Carnival Splendor is Great for Couples, Road Tripping To and From Southern California
Carnival Cruise Lines remains one of the lesser expensive cruise lines, and perfect for a road trip. But before you embark, there are a few things you should know. We recently sailed on the Carnival Splendor, on a 7-Day Mexican Riviera sailing out of the Port of Long Beach, California.
Our road trip started at the Hotel Maya just a few minutes from the port which provided a relaxing lodging option on the waterfront where we could see our gorgeous ship less than a mile away. We soaked in the pool and spa, and took a water taxi from the hotel to explore the surrounding dining and shopping areas. At dusk, we also roasted s’mores on the beach overlooking the waterfront.
The next day before we sailed, we enjoyed a relaxing and un-rushed morning before boarding the Carnival Splendor. Hotel Maya served an excellent buffet breakfast of American and Mexican options to start our upcoming adventure.
We were warned that like much of Mexico, Mazatlan, and Cabos San Lucas have recently become dangerous and unsafe. Carnival no longer stays at ports in the Mexican Riviera well into the evenings like they used to, rather for safety, they leave port in the afternoon or early evenings, so time in these Mexican ports is quite shortened.
However, Carnival does offer the opportunity of providing safe, vetted, contracted shore-excursions within contained environments for couples cruisers to have a fun, hassle-free experience. Sadly, gone are the days of venturing off safely in Mexico to explore on one’s own while at port, or at least that’s what the locals and the crew told us when we inquired.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Camel & Mexican Outback Adventure and Lunch shore excursion in Cabo San Lucas. This included camel riding on the beach and an excellent authentic lunch made with homemade Chicken mole, fresh tortillas, and tequila tasting. Dolphin riding, ATV riding, zip-lining and cavern diving, as well as beautiful resorts are some other options for safe shore excursions in either Cabo or Mazatlan.
A decades long favorite, Puerto Vallarta, is perhaps one of the only last ports safe enough to venture alone into shops and points of interest near the ship, and has fabulous shore excursions such as Las Caletas. We have been several times over the years to this beautiful private island once owned by a famous film producer, where we enjoyed cold beverages, wild animals, paddle-boarding, snorkeling and high quality native food.
Many improvements have made this little haven even better than on previous visits. The resort also includes very affordable massages and exotic evening shows. Half the fun was just getting there or returning from the lovely island as our boat hosts provided excellent hospitality, talented singing, dancing, and romantic mariachi performances.
Despite asking several of the staff at the purser’s desk (now guest services), we couldn’t get many good suggestions for where to go or what shore excursions to go to at our ports. Typically, we had to ask the locals where the safest and best destinations were. It may be prudent to do some of your own research before cruising.
During our days at sea, we spent most of our time at the relaxing adult pool and the 21+ Serenity Deck, where you can cuddle and retreat with a good book from the ship library after having a spa treatment or massage at the Cloud 9 Spa. These were good ways to get away from any noise of kids and teens.
The Lido deck still holds many of the same events, such as Ice Carving, Hairy Chest Contest, Music Trivia, and Dive-In Movies. If you prefer guests can even watch from the pool on the big screen with complimentary fresh popcorn. The Lido deck buffets remains good quality with decent food and ethnic choices ranging from Mediterranean to Italian to Indian.
Most of our evening dinners were enjoyed at the Black Pearl restaurant, where we experienced Ox Tongue, Alligator, Escargot, and Lamb dishes. The desserts were mediocre, such as melting chocolate cake and cheesecake. The wait staff is still as cordial and polite as they used to be and they do still sing and dance for the patrons during a couple of the dinners.
The cruise line still offers two formal night (or cruise elegant), but it’s not how it used to be as many guests have fallen away from dressing up and the stated dress code is no longer enforced. There were a lot of backwards baseball hats, ripped jeans, gym clothes, shorts, and logo tees mixed in with nice suits and very few evening gowns.
We enjoyed dressing up.
The Broadway style Spectacular shows remain good in quality. Carnival has continued to keep some of their same live games and shows such as Love & Marriage and Bingo. The Punchliner provides both PG-13 comedy shows as well as R-rated shows with a number of different comedians.
The staterooms remain comfortable with beds and bunk beds. Many little extras have gone away as they no longer leave chocolates on your pillows as they used to and many of the once free, complimentary room service items we used to enjoy now come with extra cost. However, they do still leave towel animals in your room.
On the days that we were at sea, we also enjoyed the Red Carpet 18+ night club, as well as Karaoke in the Cool Lounge, both of which are located next to the Piano Bar, where we sat often to enjoy our piano-man play requests before heading off to what was next on the list.
Carnival has included a bottomless drinking card for the daily price of $52, which covers fifteen alcoholic drinks per day.
As for WiFi on the ship, don’t pay the money for a connection that you may or may not get to use. It was spotty at best.
If you’re looking for a casual and budget-friendly couples cruise option, Carnival Cruise Line should be your first choice and remains accommodating and fun.