be heading back to the airport for more guests.
Upon boarding, we found the tacky pink decor of Carnival Splendor was not aging well. Carpet, walls, and railings all were sorely in need of an update. We headed to the drink package table to purchase Bottomless Bubbles and Cheers packages for three of us in the cabin. My mom was the fourth person in our cabin and has never drank her whole life. But, because she shared the room, I had to buy her a Cheers drink package as well or we could not purchase any, so we didn’t. I opted for just the Bottomless Bubbles soft drink package.
Our balcony room was small, as we knew it would be, but the four of us had no issues making it work. Room service was not good. Our morning coffee arrived either really early or too late and never with enough cups. The beds were turned down but no chocolate mints on the beds as we had previously experienced. We hardly ever saw our cabin steward. In the past, they had always knocked on the door to introduce themselves.
The entertainment on the Lido deck was poor. If you did not line dance or want to learn how, the deck parties were boring. On top of that, there were never places to sit. In the theater I would say the entertainment was marginal at best, not what we had experienced in the past. If you wanted to play trivia you had to get there an hour before as the main lobby bar area had little seating. The piano bar is always our favorite spot, but this time it was more about the piano player trying to be a comedian and not succeeding very well.
The entertainer in the main lobby was great but, there was not enough room for all the guests who wanted to listen to him play guitar and sing.
The whole crew was not friendly, energetic, or caring. On doing research and talking to the crew on past cruises I understand they miss their families and do not see them sometimes for 7 months or more. On top of that, they do not make much money. When paying the daily gratuity fee, I always try to remember this. But, I would much rather tip the ones I like and not have tips split among all of them.
Speaking about the crew. We stood in line at least 4 times waiting to speak to someone at the Pursers Desk. They were not well informed, caring, or willing to help. In one instance, Halifax, Nova Scotia, we asked if there was any shopping close by the dock as we had an hour before meeting our tour group outside. We were advised no, it would be a long walk. So, we waited on the ship. Upon departing, we found about 30 vendor booths set up in a large semi-permanent looking tent on the pier right outside the ship.
Tours were a mess. At the above mentioned port, we stood forever waiting for our bus. All the tours got back to the ship late and there were never-ending lines of us trying to get back on-board. And, by this time, the aforementioned vendors were all closing up shop. We were being rushed and of course the ship was late leaving port. It seemed the crew was upset with all of us — like we caused the delay.
Our first night out The Splendor had engine trouble and was delayed getting into Boston. We got there at rush hour and waited with many others to catch a cab. By the time we got downtown most of the museums and graveyards we wanted to visit were closed. About all we got to do was some shopping at Faneuil Hall and visit a “Cheers” location from the iconic TV sitcom. We did get to see the Paul Revere statue and the Old North Church.
And, since I mentioned shopping, the shops aboard the ship did not have as many special deals as previous cruises. Nor did they ever bring out new merchandise. My daughter wanted to buy a ring, looking at it daily, and was given a different price every time for the same ring. Needless to say she did not buy it.
So, lets talk about the food. The buffet lines were horribly long as usual but, the food was not what it used to be. The servers and cooks behind the counters acted as though we did not exist. The ice cream station was always dirty and many times had no ice cream. The pizza line was always long and even if it wasn’t, there was a long wait for pizza to be ready. We really missed the mid-night buffets, I guess they are gone. All there was to eat for late night was pizza and hot dogs.
The food in the main dining room also was not what we had come to expect. The service was even worse. It felt like our servers were being pressured to rush us out. In the past, our drink server was always there promptly and remembered our drinks from the first night on. This time we only saw the drink server on the first night and never again. The ledge between us and the adjacent table was dirty and dusty the first night and was never cleaned for the entire cruise.
We had to point out several spotty glasses at our table every night. Got mad the last night and took photos.
One of us dropped a spoon beneath our table on one of the early nights and it stayed for the following nights. I ordered iced-tea and waited forever for them to go get it from the buffet each night. Really, no iced-tea in the dining room? Would have had a Coke since I did have the Endless Bubbles package, but again they never came to the table for the order. They forgot my mother’s coffee nearly every night. One night the cappuccino machine, which happened to be right near us, was not working. We had to listen to the waiters squabbling over how to fix it.
Upon returning home we contacted Carnival and even sent them pictures. We got no response.
Carnival has always been a lower cost option for cruises but their prices are creeping up into the same range as the others. It is time for us to say goodbye to Carnival. Our next cruise is already booked on Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas. We will see what they have to offer and report back…stay tuned!