Forgive Me Royal Caribbean - I Cheated On You With Carnival -- I Promise It Will Never Happen Again!
We are a mature couple on our 23rd cruise having sailed Celebrity, Princess, Disney, Norwegian, Carnival, the old Cape Canaveral, and 15 on Royal Caribbean. Our very first cruise was on Carnival 20 years ago and we remember it being fun. Since we just moved within an hour and a half of Baltimore and Turks & Caicos was on my bucket list, we thought we would give Carnival another try. This sailing was not easy on the pocketbook as I had expected so I had high expectations for my hard earned money.
We arrived at the port about 10:30 a.m. The ship had a delayed arrival so we sat in our car lined up in the parking lot with many others for about 45 minutes until we were waved through. Although we printed our luggage tags and had them secured to our bags, we had to stop and get out of the car and obtain another type of luggage tag before proceeding in our car to the porters. The line was pretty long for check in. Once that was accomplished, we waited inside for about another 30 minutes before our section was escorted toward the ship. No biggie -- we had seven days of fun and relaxation ahead of us. We finally boarded about 12:30 p.m.
I have never stepped foot on a ship and had such thoughts as I did on this one. We walked into a dark, morose lobby with candelabra that reminded me of Dracula's castle. I thought why did I book this cruise? (DH admitted later he thought the same thing.) But determined to keep an open mind and enjoy myself, I thought okay, it can't all look this bad. I was mistaken. Almost all areas had the same depressing atmosphere. It was all so overly decorated and one would be hard pressed to find a space not covered in baroque decor. The lobby, casino, and some of the lounges were especially gloomy. I had read on these boards that the ship was a little dark. Oh boy, what an understatement. A few places were bright such as the sunset garden and the entrance to the theater. I was prepared for the adult only artwork so no surprise there except the David statue gave me a bit of a startle. Sizeable David stands guard over a gorgeous specialty restaurant, but I just can't imagine eating with that dangly part looming above.
The cabin was roomy with a shower larger than I am accustomed to. It had a 70s-like decor with an orange vinyl sofa and a turquoise bathroom. The extended balcony was a treat. The mattresses are nothing special and kind of hard so I had to laugh out loud when I read we could purchase one of their "comfort collection" mattresses. We met our cabin steward the first day and never saw him again until departure day. At that initial meeting I requested ice each day but after not getting it, I left him a note to please bring it. Another day went by without it. Finally on the fourth day we started getting it but only in the morning. Otherwise he kept things clean and gave us great towel animals every day. Our cabin thermostat remained on the coolest possible setting all week and it just couldn't keep up. I reported it twice but it never improved. According to the maintenance worker's measurement, the coldest it could ever get was 76 degrees! Too warm for me. The interactive TV did not function but it was repaired promptly after I reported it.
When booking this cruise we selected the only available dining option, late, and were supposedly waitlisted for anytime dining. I kept checking on line and before the cruise, anytime dining became available so I changed it and got a confirmation. I always cover my butt so I printed a screen capture of this confirmation. Good thing as our set sail card showed late dining!! Once on board I talked to the maitre d' and he advised no way did we have any time dining and in fact 238 people were waitlisted. He would not do anything until I "proved" to him that I had confirmed anytime dining. I had to go to my cabin and get the confirmation and take it back to him. He still fussed and carried on but did eventually correct it.
The dimly lit Mermaid's Grille had good and not so good food. It does not offer a very large selection but certainly enough that I never went hungry -- far from it. The food stations are set up oddly and it is difficult to find certain things. Omelettes were great three of four days. I had seen folks walking away from the deli with delicious looking sandwiches so I couldn't wait to try one. I asked for a ham and cheese panini. What I got was slightly toasted bread with rolled up cold ham and a slice of cold unmelted cheese. Couldn't even eat it - pretty nasty. The desserts I tried here were good to excellent. Pizza was pretty good.
Hot dogs and french fries from the outdoor grill were quite yummy. The ice cream cones were good. Specialty coffee from Piazza Cafe was not good. Mixed drinks were good.
The dining room experience was interesting. Unlike other cruise lines, you cannot make a daily reservation for anytime dining; instead you just show up and take your chances. People began lining up for the 5:45 to 9:00 p.m. anytime dining before 5:30. Everyone would be rushed in at 5:45 and then there was no service until at least 6:00. One day we had to take a pager and wait 20 minutes to be called. All other days when we lined up early we were seated immediately. We tried unsuccessfully to get the same wait staff several times. Dining room breakfast was pretty good but sometimes very slow. Dining room lunch was good a few days but the final day it took 30 minutes to get our order. After an additional 20 minutes we still didn't have our dessert so we just left. We checked out Mermaid's Grille for some dessert and to our surprise there was an all chocolate buffet. Wish they would have advertised that as we would have tried it. When we got there the line was way too long. The dining room food ranged from okay to very good. It was great being able to have shrimp cocktail and the warm chocolate melting cake (just divine) every day. We had some wonderful dishes and some no so much. I did have one of the best desserts ever on a ship - cappuccino ice-cream pie.
The food and service on this ship were so hit and miss I would rate the overall dining experience a 6 out of 10.
Grand Turk was very nice but not exactly what I was expecting. We took a taxi to Pillory Beach and began walking at Bohio Dive Resort which I had read so much about. Definitely beautiful water and beaches but not a lot to see otherwise. We walked the beach all the way back to town where there were several historic buildings. From there it was back to the port by taxi where we swam by the ship and in the Margaritaville pool. The copycat flowrider was not functioning. It was such a short stay.
I can't say enough about Half Moon Cay -- simply heavenly. I could have stayed in that water for days. The sand was like baby powder. This is the best cruise line private island beach I have visited. I really liked the barbeque area too. Unlike other private islands, there was plenty of seating in small sections scattered throughout the area. The food was very good there. I did not want to leave this place. Too bad I can only go back if I take another Carnival cruise because that ain't happenin'.
Freeport is a waste of time.
What a treat it was to experience some different types of entertainment from what we have been seeing over the last 20 years. We enjoyed karaoke until the same people who were really not as good as they thought started coming back over and over. But....they were unquestionably better than I, since I can't carry a tune in a bucket. We had seen the juggler/comedian on another ship but still enjoyed him. The three comedians were very good. One requested during his show that we give the entertainers a good rating as that is how they get promoted (promote contracted entertainers?), but there were no comment cards on this cruise. For some unknown reason the late night comedians performed in the small Butterflies Lounge. When we arrived 15 minutes early, there was standing room only. At 11:30 p.m. there is no reason they cannot use the theater where everyone gets a chance to attend. Just does not make sense to me.
We attended the welcome aboard show and the final Legends show. The Newlywed show (or whatever Carnival calls it) was funny as was the Liar's Club. I liked that there was always available seating in the theater when we went.
A big letdown was no live band on the pool deck. I don't recall ever being on a ship without one. Instead there was a DJ. At times there was a singer in the lobby and a singer in the casino.
It seemed such a contradiction to have a fun Mardi Gras in the oh-so-dismal lobby. We did enjoy people watching though and the music and dancing were a hoot.
Gumby, the assistant cruise director, was hilarious and I liked cruise director Kirk.
ODDS & ENDS
We booked at this particular time of year thinking most children should be in school. I guess we were right as there were very few children and we only encountered one group of unruly female teenagers.
The one time we ventured up to Carnival's signature slide there was a huge line of mostly drunks. Good thing there was a crew member there to oversee things.
The walk-around deck had no lounge chairs to sit on as we are accustomed to. To me sitting out there for a while in the evening is the real "old timey" cruising and I missed that.
This cruise had no past guest party (or at least we weren't invited).
The adults only serenity area was pretty nice. It has a miniscule pool and one small hot tub. It was always extremely crowded during sea days and in the evenings the furniture was dirty and wet.
All crew members were friendly and accommodating except the maitre d'.
I talked to other passengers who shared my sentiment about the dreariness of this ship.
Debarkation was painless.
I try to make the most of things when they are not as expected and overall had a good time, but this ship is just too dark and depressing to be called a "fun ship."
Will I cruise Carnival again? Nope.