Let me start off by saying- This was not my favorite cruise. Of the three it was my least favorite. But it was not horrible and by no means will it be my last cruise. I bought a future cruise certificate so I definitely plan on cruising carnival again. But not sure if it will be out of NOLA again, unless they make some changes as far as the port goes. I know it was Jazz fest so that made New Orleans busy, but it should not have impacted the port too much.
Pre-Cruise: Stayed at Quality Inn in Gretna. Decent hotel. Nothing spectacular but it was clean and served its purposed. I did like that they had a park and cruise special which included hotel, parking and round trip transport to the port for $129. However, we waited on the return shuttle for over a hour after calling and two of them left full and we were unable to get on. I am not sure what the purpose of calling was, if we could not get on the shuttle. If everyone called then you would think they would have sent a larger vehicle or at least advised that it would be a long wait. If I had known, I would have taken a taxi.
Embark/debark-Worst part of the trip and why I may not go back to NOLA (but we will see maybe time will decrease that part of it). We got to the ship early like 9:15-9:30 and security and check in process was a breeze. If you are traveling with a little one or someone needing special assistance, I recommend it as it can be difficult to go through security, including getting baby out of stroller and back in and collect your belongings with a long line of impatient people behind you. We were assigned zone number 1, yeah. Which means they escort the wedding and VIP people, then special assist, then zone 1. So we got through the check out and waited. And waited. And waited. About 11:30 they start boarding and finally about 12 we were on the ship. I thought that seemed late, but at the end of the cruise, when we went through the debark process, I understood why it took so long.
When it came to debarkation, we did the "relaxed debarkation" as there was no way we could do self assist with luggage and a stroller. They started self debark about 8 or 8:30. We were in debark group 21. Finally we got off the ship and through customs about 10:30. Then the porter drops us off in this small loading zone with about 20,000 other people and all our luggage to wait for hotel shuttle. In this same area there are people waiting for taxis, buses, parking shuttle and to be picked up. You have to be careful to stay out of the way of traffic. Also in the same place is where everyone is dropped off. It was a madhouse. I am not sure if that is why it took so long to get the hotel shuttle or that was the hotel's issue with not sending a big enough shuttle but we ended up waiting about an hour and a half or so. We finally got to our car at the hotel around 12:15 to get started on the 12+ hour drive home.
Ship- The ship was nice. There were cracked floor tiles here and there and it seemed like its really ready for 2.0 upgrades.
Room- our room was good. It was on the 6th floor aft area, above the piano bar which was not noisy. It was our first balcony. The balcony was nice. No issues with sort or excessive smoke or anything. Our dining room was forward so that made for a long walk to/from dinner so that was a bother, but it was not a big deal. We were near the aft elevators so we could go right up to the back part of the lido deck so breakfast and lunch were convenient.
Food/drinks- The food was pretty good. Its not like either of us lost any weight on the cruise or went hungry. But it was not spectacular. It was about like any food we have gotten at an all inclusive in Mexico or at a nice wedding reception. Breakfast was good (not great). Fish and chips was great. Lunch buffet was hit and miss. I could always find at least one thing I liked but it was nothing to stock up on. Lunch in the dining room- not impressive. The first time I got a steak salad. It came with this tiny little thing about half the size of a butter plate with lettuce in it and three thin steak strips. It was good but I am not sure why they felt the need to skimp on the lettuce. It was about as much as a sandwich garnish! Dinners were good. Other than the lobster there was never a dish that I finished and though I wish I had ordered another one of those (or wish I had room to eat another one of those). Like I said, I never went hungry but nothing really that I would rave about (except lobster). DH is not a picky eater at all and he said he thought the food on our last cruise was MUCH better.
Drinks were good. I really liked the "Kiss on the lips" My new favorite drink. It tastes like frozen peaches. Its very fresh tasting.
Service- Mostly good. We had anytime dining. The hostess were great. They got us seated quickly and doted on our little girl. Several of the wait staff did as well. But the food service was very slow. We went at multiple different times between 6 and 9 and had similar experiences. First you wait to get water, then they may or may not take bar order, then 15 minutes later bread (and even longer for milk for the baby), then take orders, then wait about 15-20 for appetizers. Then wait again for main course. And then again for desert. It never took less than 1 1/2 hours and it was not because we lingered between courses. I have a 15 month old so our goal was to have things move efficiently, not not have her restless. That goal was not really met. But we always got the food we asked for eventually and the wait staff was pleasant. I had no issues with the personality of the wait staff or their demeanor, it was mostly with the wait for everything.
Ports- This was another thing that I was kind of annoyed about. Our itinerary was changed prior to leaving, but we did not get notified. Also no announcement over the PA, which would have been nice. WE had some private excursions booked which I probably could have changed if I had found out when we had cell service. But I did not find out until Monday night about the change. The revised itinerary noted on the shore excursions brochure, but I did not notice it until later. We ended up forfeiting our deposit for one excursion in Cozumel, but it was only $10. We might have been able to change the day, we did not think it was worth the hassle and decided to do something else. WE went to paradise beach and loved it. It was nice with a pool where our daughter could swim. We did not go to the beach part. It cost $12 each way for taxi and $2 pp to get in/get chairs. Well worth it. Also, they had buckets with 5 beers for $18 for coors light or $15 for XX and sol. A decent deal compared to the ship.
Due to the change (I guess) we ended up arriving late in Grand Cayman and by the time we got off the tender it was after noon. Last tender back was at 4 so there was not much time to see the Island. It was okay though, we had enough time.
In Montego Bay we used the hop on/hop off shuttle. It is the way to go if you are not planning on doing excusions. We felt very safe. But if you have a little one I would not mess with the stroller here. Too much hassle. The vendors at the craft market were pretty aggressive and one guy did offer to sell drugs to someone near doctor's cave beach, but other than that it was not bad. I love Jamaica.
Camp Carnival- Our daughter was too young to use Camp so I do not have much to say. But they have play time from 8-10 on sea days which is free if you stay with your child. It is nice because its a large space to run around and there are toys to play with. We used the late night baby sitting one night but the other nights we were too tired, as our little one did not want to nap and was fussy most days.
Activities- We did not do many activities because of having the baby with us, but we did go to the past guest party, a cocktail party for our roll call, and farewell party, each with free drinks flowing. They were nice. I also made a nice donation to the casino. lol.
Miscellaneous- I am not sure I would go again with a child under 2. There was not much break and our daughter was cranky alot of the time. If she were old enough for camp that might have given her a little more structured activity and chance to interact with other kids, instead of spending time with just us.
I also wish I had brought our small umbrella stroller and a baby carrier, like bjorn. Carrier would have been handy in ports, because stroller was a hassle especially on buses. We brought the big stroller because we originally planned on bringing the carseat (infant seat which she still uses) and it snaps into the stroller. But when we were getting on the shuttle bus to the port, we saw that the carseat was not something we would be able to use on there and figured the ports would be the same. Which was accurate. We did not miss the carseat. But the stroller was too big to fit through the cabin door so we had to take her out and fold it up, in the hallway. That was a pain. Also, If you have a baby bring plenty of diapers and wipes. I brought more than I need and we did not come back with as many as I thought we would. She had a lot of dirty diapers, probably the food.