This was our first cruise and much anticipated. We boarded in Barbados where only about 50 passengers seem to board compared with the 2000 or so in San Juan. Check in was slow despite so few passengers and it took us an hour from arriving in the dining room and collecting our number, to being given our sail and sign cards. We couldn't see why it was so slow, despite 5 or so staff checking in passengers at the same time.
Our cabin was as expected. We had a balcony (I would now never cruise without one as we used it lots) but it was as past reviewers say, very dated in decor. It was very clean, although had not had a deep clean for a long time (think lots of dust up in the lighting, vents, etc). The bathroom was the most dated, and the old fashioned shower curtain really needs to be replaced with a screen. we took some clothes pegs which we attached to the bottom of the shower curtain to save it sticking to us when in the shower and thus causing a wet bathroom floor, but it was clear the cabin steward expected a leaky shower as towels had been rolled up around the base of the shower prior to our arrival. Our cabin steward was very attentive, although we did find a plate of half eaten food in our cabin on arrival which was a bit strange?!
The ship's public areas are also very garish and quite dated. It is a great ship for a young family holiday/young couples but we would not recommend it to older guests as it can be a little loud on the Lido deck during the day/early evening with various 'fun' activities taking place. Our daughter (aged 7) enjoyed these though.
Food - reasonably good but service in the MDR (Atlantic) was sooooo slow every night. You need to allow nearly 2 hours for dinner and it was not unusual to wait 45 minutes for your starter. We couldn't understand why this was as there are only a set number of meals on the menu so surely most are more or less ready to go? Also we never had a hot meal in the MDR. My daughter's chicken strips and fries were also stone cold on one night. We believe this may be because main meals are left sitting on the wait staff stations for some time before you get them and the plastic covers they use don't retain heat well. The only warmish thing we had was soup.
Up on the Lido deck the buffet was good, often hotter than the MDR. However - and we thought this was a bit of a con - the food is exactly the same as the meals served in the MDR!!! we found this out one night after checking it out after our MDR meal. The advantage of the eating your evening meal on the Lido deck is it was hotter and you can choose by eye which we prefered. My husband also enjoyed having more than one dessert there. It is a real shame that the stir fry meals place is only open between 12.30 - 2pm so we did't have a chance to try those. The sandwich place is good, but again would be better if it was 24 hrs like the pizza - which was also good. wait lines were not too bad, but we had breakfast early and dinner late, so it may be busier at other times.
Entertainment was poor. We saw one show which was all dancing girls circa 1980's style and not much substance. Singers were just okay, with the exception of the Carribean/Reggae band who performed during the day on deck 10.
The shows are also often VERY late - around 10.15pm, which means you can't see them if you have young kids and with no babysitting service to watch over them, you still can't see them after kids are in bed. With a heavy itinery on this cruise and trying to maximise our time ashore we therefore felt that some early shows would have been better - there were only about 2 of these at 7pm all week. How people managed to burn the candle at both ends all week was beyond us, but then maybe they weren't spending much time ashore either.
Photographers are a bit of a nightmare. They harrass you a bit too much. We had real difficulty in getting our photos at the end of the cruise because they weren't ready, despite us telling them several times we were disembarking at Barbados. We ended up leafing through the entire guest's photos at 7am on the morning of our disembarkation - not acceptable. I asked whether this happened to San Juan guests and I was told it does not and that they are ready the night before. So why are Barbados guests treated differently?
It doesn't just end there. On arrival we had no room service menu and requested one from our room steward - it never arrived - that it, until Sunday (4 days into our cruise) when we got the same 'arrival pack' that the San Juan guests got! It also contained a 'good to know' information sheet which again we didn't get on our arrival.
On disembarkation, we received a letter the night before telling us we had to be in the Adriatic Lounge at 7.30am to go through immigration to disembark at Barbados. We duly arrived and then got sent back to the Irish bar to have our forms checked and issued with a number to then return to the Adriatic Lounge. Is this a game Carnival play? Why can't they just tell guests were they need to be instead of sending us on a goose chase. We went through immigration and were told we could collect our bags (we did self assist) and then went down to the gang way at 8.30am as we had booked a day's activity in Barbados prior to our evening flight. We get down there and got told we could not leave the ship! Despite the fact that all the San Juan guests were getting off for their days's activities! It seemed so ridiculous. We refused to move as we knew we had gone through immigration and could not understand why we could not enter Barbados. My husband went up to guest services who told him that 6 families had failed to show up for immigration and so no Barbados guests could get off until everyone had been through immigration. My husband complained that this was so unfair as we turned up on time, had a tour booked which we were going to miss and also the fact that we had never been told this. All of a sudden they decided to let us off the ship! If this is the case they need to let families know that no one can leave until they have all gone through immigration so everyone turns up. I am sure some people had a lesuirely breakfast and did not realise the impact that they were having on others. I also find it unlikely that this situation in repeated in San Juan keeping the entire ship on board until EVERYONE has gone though immigration? I have never heard of passengers not being able to board a plane until everyone has gone thought immigration?
All in all it was a good cruise and the ports of call are amazingly good. We just felt that Carnival really pander to the predominatley American guests who board in San Juan and we felt like second-class citizens boarding in Barbados and being from the UK for the reasons outlined above.