We just returned from our first Carnival cruise aboard the Conquest. I joined the forum today in order to post a review. Prior to booking, I scoured this site for information and reviews and I will say I discounted many of the negative reviews as overly nitpicky. I have no agenda for this review other than to offer MY opinion and a fair warning to those considering a Carnival Cruise. I'll try to keep it concise, so forgive the sentence fragments here on out.
Traveled with husband and 10 year old daughter. Booked the Ocean Suite Cabin 7325 Empress Deck. We got VIP check-in and pre-boarding in NOLA, which was quite nice. Hands down, this is the nicest cabin I have EVER seen! Absolutely beautiful, spacious, fantastic bath, ample storage space. No complaints about this or our cabin Stewards. They were great. I know there seems to be a war on smokers these days, but we are non-smokers and don't like to be around it. We paid a high premium for a balcony; unbeknownst to us you can smoke on any balcony and so every time we were enjoying our balcony, the air was fouled by our neighbors lighting up & smoke blown right in our faces. Carnival should definitely offer completely non-smoking cruises or restrict balcony smoking to certain decks or sides of the vessel. Example, you can smoke in the casino area and on the starboard side of the Lido deck, which works out well.
From day 1 we encountered little annoyances that amounted to a final negative impression of our entire cruise experience. Hubby needed an extension cord for his CPAP machine. I'd told them in advance about his need for it; there is no outlet by the bed and they confiscated my power strip. Steward told us we had to get cord from Guest Svcs (charged a $25 deposit). Next, purchased the endless soda pkg for daughter and me. $70-something bucks. They don't use the soda "guns." Every time we got a drink, they would open an unchilled can and pour it over ice, thus ensuring it is immediately watered down. Cannot stand this! I asked bartender for a can so I could put it on ice in room ... no dice not allowed. Was I going to try to bootleg my diet Coke? Ridiculous. No doubt you've heard how outrageously expensive alcoholic beverages are, so 'nuff said about that.
As for dining, I felt we were always rushed through our meals. I found the food to be mediocre at best. One meal was downright awful. Food is not prepared fresh; instead it is kept warm and delivered within moments. Made reservation at Point Steakhouse for hubby's birthday. Upcharge is $35 per, the steaks were very good, but again, we did not feel especially valued as customers in a restaurant with two other tables occupied (Not that it's a huge deal, but the hostess did not even wish him a happy birthday when I told her why we were celebrating) The poolside grill and breakfast buffet was exactly the same thing EVERY SINGLE DAY ... boring! The pizza was wonderful, though and the dinner buffet was varied each night with a food theme.
We enjoyed the comedian a lot and the variety of singers and musicians was very good. The cabaret act was cute but a little lame. We had fun watching karaoke and we even attended a bit of the art auction -- but I don't believe for a minute that that guy in that audience actually bought a Peter Max canvas for $10,000 from a cruise ship auction. Call me cynical.
We had a blast on our excursions; really enjoyed Cozumel and Grand Cayman. All in all, we will not cruise again with Carnival. Whichever cruise you choose, I wish you all good luck and bon voyage, Cruisers!