This was the first cruise for my family of four. We were traveling with our extended family, which totaled to be a party of 9. I was surprised with how long and inefficient the embarkation process was at the Port of New York. It made me miss the airports! This really needs to be improved. However, after this bad experience, our cruise started out by sailing down the Hudson river, past the Manhattan skyline, past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. This was excellent and certainly started our trip off in grand fashion. Unfortunately there were few other highlights on the cruise. Overall this ship was very crowded and had little free space to gather and or spend time without feeling crowded. The pools on this ship are too small and were very crowded for most of the trip. Overall, the ship was run down and threadbare in some spots and the decor was tacky. I will say that our room was efficient and clean and our cabin staff was very good. The meals for dinner in the Golden Dining Room were very good and our waiter, Tony, was great and a lot of fun. The lunch buffets in the Red Sail room were good -- the burrito bar and grilles were also good. The pizza was not good. Breakfasts were just plain bad. Room service was also bad and very slow.
The entertainment on this cruise was awful with the exception of the very funny comedians. The "Justin Illusion" show was awful. The magic illusions were amateurish and obvious, the costumes were really bad heavy metal outfits with bad body paint. There was also more bad dirty dancing in the act than illusions. Did Carnival lose their mind and forget that this was a family cruise? The music show was also just as bad. The "Get to Know the Cruise" show on the first day by Cruise Director Pete was nothing more than a glorified commercial for extra things to buy on the ship and nothing like it was described in the program. As a matter of fact, the Carnival staff seemed to spend more time trying to get the passengers to spend money on extras than they did anything else. It was really disappointing.
The two ports that we stopped at where St John, Newfoundland and Halifax, Nova Scotia. At St. John we went on an excursion to St. Martin and the Bay of Fundy and were disappointed with what we got for the money. While it was great to see the Bay of Fundy, we should have rented a car to have more time and be less rushed. For Halifax, we walked around on our own and loved it. Halifax is a great city with plenty to do! The excursions on Carnival are rip-offs.
The biggest problem with the cruise came mid way through the cruise when some of our party contracted a GI virus. This quickly spread through our party and the rest of the ship. By the next morning they were making ship wide announcements that they had it under control and that we needed to wash our hands a lot! I am not sure what control they had, but by the end of the cruise 6 of the 9 of our party had contracted the GI virus and we each lost a full day of the cruise as we could not get out of bed or the bathroom. As we finally disembarked the ship on Saturday, we noticed that about half the rooms on our deck had yellow sticky notes with "AGE" written on them. One of our rooms had this as well and we were told that it was because the rooms needed to be fumigated due to the presence of the virus. If our deck and our party is any indication of how many passengers contracted this virus, I would say that it was about half! We do not feel that Carnival had this situation under control at all and needed to do a better job of preventing it in the first place. When I complained to a ship's officer and asked for a partial refund, I was given a lame excuse about this being a natural occurrence and that there was not much they could do about it.
Based on this experience, we will never cruise with Carnival again and would strongly recommend against anyone cruising with them. They seem to be more concerned with separating customers from their money than they do with providing them with a safe and fun experience. Use the better cruise lines and leave these plague ships to go out of business.
Halifax is a really beautiful city with lots to do. We did not do an excursion and instead stopped at the tourist information desk at the cruise ship terminal. The very friendly staff gave us great advice and mapped out a walking tour for the day with a great recommendation for a Thai restaurant for lunch (Talay Thai Restaurant is great). We walked around the harbor and water front. Walked up to the Citadel and through the Public Garden and had a great time! We can't wait to back to Halifax.
It was nice to see the Bay of Fundy and the excursion was well organized. However, it was too short and too rushed. Certainly not worth the money we paid to Carnival. My advice, rent a car and do this on your own. The Bay of Fundy is beautiful.