Cruise Ship: Carnival Splendor
Cruise Destination: Mexico
Cruise Dates: July 2009
Guest Contributor: Debbie
Our very first cruise. Heard a lot about this spectacular ship. While everything was wonderful, I was discouraged by a few things. We've stayed in $500 + hotels as well as best bargains too. So when all the details about the Splendor stated that soap and shampoo were included, we did not take our own.
The shampoo was so inferior that we had to get off the ship by the third day to try to purchase any type shampoo that would suds up. I used to use high-end shampoo, but in the past years have found that most any Pantene, Breck or drugstore shampoo works fine. But by the 3rd shower, I was so disappointed that I had to go find a store, any store!
By the way, we didn't get off the ship the second day when it stopped at port, and went to the ship store to purchase shampoo and much to our surprise, the 2 tiny ship stores are always closed when ship is in port. Why? Ports require ships to close their stores when in port so that cruise travelers will spend their money ashore. Would have loved to purchase a book and some snacks. Good advice for first time cruisers, if you are not going ashore, don't expect to be able to purchase incidentals if you decide to spend the day on the ship.
Second, the daily list of activities is overwhelming. I would love to see an inter-active type brochure where each cabin just checked off everything they might be interested in for the whole trip and then their daily "possibilities" list would be easier to pick from.
For example: couples without children could opt for a list which simply excluded the tons of kids activies. Much, much easier to follow. The combined adult and kid list is crammed each day. We missed things we would have done if our daily list was not so hard to follow.
Lastly, at one early meeting of instructions, about 2 minutes of instruction suggested you meet with "the shopping" lady. No real importance was stressed nor was the reason why this was not only vital but that the ship does not back up any shore purchases, even ones they recommend and support, unless you fill out forms with receipts at the end of your trip listing all your purchases along with all receipts.
We purchased some jewelry at a stand right off the ship--steps from where our ship parked for us to be taken ashore for some last minute shopping. Felt very safe and confident as this appeared to be the shops the ship had chosen for us. But the last day of our trip, there was an announcement (the first such notice about supplying the ship with store names and receipts), we noticed that our receipt, in Spanish, did not contain all of its name and other requested information, but it turned out NOT to be a ship guaranteed store. It was our understanding that as long as you did not venture out to side streets and vendors, the stores you were taken to by ship water taxi were safe and sanctioned by the cruise ship. It appears that you must wait in line for the "shopping lady" and be very, very alert and even take notes of names of stores the ship guarantees. This would require that you take careful notes on the first day, remember these names in Spanish, and not make any impulsive gift buys. Even when the ship's water taxis take you there. Then make sure you get the vendors full name, city and keep above average care of any receipts. We could, and would have done all of the above if anyone had mentioned that we would be given a purchase list at the end of the trip.
Other than those minor issues, the food was good. The free dining was so good that we had planned to purchase upgraded dining, at least a couple times but just never felt the need to. We did miss the "chocolate feast". It was in our daily list, but we both missed it.
The very best thing was our cabin steward. He worked tirelessly. We were never bothered. He just seemed to know when we were out and kept all our needs met. We just had to leave him more than the $10 per day per person recommendation. Another excellent memory was the 3 huge chocolate covered strawberries my husband purchased for us every day at $2.25 for all three.
I don't know what I expected. Maybe just a little more luxury? Things like quality of shampoo, more personalized daily planning, and stores open for special needs when you aren't up to going ashore, could be good tips. I hope so. We already booked our second cruise before the end of the year and yes, it is with Carnival, just a different ship.