This was my eighth Carnival cruise, 7 of which I have taken in the last 3 years. I was trying to make Platinum before the change to the loyalty program, but am unsure if I will cruise with Carnival again. If I do, I will pay extra to book a Spa balcony on the newer class of ships that does not allow smoking.
Embarkation Day: We flew in the day of the cruise, got a taxi to the port and basically walked on the ship. The port was practically empty at 1PM when I arrived. I don't think I will arrive early anymore and waste time sitting around-very efficient process after 1PM. When we walked onto the Lido deck, the music blasting from the giant TV was so incredibly loud I felt as if I was at a concert. You literally could not hear yourself speak! I'm in my mid 30's and thought this music was way too loud.
The 2.0 dining upgrades were fabulous! Guy's Burgers are delicious and very addictive! The Blue Iguana Cantina has great breakfast burritos and tacos. A major plus for Carnival! I never had a problem with the buffet and always found good food that was warm. I did Your Time Dining and thought the food was OK; comparable to recent Carnival cruises I have taken. The service was lacking, unfortunately, and I believe it is because the waiters have just too many tables to offer prompt service. We sat in the same area every night, arrived at 5:45 opening time and it still took a very long time to order and receive food, even kid's meals. Waiting 15-20 min between courses is not acceptable. Bar service was non-existent in the dining room...you had to hunt a bar server down to get a drink. One more thing: ribs on formal night? I did order them and they were quite delicious!
Cabin: I paid a premium to have a forward balcony on the Lido deck and was sorely disappointed. First, despite being noted on my booking, there was no crib set up in my cabin for my son. I asked my steward to please set one up because my son cannot sleep in a regular bed. He told me the storage area was locked and could not get a crib until 7PM. What?? How about unlocking it and getting the crib? He told me he would have to get permission from his supervisor. Completely unacceptable and the crib did not appear until 5:30-I basically had to plead for a crib. Cabin service was OK, but spotty during the cruise. I routinely did not get my beach towels replaced, or only one was exchanged. I always had to ask about this. Towels were threadbare, one of the robes had deep red wine stains all over it, and my duvet cover had old bloodstains on it. Gross! These linens should be taken out of service. My second duvet had old yellow stains all over it. The first three nights I got chocolates then it stopped-either give them out or don't. The cabin stewards were OK, but I had a problem with how loud they spoke in the hallways and played loud music on a portable stereo. For a 'Family Cruise Line" don't the realize kids need to nap during the day? This persisted even with the "snoozing" sign on my door.
My main complaint with the balcony was the constant, and I mean constant smoke outside. Yes, I realize Carnival allows smoking on balconies. Yes, I realize I can book an inside room to not be subjected to the second hand smoke, but I have the right to enjoy a balcony as a non-smoker! I have sailed on Princess where there is no balcony smoking and just may abandon Carnival for the smoking issue. I intentionally booked a forward cabin to avoid being downwind of smoke but it didn't matter. My pig of a neighbor when he wasn't yelling at his wife was smoking marijuana or cigarettes morning, noon, and night. The family in the Captain's Suite was constantly outside smoking. Just opening my balcony door sent a wave of noxious smoke into my cabin.
I realize it was Spring Break, but I don't appreciate being woken up at 3AM by drunken antics in the hallways, doors slamming, yelling, etc. Also, dodging packs of teens running around the decks in the common areas/participating in horseplay...parents why are you allowing your children to act like this? So much for a Family Cruise!
One last negative encounter was the Chair Hogs! Carnival really, really needs to do something about this. I was looking for ONE chair around 8:30 the first sea day. I see an entire tier of chairs with towels on them. I move aside one towel and this belligerent woman comes from nowhere and says those are her chairs and she is saving them for her party of 20! I told her she can't save chairs and I will just sit there until here party shows up-she glared at me until I left. I never saw her party of 20 using those chairs that day. The Serenity area, while very nice, is impossible to get a chair unless you throw your towel on one at 6AM. Major fail for Carnival not enforcing a chair saving policy. It was next to impossible to get a chair anywhere on a sea day, not just the coveted front row pool chairs.
The ports were fine-I had been to all of them except Roatan and wow is this place fabulous! I would book a western cruise for just this port! Cozumel, Belize, and Grand Cayman were the other ports. We were the only ship in port except for Grand Cayman. The weather was fantastic and seas were calm the entire cruise.
The Past Guest Party was fun with drinks flowing. The Farewell party was barely attended, despite free drinks. I don't gamble so I can't comment on the casino. I did not do any Carnival excursions. I did not buy any of the over-priced photos. It would be nice if they offered a CD with your pictures on them. I can't imagine all the pictures they waste every cruise. The Gift Shops were boring-more variety is needed.
Camp Carnival was wonderful with my son and he enjoyed his time there. Camp Carnival is really the only draw left for me to continue cruising with Carnival, because they are one of the few cruise lines that allow 2 year olds. I realize this review may sound negative, but we did have a nice time and it was nice to have a break from work. This was the first cruise where I was itching to go home the last day or so. I have seen a decline in Carnival, and for a line that advertises itself as "Family Friendly," I can't say I agree. How about a family pool or splash zone for kids where drunks are not allowed and the roaring ear-blasting music cannot be heard?
Disembarkation: I requested number 10 luggage tags and my flight was at 12:30 from MIA. I was off the ship by 8:45, however the customs and taxi lines were extremely long, so give yourself extra time. I saved waiting on the luggage line at the airport by curbside checking my bags and had plenty of time to wait for my flight. I was at my gate by 10:45.
Thanks for reading my review. My next cruise is this June on Princess and then I think I'm going to try the NCL Epic. Sorry, Carnival, I think I have outgrown you!