Being skeptical of sailing on Carnival due to past experiences, including being served urine flavored Sea Bass, I was talked into sailing with my sister-in-law on the Carnival Destiny. Which actually this ship is probably appropriately named as it's destiny is for the scrap heap!
The embarkation system was absolutely wonderful. The fastest I have ever experienced on a "major" cruise lines. It was very much similar to river cruising, which I much prefer to the behemoth "major" vessels, except that it is done in port and not on ship. Once on board we thought wow this is pretty good start toward our stateroom, okay, cabin. That wasn't going to happen. Although it was after the prescribed embarkation time, no one was allowed into their cabins until an hour after embarkation started and only and hour prior to mandatory on-board time. To make matters worse, the only air conditioned area available was the buffet which was obviously packed beyond capacity, thus we were left sitting n the upper 90 degree heat. When we finally were allowed into our "stateroom" [and I use that word loosely, very loosely.] it smelled of over exposure to water or musty and was horrifically decorated however not for Carnival. At this point I knew that Carnival had not changed much from when I sailed them 10 years ago. The room was dingy, cramped and the balcony was not much more than a standing place outside the cabin. The glass was filthy, the metal rusted. My husband had surprised us with a bottle of champagne however there was no way to chill it and it was not delivered chilled. There was a very small "ice holder", but would not hold a bottle of wine. After requesting an wine bucket the cabin attendant brings us a large plastic bucket that leaked, but served the purpose if we kept in in the bathroom sink.
We are not smokers, we had verified on Carnival's web-site the appropriate areas where smoking was allowed to avoid these areas. Turns out that Carnival pretty much allows smoking everywhere on ship except in the dining room. There was listed one lounge that allowed smoking however the way the ship is designed that really is a misnomer. All of the lounges are basically connected and the music and smoke flows from one into the other without obstruction. WE never were able to have a drink and just relax in any of the lounges the entire cruise.
Trying to get through this vessel from the forward to the aft is a Rubik's Cube experience. It is almost impossible. The layout is without doubt designed to make sure that you go through every shop on two floors plus the casino to get to your dining experience.
The two pool areas were absolutely disgusting. Rust was everywhere and the pools were not much more than an over-sized bathtubs. People could not swim and basically just stood in the water while drinking. The hot tubs, which are restricted to only people over the age of 16 were complete dominated by very young children whose parents sat by completely ignoring the signs. An attendant stated that there was nothing they could do and ignored the situation. The waiter the first night was quite the sour puss, but after moving, we had a very nice and most attentive and entertaining young lady serving us. The food was very good and most satisfactory.
I am not a prude and enjoy many aspects of life. I have visited some run down places in the world and do not live in the lap of luxury. That being said, this trip was a waste of money for both my sister-in-law and myself. We should gone to the Bahamas on RCCL (spending the same $ amount, but one less day). That would have been a much higher value for the dollar spent. Sorry Carnival, you're still not a mid range cruise product in my book.
To sum things up, I am off Carnival forever. After Sailing HAL, RCCL, Princess, Celebrity and our favorite European River Cruising... Carnival just does not offer a reason to justify living like that, not even for 5 days.
PS: We have taken 1-2+ cruises annually for last 19 yrs.