Weekly Wednesday – Ship Spotlight: Carnival Splendor

This week I am going to introduce you to one of my favorite cruise ships I’ve sailed on. I took my first cruise in September of 2017 as an attendee of a wedding party. We were all set to sail through the Eastern Caribbean, making stops at exotic locations such as St. Thomas, Puerto Rice, and Dominican Republic. I was elated to go on this journey as up until this point, I had only travelled domestically, to Canada and once to Germany. The idea of sun-kissed coast lines and being out on the open water had really gotten me excited.

As our September 23rd sail away date approached, we anxiously kept watch on the weather as there were two hurricanes with trajectories along the same route as our sailing. One week prior to departure, we received the email from the cruise line announcing a change in our itinerary. We wouldn’t be sailing the Eastern Caribbean at all! Instead, we were going to call the Western Caribbean, making stops in Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Grand Cayman. Given how close I’ve lived to the United States, Mexico border, it’s surprising that I haven’t been to Mexico up until this point. The poor wedding couple, they had to completely revise their marriage plan and find a new location to tie the knot with less than a week to plan.

Carnival Splendor docked in Fort Lauderdale, September 2017.

We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale optimistic, and when we saw the Carnival Splendor sitting in the dock awaiting our arrival, I just knew this was going to be a fun week! There she was, standing tall and proud. It was an intimidating sight, but I also felt a certain comfort when we entered the terminal. The staff and crew were all smiles and couldn’t wait to send us on our way.

This article isn’t about the wedding cruise, specifically though I can tell you that things went swimmingly well, and the marriage event seemed as though it had been planned for a Western Caribbean sailing the entire time! We are going to really take a deeper look at my favorite ship, the Carnival Splendor both as I’ve sailed her and how she has transformed to ‘wow’ passengers in the Australian market.

She is Born!

Carnival Splendor open-air aft.

Originally ordered in 2006 by Costa Cruises to join the Concordia-class, the Splendor’s hull was laid down on the 3rd of August in 2007. During construction, it was decided that the ship would be transferred to Carnival Cruise Lines and she would sit prominently in her own name-sake class for the brand. From the outside, she visibly differed from the earlier Carnival Conquest-class of ships, with the most obvious change being the retractable roof over the pool appearing in the mid-ship, and the aft being redesigned to be more open-air. Step inside and the layout of her interior is practically identical to the Conquest-class.

Carnival Splendor uniqueness

If you’ve never sailed on the Carnival Splendor, let me paint you a picture of her interior: pink polka dotted zebra prints adorn her walls and black tile with lime green grout compliment the appearance. Specialty designer Joseph Farcus (check out our article about him) has definitely placed his stamp on this ship in a very big way. There are textures and colors everywhere!

Here is Mark standing under the funnel

She officially entered service on July 10, 2008 as the largest vessel Carnival Cruise Line operated, weighing in at 113,300 GT, 950 feet long, a beam measuring 116.6 feet tall and a draught of 27 feet. The Carnival Splendor is capable of carrying 3,012 passengers with 1,150 crew onboard. Her funnel, short and stumpy in appearance, offers a unique feature on its back side which overlooks the basketball court. The ship was christened by Myleene Klass in Dover in a ceremony where she played Sailing on the piano while a Royal Navy diver climbed up five decks on a rope and broke the champagne bottle on the bow by hand.

Carnival Splendor sailed her inaugural season in Northern European ports before repositioning to Fort Lauderdale in November. Only a few months after visiting Caribbean destinations she was on her way to her new home port in California.

Heading to California

Due to her girth, she couldn’t squeeze through the existing Panama Canal locks, making her the first Carnival ship to take a journey around Cape Horn. She left Ft. Lauderdale on January 31st, 2019 crossed the equator on February 7th, and arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina on February 17th. She departed Buenos Aires the next day and embarked on a 14-day journey, sailing around Cape Horn on February 23rd, and arriving in Valparaiso, Chile on March 3rd. She left Chile that same day for another 18-night journey, crossing the equator on the 11th of March, arriving in San Francisco on March 21st. She repositioned to Los Angeles the following week where she would sail year-round cruises to Mexico.

Troubled Waters

Delivery of food rations – photo: wikipedia.org

In November 2010, on her second day of a voyage from Long Beach, Carnival Splendor experienced a catastrophic failure of one of her generators which ignited a fire in her aft engine room. Overhead electrical cables in that room caught fire which caused extensive damage to the cabling and contributed to the ship losing all electrical power. There were no injuries as the fire was extinguished by the afternoon. Food rations were delivered via U.S. Navy helicopters when the crew discovered that they were unable to restore power to the engines. The ship was towed to San Diego, arriving 2 days after the incident to disembark the passengers and to undergo an investigation and repairs, eventually returning to service 3 months later.

In February 2012, there were 22 passengers on a Carnival-organized excursion in Puerto Vallarta who were robbed by an armed bandit. There were no injuries and only materialistic possessions were taken, including passports, money, cameras and jewelry.

Heading back East

Carnival Splendor carried the west coast for several more years before swinging back around South America to take over services from New York. February 3rd, 2013 saw her departure from Long Beach to sail on a 17-night cruise back to Valparaiso, Chile. She departed from Chile on the 20th of February for a 13-night cruise to Buenos Aires, Argentina. She left Argentina on the 5th of March for an 18-night journey which ended on March 23rd in New York City. She sailed from New York to the Caribbean and Bermuda for the 2013 and 2014 seasons before finding a new home port in Florida.

She finished out 2014 sailing out of Norfolk, Virginia, before heading back to New York for the 2015 season. In late 2015, Carnival announced the re-positioning of the Carnival Splendor in 2018 to China to help their newly formed CSSC brand. Almost a year later, they changed their mind and announced that she would head to Long Beach for the second time in January 2018.

In March 2017 she was 50 miles off the shore of Puerto Rico when the ship experienced engine trouble requiring her to move with only one engine working. The rest of that itinerary was cancelled, and the ship headed back to Ft. Lauderdale. A few months later is when our paths crossed for the very first time. I had such a wonderful time sailing on Carnival Splendor in September of 2017, that I immediately booked another cruise in December 2017, calling at exotic southern Caribbean ports including Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis.

Back to the West Coast

A couple of weeks after I sailed on her, the Carnival Splendor was headed for Long Beach and she became one of the largest ships to cross through the newly completed locks in the Panama Canal. Within one month of her arriving in Long Beach, it was announced that Carnival Splendor would be shifting to Australia by the end of 2019.

Water shuttle service in Cabo San Lucas

I managed to sneak another voyage on her prior to the transformation in February 2019. The sailing started off cold in Long Beach, but once we got near Cabo San Lucas, we began to see whales and dolphins swimming alongside the ship. The itinerary was unique in that we had an overnight stay in Puerto Vallarta which allowed for more exploring. At the end of the day, it was always a welcome sight to walk back onto the Splendor.

Carnival Splendor began her final voyage from Long Beach on October 5th, 2019 and set sail for the longest voyage ever offered by Carnival. It would take 24 days for her to reach Singapore, where she would undergo a month-long transformation to serve the Australian market.


The most notable changes that took place on her was the modernization of appearances on the Lido deck and the introduction of the popular eateries found on many other Carnival branded ships. This sadly meant the demise of the last Tandoor restaurant which featured many unique flavors and dishes found in India.

Here, you can see the removal of the decorative tilework and the updated water slides

Although her guest/crew capacity didn’t change while in dry dock, you can see that there were minor changes made around the ship. Last I heard, she still has her pink polka dot zebra print patterns and the black tile with lime green grout.

Use the slider above to see the changes that were made. The deck plan from the left was before the Australia dry dock, and the photo from the right is after.


Carnival Splendor will always hold a special spot in my heart for being the first cruise ship I ever sailed on. Her patterns and colors definitely stand out and leave a lasting impression on all of her passengers. Have you had the opportunity to sail on her? Do you have any special memories tied to this great ship? We would love to hear it!

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