I pride myself with having the ability to find the positive in everything. I'm definitely a glass half-full type. Well my recent cruise aboard the Carnival Glory was a true test and I'm not sure I succeeded.
I have cruised quite a bit, but never with Carnival, so I researched the ship, itinerary and the cruise line itself quite extensively. I probably read every trip report written over the last 18 months with regards to the Carnival Glory. I will admit I had second thoughts about this cruise after reading some of the trip reports but I decided to live on the edge and take a chance. Having cruised several times with other cruise lines this would give me an opportunity to compare Carnival.
We arrived in Boston the night before and stayed at the Boston Harbor Hotel. No complaints there. Like many, we received an email from Carnival asking that we not arrive prior to 1:30pm. Others who cruised ahead of us, mentioned they too received the notice, but ignored it and were happy they did as they were able to board as early as 11:00am. We decided on a happy median, and arrived at the port at exactly 1pm, via the hotels courtesy car. Upon arrival, we handed our luggage off to a porter, gave him a nice tip and joined the line to board.
Embarkation seems to be one of Carnivals strengths. We were through the lins and up the escalator in about 20 minutes. There were signs posted that any open liquids (water, soda) needed to be discarded before you reached security on the 3rd floor. I was actually drinking a bottle of water as we navigated the line and took notice of the sign, but knew I would be finished by the time I reached the escalator, much less the third floor. Well an employee saw me with my water and told me I had to toss it in the trash and pointed to a receptacle. She was not rude, just stern. I assured her I would be finished by the time I got to the 3rd floor, but she said I had to do it now. Okay...I'm on vacation and I'm not about to let anyone steal my joy so I tossed the bottle in the trash. For the next 10 minutes as we snaked our way through the lines and up the escalator I saw several others finishing there drinks. Of course the first thing I noticed as I got off the escalator before reaching security was a trashcan....big surprise.
On to security...piece of cake. We had a bottle of Champagne and a bottle of Chardonnay in our carry-on, as well as OJ and Coke. The OJ was a shrink wrapped 6pk of Minute Maid. They did search this rather thoroughly, but after a minute or so were convinced we had not stuffed anything between the bottles and we were on our way to VIP check-in. It took less than 5 minutes to reach the counter and be processed. I'd read horror stories about credit card and debit card use for settling your account, so for the first time ever decided to use cash as a method of payment. Which meant standing in line at Guest Services once onboard. I almost caved in and gave the nice lady a credit card, but then decided to stick with the plan, as I didn't want to be stuck with all the cash, so we stuck to plan A.
We took our embarkation photo and after a short walk were on deck 3 in the atrium lobby. There was a bit of a bottleneck entering the lobby. Guest services is to your immediate right and a bar is front and center. Large groups were waiting for the rest of there party while others just decided to stand and watch the live entertainment. I can see the benefits of having live entertainment greet your new guest, but there should have been a crew member there to direct traffic a bit. My first thought was "what a terrible use of public space" but I held on to my joy. I somehow managed to walk around the bar, dodging roller boards and passengers that were fascinated with the colorful decor and get in line for guest services. The line was not very long, there were maybe three or four people in front of me. After about five minutes, it was my turn. The agent assisting me at guest services was very professional and quick, so no complaints. After activating our cards, we headed to the elevator to drop our bags off in our cabin. We were told at registration that our stateroom was ready. Our stateroom location was great, deck 7, close to mid-ship elevators but far enough away to avoid hearing any elevator or atrium noise. I read other reviews where guest were not so lucky. Our stateroom was large, and clean. Carnival categorized it as a suite. The official name is "Ocean Suite", depending on what you're accoustom to, you may be disappointed, but I held on to my joy, as it served it's purpose. We had lots of space and our attendant Armando and his assistant kept it very clean, and are perhaps the best stewards I've ever had...well at least in the top three. We always had ice and a towel animal.
I'd ordered a bottle of Remy Martin and two soda cards from Bon Voyage prior the cruise. As promised, the items were in the room when we arrived. Well sort of...we had to go to Cream to get the stickers for the bottomless bubbles, but it wasn't too much of an inconvenience. It gave us an excuse to explore the ship.
In my research I ran across several comments, suggesting that you hit the Burrito Bar, Fish and Chips and the Mongolian Wok on embarkation day as they would be too crowded after day 1. We followed this advice and found all three. What we didn't realize was that this would be the only decent food to be found in the buffet area for the remainder of the cruise. The buffet stations were poorly maintained and the food was...and I'm being kind....the poorest quality I've ever had on a ship.
We had lunch twice in Red Sail and breakfast once. I honestly thought it impossible to mess up a breakfast buffet but Carnival managed to nail this. No human should have to endure the poor quality of food & beverage they offered, powdered eggs and sausage stew. Yuk! During my research, many hinted that food quality at the buffet had declined over the years. I gave it a grade of 1.5 on a 5pt. scale. The only reason I didn't give it a flat zero is because the Burrito Bar, Fish & Chips and Mongolian Wok were actually pretty good. But who wants to stand in line 45 minutes? Don't waste your time on the pizza either, it is served 24hrs and we were excited about this, but that excitement was short lived. Carnival should take a lesson from Dominos and find a better recipe. Yes, it really is that bad.
The main dining room was fair, we were assigned to the Golden Dinning Room, but only ate there one evening (formal night) as it was nothing to write home about. We both had the prime rib. It's the thinnest cut you'll ever be served but the taste was tolerable. Would have been better if it weren't cold. I love my beef pink throughout, so I tupically order it medium, everyone else at the table ordered there's medium well. While mine was cold, they stated there's was at least warm, so I was the only one to suffer with cold beef. I asked for lots of horseradish and was able to get through the meal. The stuffed mushroom appetizer was very tasty, as was the dessert (carmelized apple or pear in a puff pastry with ice cream). I really could have eaten two of those. We were seated at a table with a very nice couple in the main dinning room. They too were avid cruisers, but Carnival newbies like me and equally unimpressed.
If you've been keeping tally of our dining adventures, you've probably figured out that we ate dinner once in the main dining room, breakfast once in Red Sail, and lunch twice in Red Sail. I should mention that we also ate one lunch in the Platinum Dinning room. We figured it would be much better than the buffet.....it was only slightly better.
Before I leave the topic of food, I'd like to cover one more area, the Emerald Steakhouse. Absolutely wonderful! I booked dinner in the steakhouse for our first and last night of the cruise weeks in advance. It was probably the smartest decision I made regarding this vacation. I just wish I'd been smart enough to secure a reservation for all four nights. Both meals were outstanding. Among the best I've had on any ship. Well worth the $35/pp. So it's obvious that Carnival can provide good food, they simply choose not to. How about this Carnival....charge me a little more for the cruise so you can provide better quality food and entertainment.
Thanks to the two fabulous dinners at Emerald Steakhouse and BLT's and Pastrami Sandwiches from room service, we were able to avoid hunger pains. Let me first say that I have never managed to maintain my pre-cruise weight on any other cruise. Well we both hopped on the scales this morning and drum roll....neither of us gained a pound. I figured all of the calories from the alcohol, and the minimal activity would have added at least a pound, but it had no impact. Emerald Steakhouse receives a 4.7 on a 5pt. scale.
Entertainment was okay. The Glory dancers were not glorious, nor were they graceful. We did not take in another stage show after the first night. We figured there was no way the dancers could improve enough in one day to make the show tolerable. I enjoyed the cruise director and, and JJ (Jayonce). The comedians were tolerable, but I wouldn't consider either funny. The murder mystery was fun, and Love & Marriage was entertaining. I love playing bingo on cruise ships. It's actually the only time I play, but somehow Carnival managed to make this less fun; no drawings in between games for Carnival gear, and three very low cash prizes. The final bingo consisted of one, $1000 game. Of course if you filled your card (total blackout) in 40 numbers or less, or with the power ball the prize was bigger.
Bars, lounges and the nightclub were fine. Never crowded and nothing out of the ordinary. I played a little in the casino. My significant other played in the arcade. Creams is a cute concept, and the young lady working there was a sweetheart. She makes a mean white chocolate latte.
We do not cruise for the pools. They're small and crowded, and just not our thing. We did however go up to the Serenity area, while most of the passengers were exploring St. Johns and it was heavenly. We fell asleep in a clamshell bed and it was wonderful. It got a bit chilly so we left after about 90 minutes, but it was very peaceful.
Debarkation was a breeze. We were in group 2, and were called immediately after self-assist (those taking their own luggage off the ship). No lines for customs, we just handed our completed declaration card to an agent at the bottom of the escalator. I've never experienced such a streamlined process, so no complaints.
Unfortunately this was not a vacation that we'll have fond memories of. I think what mattered the most was the fact that we were together, and away from our very stressful jobs. I don't think I will be cruising Carnival again any time soon. I've experienced much better and will not sacrifice a wonderful vacation experience for the sake of saving a few dollars. I'm going to stick with Disney, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Celebrity. Sure I will be paying a bit more but it is so worth it in my opinion. We're already planning a vacation do-over on another ship.