This was my 10th cruise with Carnival and the third or fourth time I have done this 3 day sailing to Nassau from Miami. Living in Miami, its just to easy.
I know very well what to expect on Carnival, therefore I am not dissapointed with the experience. While somethings have changed, most has remained the same.
I do believe Carnival offers one of the best cruising values. It is not a luxury cruise line and it does not pretend to be.
The good, almost all of the crew I saw on the ship said hello and was friendly. Our room steward was very friendly, remembered my name and kept our room spotless. Same for the dining staff. Food was also good. I did not dislike anything I had anywhere on the ship. Drinks, both my brother and I concurred that the pours seemed to be generous, especially at the pool bar.
Behind the fun tour. Very interesting. It turned out I was the only person that did this tour, so I got a personal tour with the corporate training manager onboard. The engine control room and the bridge both look brand new, despite the fact the ship is 16 years old. I can also say that Carnival takes food preparation and storage very seriously.
The Outstanding - Chefs Table. $75 fee, but well worth the experience. Many will scoff at the idea of spending $75 on dinner when meals are included, especially on Carnival but this was far more than just a dinner. First off, wine and champaigne included. It was a gastronomical 7 course meal presented by the head Executive Chef on board. On the Imagination it was Russell Periera from India. His personality and presence, along with the food made the meal extremely enjoyable. A large table of 10 was set up someplace special (not going to give up the surprise). We were brought there after a brief galley tour and then a hands on demonstration on how chocolate melting cake is made. If you want to "upgrade" your Carnival experience, this is one way.
A quick note, I reserved the Chefs table online through John Healds blog. I was contacted by the MaitreD and everything was very smoothly handled on board.
The indifferent- Your Time Dining. On a short cruise its fine, but I would choose assigned seating on a longer cruise. I prefer the relationship thats built with the wait staff during the cruise. We always went during prime time and there was a line, but it moved quickly as they could greet and process people. I did not have to wait for a table once I got to the hosts stand. First night, service was slow, second night very good.
No more Sushi on the Promenade Deck. Sushi is still served at different dining venues as it always has, but its been replaced with the "taste bar".
Bad - No more live music on the Lido deck. Piped in music, or a live DJ. I enjoy live music. The weather, obviously Carnival cannot yet control this, but we sailed during Tropical Storm Isaac. Every day was very windy. Our call in Nassau was cut short (no problem for me, I would have been back on the ship anyway).
All in all, I had fun. I was able to relax. I ate and ate. I had a nice 3 and 1/2 day mini vacation.