Carnival Splendor: The Pink-Headed Step-Child

Skip directly to our video content: My First Cruise, Carnival Splendor Transformation, and Splendor 2.0.

In 2006, a new ship was being developed for Costa Cruises. Slated to launch in 2008, this Concordia-class cruise ship was going to fit right in with the other sisters of this class. Just as the designs were wrapping up, there was one major change that appeared on the blueprints, the iconic Carnival whale tail funnel. Carnival decided to transfer the Splendor from Costa to namesake Carnival Cruise Lines and the ship would become known as Carnival Splendor. She features many firsts for Carnival Cruise Lines:

  • First ship to feature a two story spa
  • First thalassotherapy pool on a Carnival ship
  • The largest kids club in the upper mid-ship decks
  • First kids spray-ground (Splashy Cove)
  • First ship to feature a two story mid-ship pool lined with glass walls
  • A fully retractable roof over the mid-ship pool
  • First Carnival Cruise Lines ship to sail around Cape Horn, South America

Having sailed on this ship a dozen times, we’ve become quite familiar with her layout and design over the years. People may forget the name of the ship, but they’ll quickly recall her pink, zebra-printed, polka dots that appear all over. Additionally, you can’t forget her black wall tiles with lime green grout! Other areas of the ship have unique designs such as the aptly-named Gold Pearl, Black Pearl and Pink Pearl Restaurants.

My standard for cruise ships was defined by this vibrant ship as she was the first cruise ship I ever set foot on. It was in 2017, so she had already made many calls over the years to plenty of exotic ports, but the Carnival Splendor still looked great. I was amazed at how large the atrium was and my breath was simply taken away when I walked into the theater. If you want to see all of my reactions to that very first cruise, be sure to check out the video below, which chronicled that September day.

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I had such a great time on that first cruise that when I got home I took advantage of the Future Cruise offer that Carnival added to my VIFP account. Mark and I booked our very first cruise together! It was departing out of Miami and would be heading to the Eastern Caribbean on – you guessed it – Carnival Splendor!

My journey to the cruise ship was a little rough due to airport delays and flight cancellations (we can’t stress it enough, don’t book airfare for the same day as the sail-away). I eventually caught up with the ship in her first port-of-call, Nassau. It was great being back on this familiar ship! Mark took me exploring and showed me things that I hadn’t discovered during my first sailing. Would you know where to go to find this intense pattern?

As of this writing, this design is still present on the ship.

Carnival Announces Changes Splendor

On February 6, 2018, Carnival announced they would be transferring our beloved ship to Australia and she would launch in time for the 2019 Australian summer season. As part of this transfer, Carnival Cruise Lines promised an extensive overhaul of the ship to prepare her for the Australian market. Mark and I booked our farewell cruise in February, 2019 and explored the ship one last time as we sailed the Mexican Riviera. We wondered what was in store for the Splendor? Would she come out of dry dock stripped of her personality? Would they finally add other Carnival staples to her and fully bring her up to the Fun Ship 2.0 standards?

Post Dry Dock

Carnival Splendor emerged from dry dock in November 2019 in a new land. Passengers would file onto the ship and sail to new destinations in the Southern Hemisphere. Mark and I didn’t look at too many pictures of her after her dry dock, for fear that we would be disappointed in her changes. The pandemic began a few short months after she began sailing in Australia and everything came to a halt.

Australia delayed the restart of cruising longer than many other places around the globe. In fact, because of this, Carnival announced their Alaska restart with the relocation of Carnival Spirit (Australia’s other Carnival ship). The only ship left in the fleet that hadn’t restarted revenue cruises was Carnival Splendor. I kept a close eye on her as she sat dormant in the Philippines for months on end. When Carnival announced the new itinerary for Carnival Splendor, Mark and I immediately jumped on the opportunity to see her! She was coming to Alaska (a new route for Mark) and would have a limited engagement run.

We walked onto the ship, and immediately felt at home again. Splendor 2.0 is still the Splendor we know and love! We spent a better part of that week in July 2022 exploring the ship and trying to identify every little detail that had changed since we last sailed on her. We noticed several changes immediately and were able to create a quick video outlining some of them with included before-and-after images.

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Several weeks passed and we continued to discover more and more changes we hadn’t even realized until looking at before and after pictures (we have literally thousands of photos of the Carnival Splendor). We got excited as we continued to compare notes and deck plans from the original Carnival Splendor to what we have since coined “Splendor 2.0.”

Please enjoy our tour through Carnival Splendor’s many changes as we explain them in our favorite way, through food, drinks, fun and everything else!

We would love to hear from you! What’s your favorite cruise ship you’ve sailed on? Have you done a comparative cruise prior to a scheduled dry dock and after? Have you sailed on the Carnival Splendor? Leave us a comment below! We’d love to hear about your experiences.

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16 thoughts on “Carnival Splendor: The Pink-Headed Step-Child”

  1. I sailed on the Splendor to Alaska June of this year, it was wonderful. It was fabulous and yes, the ship is awesome including the retractable roof. There oonly one other that have the thalassotherapy pool was the Dream,Vista does not have the thalassotherapy pool

    1. You’re absolutely right! The Splendor kicked it of for Carnival when it started sailing and they kept the Thalassotherapy pool concept through the Dream class (Dream, Magic, and Breeze). Once they got a little bigger with the ships, they opted to remove it in favor of a “Spa” style pool for the Vista class. The Excel class is no different.

    2. We first sailed the Splendor in May 2019 from Long Beach CA to Hawaii. It’s a rather unique looking ship on the inside, but that is part of the “splendor” of the ship now, isn’t it? We are flying from Chicago to Sydney just as March begins in order to sail her once again, but this time to the South Pacific. Only this time she will have our favorite bar post drydock, and that is the Alchemy Bar.

  2. How come Brisbane, with the warmer climate gets the ship with no waterslides, and Sydney gets the waterslides? Is the Sydney ship bigger?

    1. The Carnival Splendor that’s sailing out of Sydney is a larger ship, by almost 1,000 people. Our best guess is that Carnival already secured the sailing plans for the Splendor to be based out of Sydney and then added the Luminosa after, and wanted to pick up the ports that Spirit used to visit. Perhaps things will be better positioned for the ships sailing in Australia next summer.

    2. Heaps bigger. Maybe half the size again of the Carnival Spirit. I’ve had 2 cruises on the Splendor and we are booked in late January,2023 on a cruise to the South Pacific.

  3. I actually didn’t like the layout, much prefer the Carnival Legend. Looked alot more classy then the Splendor. Was confused getting round the ship

    1. The layout of the Splendor is very similar to the rest of the Carnival fleet, prior to the current Excel-class of ships. Starting with the Destiny-class and working through the Conquest-class, Splendor-class, Dream-class, and Vista-class, they all take parts from each other and continue to develop and improve the layouts with each larger ship. The Spirit-class was more of an experiment that Carnival did to take all of the things that passengers had enjoyed from the Fantasy-class and Destiny-class and put them together, along with new innovations to create the final product. We also very much enjoy the Spirit-class of ships (Spirit, Legend, Pride, & Miracle) and try to sail on those whenever we see a great itinerary available.

    2. Totally agree with your comments regarding the layout of the Splendor. Our group of 4 spent over 1/2 an hour trying to find our way to the Black Pearl Restaurant, and we weren’t the only ones trying to find it on the 2 no night of our cruise. We only used the MDR 3 nights of our cruise. We couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of trying to find the restaurant from our cabins on Deck 1.

  4. I couldn’t agree more Dianne. Legend’s layout was much better. I boarded Splendor for the first time two days after you posted you comment. Everyone was saying they seem to have crammed in too many rooms at the expense of the onboard activities and shops.
    The layout meant that you couldn’t get from one end of the ship to the other on all decks. You had to go to deck five to move forward or aft, depending which dining room you were in, then back down to deck 3 to access either Black Pearl or Gold Pearl.
    Serenity was a much smaller space than on Legend. Worst of all, the fine dining restaurant was open to the noise of the ‘ol fashioned BBQ and the Lido Buffett below via the atrium.
    Let’s end in a high note, though. I liked this version of the Red Frog pub better. Much better venue for karaoke than the small theatre in Legend.

    1. It’s definitely a trend we’re seeing in drydock. The comedy club aft is removed and more rooms are added. One of the levels of the theater is removed and more rooms are added, etc. As Rocky mentioned, the lack of a throughway has been a pretty consistent feature of Carnival ships. Having to go up to get over and back down is something we’ve gotten used to over the years. Just got off Mardi Gras, and I think that’s one of the easiest ships, but the entire sailing, we heard people complaining about the layout. Deck 6 is a through deck. Deck 7 is a through deck (through the casino) and Deck 8 is a through deck. Deck 16 (Lido) is a through deck. Definitely have many public ways to get from forward to aft on that ship (including the stateroom hallways). If you try an Excel-class, let us know your thoughts. Some people love ’em and some people hate ’em. We’re in the love ’em camp! 😉

  5. Hello there I sailed on her sister ship back in January to a destination called Airlie Beach a 4 night cruise a 1150 nautical miles round trip on Carnival Luminosa it was awesome totally enjoyed myself and now on my my next is with yes Carnival Splendor up to Cairns in far North Queensland on 21st June 2023 for 9 days can’t wait.

    1. Hey Phil. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us! Glad to hear you enjoyed the Luminosa and hope you find the quirkiness on Splendor fun and exciting!

  6. I had the privilege of sailing on the Splendor last spring on an Alaskan cruise. I thought she was a beautiful ship and I loved everything about it. I did get lost a time or two trying to find the dining room but didn’t consider it a big deal. I would love to board her again one day.

    1. That’s wonderful! Agreed that Carnival did something weird when designing a lot of their ships. The forward dining room (which is smaller) is right off the ship’s main atrium, but the aft dining room isn’t as easy to locate. Glad you enjoyed her uniqueness and hope you can get back on board again soon!

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