I returned from the Splendor 10/11/09. There are several "new" Carnival policies that were enacted aboard this ship. I do not know if these are fleetwide or just Splendor specific for various reasons.
No more free drinks/H'or Dourves during the Captain's Party. You now get $1 off the price of your drinks. I thought this tacky.
The ship is almost entirely smoke free
The drinks are now over $10 each in most of the bars/venues
Carnival has all sorts of offer and promotions to try to get people committed to another cruise.
The menu in the dining room seemed just a bit scaled down with some dishes prepared in a more "economical" fashion.
Only the gym equipment is available to the full passenger load. The hot tub, sauna, steam room are only for "Spa" customers at an additional cost of $149. The lockers made available to non-Spa customers were sorely lacking.
The crew seemed noticeably less interested in the passengers than I have experienced on other cruises. They seem to just go through the motions which is surprising for such a new ship.
MORE IMPORTANTLY. . .
If you fall into any of the following categories, you may want to think long and hard about cruising on the Splendor:
There is no smoking on Lido deck. the only place you can smoke outside is the back of Deck 10 which cuts you off from ALL outside activity, music and the rest of the passengers. most smokers on the Splendor were incised and promised never to return.
If you enjoy sitting on the smoking side of the Lido and watching the TV, games and enjoying the comraderie, pass this ship by. I understand that the Dream will be pretty much the same.
Late Night Party People
At least 70% of the passengers were over 60. The average age of the passengers on this ship was perhaps 70.
There were no large groups or organizations to explain the large number of older passengers (at least half of the passengers were over 70). I came to the conclusion that it is partly due to the economy in So Cal. Because of the age of a majority of the passengers, this ship was asleep tight by midnight each night.
If you want a lively, rah-rah environment that goes well into the night, pass this ship up.
Any Minority Group
There is no diversity in the passenger load. I would guess that the ratio is at least 97% white, 3% everything else. There was no large groups to explain this away. I spoke to someone in Mazatlan who was cruising on a NCL ship doing our same itinerary and they said it was the same on their ship. Hence, I take it that this is just a sampling of who cruises out of California. Of the 3,400 passengers, there were not more than 30 African American, surely less than 50 Latinos and a handful of other ethnic groups. Unless you truly do not mind being the sole minority in each and every setting and situation, this is not the cruise for you. (I had some people on that ship say some truly ignorant things to me. Both offensive and ignorant.)
Those Looking For the Usual Carnival Comraderie
I don't know if it is norm for California or the West Coast but other passengers I spoke to on this cruise mentioned that there was none of the usual friendly comraderie among the passengers. Most were very nice but by unspoken rule (custom?) most passengers stayed to themselves and you did not see a lot of cross chatter or interaction. I didn't notice this until my tablemates (who were all great btw) brought this phenom up during dinner.
All in all this is a much different cruise experience than what I have had cruising from the East Coast. For my vacation time and $$, I will stick with my Florida/New York/Puerto Rico ports of embarkation and leave California alone.
Finally, from my observation and my past Carnival cruise experience, there is no way, no how this ship is turning a profit. Too much of what makes these ships money was sorely lacking on the Splendor. I would not be surprised if this ship is not repositioned over to the East Coast within the next 18 months or so. It is not reaching it true potential as it is currently stationed.
P.S. Please do not debate me on my observations. They are only my experience and are not up for debate. This is what I saw. This is what I experienced and this is what I took from it.
Any questions, PM me.