We had a group of 6 adults with 3 balcony rooms on the 9/15 sailing out of New York. It was me and my husband, my parents and my grandparents and we all have sailed on Carnival several times in the past. We arrived to the port about 10:00am and they were still unloading guests from the previous cruise so we had to wait about 30-45 minutes to begin check-in. I didn't mind waiting because we arrived early and that was to be expected. The ladies working in the terminal were very rude, but I don't think they were actual Carnival employees so no big deal. Once the process started we made it through security and check-in very quickly and were on the boat in no time. We went straight up to the Lido deck and got a table and ate and relaxed until our rooms were ready around 12:45-1pm.
We were on Deck 9 and had 3 balcony rooms in a row. The steward opened up the dividers between our balconies and made it one big balcony, which was really nice. The rooms were spacious and clean and our room steward was very friendly and called us by name. There was plenty of storage space and the bathroom was better than I've had on previous boats because it actually had counter space and not just a free-standing sink. So, no complaints on the room.
I have to admit, as another review mentioned, my husband and I were a little disappointed on Sunday because of the lack of football games on. We had been told that Carnival would show the Sunday NFL games on the big screen on the Lido deck. There was one game on early in the day but you couldn't hear it. The only channel in our stateroom that showed football was fuzzy and unreliable all week. However, I was there to cruise not watch football so I didn't get too worked up about it.
Monday was our first port of call, Boston, and we enjoyed it very much. I would recommend not booking an excursion and just exploring it on your own; however, you will need to catch a ride into downtown as it is a long walk. There are cabs and shuttles at the terminal when you get off the boat. We paid $15 per person round trip for a shuttle that dropped us off near Faneuil Hall and picked back up every 20 minutes or so until late in the afternoon. We walked the Freedom Trail on our own and then hung out around Quincy Market.
Portland was on Tuesday and was probably my favorite port. We booked the Lighthouses of Maine excursion, but I don't know if I would do it again. Don't get me wrong, the lighthouses were beautiful, but you could probably get a cab or tour once you get off the ship that would be cheaper than the excursion. Don't miss the Portland Head Light! One of the most beautiful places I've been. The bus dropped us back off at the cruise terminal and we walked into downtown. It is a very short walk into the downtown area from the cruise terminal so you do not need a ride. We ate lunch at a local restaurant which was very good (called Dry Dock maybe???), shopped around town a little, then headed back to the boat.
Wednesday and Thursday (Saint John & Halifax) were pretty uneventful because of bad weather. Once we got off the boat in Saint John we bought tickets to the Hop-on Hop-off bus, which by the way were cheaper than buying through Carnival. We rode each loop a couple of times because it was raining, then walked through the old market and had lunch at Billy's Seafood (also good) and then went back to the ship early. For Halifax, we booked the Peggy's Cove excursion which I highly recommend. Peggy's Cove was gorgeous and luckily it stopped raining while we were there so we were able to walk around for a while. Once we got back to the terminal we shopped at the booths they have setup in there. There are some great stores there so you can buy all your souvenirs without leaving the cruise terminal.
Now on to food. The grill, buffet, pizza, etc., were all about what you would expect. I didn't get anything that was inedible. Some things were pretty good and others not so good but we definitely didn't starve. As far as the dining room (we had 8:15pm dining in the Golden room), I thought the food was really good. There were a couple of things I didn't like but I think it was just my taste more so than they were bad. The prime rib, bacon mac 'n cheese and creme brulee were some of my favorites. Our food was always hot when we got it and we didn't have to wait a long time either. The wait staff was friendly and the drink girl never failed to bring us soft drinks each night. We have always found that if we give our waiters a couple of bucks each night they go out of their way to take care of us. We didn't try the Emerald Steakhouse, but I've heard nothing but good things about it.
A couple of other things. The shows, I hate to admit, were not as good as some of the other boats I've been on; however, the cruise director Matt was very funny and seemed to make the best of everything. The comedians were pretty good and my husband and I went to the adult comedy shows. The Love & Marriage show is always funny. We did try out the Spa on Wednesday since we were back on the ship so early. I got a Sole Delight Pedicure and my mom got a massage. This was our first time using the Spa onboard and we were a little disappointed, but I think we are just too spoiled by the people we regularly get pedicures and massages from. I probably will not get anything from the spa in the future, but I'm glad I finally checked it out because I've always debated on it on past cruises.
Debarkation was a breeze!! We chose self-assist (carrying our own luggage off) and they called all self-assist passengers first. They started with upper decks (11,10,9) and we were on Deck 9 so we were in the first group called. We were off of the boat, in the van, and headed out of NYC by 8:15am. This experience was even smoother and faster than in the past when I've had VIP debarkation.
I read other reviews before we left and was worried, even as a past Carnival cruiser. I read about rude staff, a dirty boat, bad food, etc. From what I witnessed, however, the only bad part of the cruise was the other guests. The guests were probably %80 over the age of 65 and they complained about everything! (My husband and I are 29 and 32 and were some of the youngest people on there and my parents weren't far behind). These fellow cruisers were some of the rudest I have ever cruised with. They cut line, they complained about the food, they complained if they had to eat dinner past 6:00 pm. It was nonstop complaining. I even witnessed one lady complain because she was given a piece of cold pizza, only to complain again when the pizza boy made her a fresh one and she had to wait 5 minutes. There was no pleasing them. If the staff was rude to any of them I know why.
The bottom line is just like every other vacation it is what you make of it. If you get on the ship expecting to have a bad time and nitpicking every little thing then you won't enjoy it. If you try to have fun and don't criticize everything then you will love it.