I was hesitant to posts a review, because there were some good parts of our cruise; however, the bad parts were disappointing and I wanted to share! It is glaringly obvious that Carnival has taken major cost cutting measures and it definitely shows! Through Cruise Critic Roll Call we met and sailed with a group of 60+ fun, amazing people who I will not soon forget! If it wasn't for them, I think this cruise may have been our last. So, here it goes...
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the Port Canaveral terminal at 11:30 and we were on board by 11:45. Like everyone else, we headed to the Lido deck for lunch - I went to the Grill, my son to the Pasta Bar and my DH to the Mongolian Wok. All were good, not great...just good. I bought an unlimited soda/juice card only to find that since our last Carnival cruise when you order a soda you no longer get the can...now they just fill your glass with ice and then put as much soda in as the glass will hold. I ordered my soda with no ice and got ice from the buffet drink stand. The Pizza, Hamburger/Hot Dog Stands, Tandoori, and Grille stand offer a nice variety however only the Pizza bar is only open 24 hrs. The others have limited hours outside of normal dining times. (another cost saving measure I guess?) Buffet food - what you'd expect, typical salads (same stuff every day) then hot items. If you like to eat Pork Loin, Ham and Turkey you'll love the buffet for lunch and dinner (cheaper alternatives.) However, if you do not eat pork products you'll have to settle for one of the chicken or fish dishes floating in cream or oily sauces. My husband waited all week for the carved roast beef but it never showed up at the buffet. On the last night it was on the dining room menu but the slices were paper thin and my DH ordered 3 sliced to get a "normal" portion.
While we're talking about the Dining room...we selected the anytime dining option. We figured without 6 yo son we would have the flexibility to feed him around Camp Carnival activities. The Dining Room opens at 5:45. People start lining up at the door at 5:15! No joke! We would go around 6:15 and were disgusted to find that Carnival allowed large family groups to select Anytime Dining as an option - I'm talking groups of 36, 42, 23, etc. AND, when they arrived at the Dining Room the Maitre D sat them all at once splitting them into smaller groups and filling every table. Shame on Carnival and the Maitre D for not stopping this after the first night when everyone else had to wait over 1 hour to be seated! We only got to eat in the Dining room twice due to this (both times no earlier than 8 pm) and found the wait staff tired, over worked and the food lukewarm at best. To say "sorry" they sent a small plate of tiny pastries to our stateroom. We did (by default) eat at the optional Steakhouse 3 times! IT IS AWESOME and worth every penny of the up charge! Next time we'll be selecting a specific dining time so we don't get locked out.
The ship...she is beautiful and big. Holds lots of people! More people than other Carnival ships. No, the pool areas were not expanded to accommodate the additional numbers of people so on sea days you still have to hunt for a chair, or wake at 7:30 to "hog" a chair or chairs! Serenity deck...more comfortable chairs and adults have to monitor that kids don't plant themselves in that area. Water slides are great...both kids and adults alike used them from the time they opened till closing! The Lanai area on Deck 5 is a good place to hang outside and meet up with friends throughout the night. It's convenient to the casino, Punchline, piano bar and Encore Lounge. As for the shows...a must see is the the show featuring the Fun Force Dancers. They are an amazing group of break dancers and gymnasts who entertain!! Two of the four comedians were funny; the Legends show...not so much. But..no matter which show you're going to...get there early (like 30 minutes before) if you want a seat! (again...more people, same size public spaces.) Deck parties...packed. Laser shows...started at 8pm when it was still light out.
This was the fist time we ever saw or interacted with a Cruise Director. Corey Rodgers was great! He and his assistant Brittnay, were all over the ship giving face time to everyone and making sure that everyone had whatever they needed. Great Job guys!
Our Stateroom - we had an Ocean Suite, deck 7, mid-ship and loved it. Gave the 3 of us room to spread out and our son loved the jacuzzi tub and balcony! The walls are thin and you will hear everything (yes everything!) that goes on in the adjoining room. Our room steward was a living doll! She worked so hard and deserves the highest accolades!
Shopping on the ship - one word - DON'T!!! I have never bought any jewelry on a ship before. Usually I purchase items on shore; but, this time I saw a ring I loved and bought it. It had to be sized to my hand and (when I got home I found out that) the store worker LIED TO US!! He said that he gives me a 'certificate of authenticity' and I take the ring that does not fit. When I arrive home I call their corporate office, tell them my ring size and an exchange for the correct size ring would be made. He also said the ring is Tax and Duty free. Both lies! Apparently anyone who buys jewelry over $800 on board is reported to Customs Agents by Carnival. On arrival we were pulled aside and had to pay duty on the ring. Wouldn't have been an issue if he told us the truth! Also, when I called their Corporate Office they said they would cut and size the existing ring rather than replace the ring with the correct size. Another lie. Today I took the ring to be appraised and it didn't even appraise for 3/4 of what we paid. So...the ring is being returned!!! Bottom line...I will continue to buy jewelry on shore ports but not on a Carnival ship!
Camp Carnival (6-8 year olds) My son loved it but came home asking me what "douche-bag" means, and using the words "fuck-in" and "dam it" which he said he learned from kids at camp. Where were the Counselors??? I know they can't be everywhere at all times but really?????
Ports and Excursions - Cozumel was the only place we booked an excursion through Carnival. We did the Dolphin Push, Pull and Swim at Chankanaab Park. On our own we stayed and did the Manatee Swim as well (awesome.) Beautiful park and a place you can go on your own by taxi and sign up for any/all of the encounters at your leisure (probably a cheaper option.) Belize - we booked cave tubing through charlies cave tubing. Carnival wouldn't allow children under 8 - so we booked on our own. So glad we did. Charlie gave us a great rain forest tour and got us out on the river before the masses! Carnival booked 300+ people to cave tube - thank goodness we got out before them!! Roatan - again we booked our own guide through Victor Bodden tours. Anna was great! She took us to the Iguana farm where we fed over 1000+ protected iguanas; played with the monkeys, and zip-lined through the jungle (my son flipped upside down and had a blast!) she also gave us a great tour of Roatan, took us for a great lunch and made sure we had a great day! Costa Maya - all I can say is Maya Chan Beach Resort!! Great drinks, food, beach, kayaks, snorkel, palapas with beach beds, massages on the beach, etc.!! Too bad Carnival cut the day short and we had to back on board by 1:30...don"t know why...?! Owned by Americans and managed by their son. Not your usual beach escape.
Disembarking...Carnival couldn't wake us up and get us off early enough. We were supposed to be called at 7:456 but were called at 7:15! We then waited 30 minuted for our luggage.
All in all it was an ok trip. We made some good family and friend memories; but, it will be a long time before we consider Carnival again. Overall, we found a big difference in the service, food and quality of this Carnival cruise compared to others in the past. I can live with the 'hairy chest contest' buckets of beer, tattoos in places that I'd rather not see, and Luby's Cafeteria caliber food for great people and quality service. All our vacation "bests" were not made because of Carnival....they were made on non-Carnival excursions, and with friends we met before boarding the ship. Unfortunately, we will be looking at either RCCL, Disney or other child-friendly lines in the future.