My husband and I (40-somethings) took our nephew on our first short cruise for his high school graduation. It was our 10th cruise, 4th on Carnival, but we have not cruised in 7 years. We live in Houston so driving to the port is a breeze and both embarkation and de-barking were quick and easy. We were looking for a relaxing, fun time, and Carnival delivered. Our first balcony was so wonderful that we don't see ever booking an inside cabin again. We are happy campers and usually don't sweat the small stuff, but did have some issues with this cruise.
THE GOOD: Room was icy cold, fast elevators, short lines, clean public areas. We spent quite a bit of time at the outdoor pool bar where people watching was so entertaining and something always seemed to be happening--line dancing would break out at any time and there definitely were some characters. You could even watch movies from the hot tub. Not many kids running around screaming, plenty of young people for our nephew to hang out with. The adult comedian was hilarious, and there was always some decent live music to listen to. Chocolate melting cake is to die for and coffee not as bad as I recall. Buffets offered a lot of variety and the breakfast buffet was exceptionally good. We didn't experience any long lines that other reviewers complain about. While the ship was older, well, the price reflected that, so what's the problem?
THE BAD: This ship rocked from side to side badly (it wasn't due to the hurricane as our friends on a 7/12 cruise had the same experience). It seemed to settle down by the 3rd day.
Dining room food has slipped compared to past Carnival cruises (I still remember the best porkchop I ever had on the Destiny) and choices are limited due to a "standard" side of the menu. You could choose from maybe 3 appetizers, 2 soups and 4 entrees, and nothing was particularly tasty. The best dish was the filet, but the advertised bernaise sauce was beef gravy with a swirl of cheese whiz. Side dish portions were tiny, served in the 4 oz. dishes used to serve butter on the buffets.
Dining room service was described by DH as "inconsiderate". He rarely complains but didn't appreciate the way the menu was stuck in his face 2 inches from his nose every time. Our servers never talked to us, merely took our orders and rushed the service. Total dining time for 1 night was 50 minutes. If you wanted to converse with your table mates you were not able to finish eating before they began picking up plates, even trying to snatch up your plate if you put down your fork to take a sip of wine. And whatever happened to tableside sauce ladling and pepper grinding? The one night we had dessert our waiter loudly sorted silverware into bins for the next service while the assistant hovered over us to take our plates--no smiles, how was your dinner, are you enjoying your cruise.It seemed liked they couldn't wait to get rid of us. After 2 nights we switched to the buffet, with a great salad bar, lots of veggie choices and enough to eat.
Crew attitude in general was apathetic. Passing in the halls they did not smile and greet you unless you did so first. We missed the Jamaican bartenders with their huge personalities and "no problem, mon" attitudes. The bartenders were mostly Indonesian, inexperienced and not friendly at all. There was no showmanship or craft in their drink pouring, they were simply servers. Erick from Peru was the only bartender to actually engage us in conversation, make us feel welcome and share a laugh. Beer-bucket pushing servers were persistent to the point of annoyance, even pressuring our underage nephew to buy after my husband and I both said "no".
We were never able to get room service by phone-they simply did not answer.
I would just take one of the trays from the buffet area and serve ourselves in the cabin. A room service waiter did insist on getting me ice when I was looking for the machine, which was above and beyond kind of service.
THE UGLY: Cabin service was bad from the beginning. We had to ask twice for hand soap the first day, and it went downhill from there. By the 3rd day I actually began taking pictures! The desk, table, tv and windows were not cleaned between guests nor at any time during our trip. There was sticky red drink splotches on the furniture and running down the front of the tv, magazines were stuck to the surface. Many papers from the previous guest, including taped to the wall, and trash under the bed and in the medicine cabinet from the prior trip, handprints on the mirror and body-prints on the window. Also a blood spot of the little coverlet at the foot of the bed. The shower had lots of mold, the toothpaste was used and one day we got no washcloths. They never went out on the balcony to empty the ashtray, I had to go down the hall a couple of times a day to do it. They didn't even make the bed properly, just pulled up the covers. A large chunk of banana remained in the middle of the hallway for over 14 hours without being picked up.
They never introduced themselves and I was not able to see nametags as they seemed to duck into a room when approached. I would have asked for a room change after seeing the mold, blood and trash but ship was sold out.
I know they have a lot of work to do (27 rooms for a crew of 2) but I worked in the hotel business and housekeepers usually have 20 rooms for one person and this kind of work would be grossly unacceptable. We keep our room very tidy with all our belongings picked up and in the drawers or closet to make their job easier, yet they made no effort. It also means the supervisors are not doing their job on inspections. While I don't expect the service to make my cruise, I now despise towel animals--why didn't they spend some time in the shower with bleach instead!
Ports: We took the Progreso Corona beach break tour and it was fun and relaxing. Plenty of shaded tables, bargain price massages and people taking naps on lounge chairs. Waiters hustled to bring the all-included beers and earn their tips. Beach games were a hoot-nephew even got in the sack race and balloon games. They had a small beach to cool off in that was unfortunately shared by jetskiers and made swimming iffy. On Cozumel we didn't take a tour, just shopped and had lunch. Carlos and Charlie's is nothing like it used to be-no fun to be had in this tired, empty tourist trap with $15 margaritas. Senor Frog's right next door and Margaritaville opening up the street must have killed their business.
Even given the service issues we would take this cruise again. The ship was nice, the price good, and the magic of being at sea can't be beat. I brought books but did't read a page, was too busy having fun or just gazing at the water. Taking our nephew on his first cruise made memories that will last a lifetime. We haven't cruised lately and maybe things have changed. Possibly not tipping crew members directly has removed incentive. I would always defend Carnival to critics, but we're thinking of going back to Royal Carribean and hopefully will not find that standards are declining industry-wide.