First of all, "funship" should be your safety term for a family cruise. Its amazing how many reviews up here complain of a oasis of crying babies and kids running wild. And if you cruise during family peak times, such as the last week in August like I did, or anytime when school is out really, lets just say you are not going to get a boat full of the Century Village whale watching and star gazing retirees association. The staff was well attuned to this title, as their efforts seemed to be more to appease guests irritated at the kids rolling around on the floor and chasing each other around the dinner table on black-tie captains dinner or whatever they called it, rather then tackling the problem head on with the oblivious parents. Granted, I was unlucky to get the table next to theirs as this was the only example of unruly kids in my immediate area of the dining room; but dont get the wrong idea, im really not a whippersnapper, I personally did not mind teens on the Serenity deck (neither did the staff either ...yikes) as long as they knew what was expected of them. Heck, a group of them playing truth or dare even offered me their hammock when they saw there were no more places available for me to lounge out. And took it I did, where I proceeded to wake up 3 hours later almost missing the formal dinner complained about above [there is something about being rocked by both a boat AND a hammock at the same time that is almost hypnotic to the sleep senses.] My only issue if any, was the staff's unwillingness to deal with the kids, but to deal with adults, as night after night I was continuously thrown out of the teen center (they played better music in there then at the adult disco) Sure let the kids run wild in wet bathing suits throughout the ship and even at dinner, but good heavens should someone go in the ultraviolet to jive cause hes tired of hearing that irritating back it up song in the adult club night after night.
With that done and said, I must confess this was my first cruise, so I do not have much to compare it to. The only precaution I had was "its nothing but a floating 24 hour all you can eat buffet, with a casino" and Carnival "is not the MOST expensive cruise line ...not to insinuate anything, just a fact, and we will leave it at that". And what a buffet it was. Best places to eat: seafood, grille, pizza. so-so: chinese (had a re-heated feel) deli (was just ok). Yes lines were long at peak hours, but what rush are you in and you're trapped on a vessel in the middle of the ocean, where else are you going to go? The only time I got impatient was the upstairs seafood at the red sail, I waited 15 minutes for seafood soup while only one person manned the kitchen. Heres a food tip throughout the day: you have more then just 4 options of free drinks, iced tea, lemonade, coffee and tea - combine the iced tea AND lemonade 50/50, you got yourself a arnold palmer. (the woman next to me in line saw me do that and raved, told her party, before I knew it the whole ship was doing it by the last day) As for dinner, I ate in Platinum, I must say I was pleased with the food and unless other cruise lines have better, I dont see why so many complaints. Most of the dinner items I tried were off the "things you always wanted to try" section of the menu. I did not care for the frog legs, a little on the salty side, but everything else tasted fresh and cooked to order. Yes they try to get you to spend money left and right with the alcoholic beverages and pictures at dinner. At least the staff was very nice about it and swooped away at first "no thank you" gesture. The dessert dancing by the waitstaff could be seen as tacky, but some of them particularly the latinos really got into it, everyone was smiling! Kudos to our waiter, in only 2 nights he knew most our names. 24 hour/late night burgers, soft serve, franks, and pizza mMmMmmmm. The line for late night pizza seemed to be almost a hangout. Poor guy, he was breaking a sweat behind that counter, but he enjoyed getting to know the guests and seemed happy to serve them (the pizzeria cuatro was a little eh, but everything else was very good) I only had breakfast one morning, plenty of cold cereal and bacon to go around.
My cabin was a inner one, with no window. It was sufficient for a 4 night cruise, though the tv reception was skippy, the shower was a shower head pinned to a wall, with no window at lights out it was pitch black leaving you the feeling you are in a bomb shelter, and there was no alarm clock or any digital clock in the room whatsoever. Other family members had a balcony room, which, if you have a few extra dollars, why not get it, though considering how little time is spent in the room I felt the inner cabin was just fine. And yes, I admit I was a sucker for the animal towels greeting me each night (the monkey was the best, they hung him from the ceiling and I immediately made him the mascot of my room) The housekeeping staff was amazing, knew all our names and asked us how we were doing almost as if they actually really cared. The boat itself was well kept and showed little wear. The layout got me lost on a daily basis. Annoying, only the central elevator shaft takes you everywhere, the bow and stern only lead to cabins and the dining rooms. Did anyone else pick up on the recorded voice in the elevator announcing the floors "deck 9, legal [lido]", "deck 10, pwominah" [prominade] sounded like some thick south korean accent.
Entertainment: was the PA announcement "tonight's show has a PG rating for costuming" really necessary? I suppose so after reading a review on here about thongs but there were none of the sort, and even if there were hasnt anyone on the ship ever been to a beach before? The shows were of the variety type, you know like, american rock n roll through the decades. For the hour or so, it was just right. The effects I thought were spectacular; not of the broadway type but come on, how much bells and whistles can you get on a boat and a stage the size of a NYC studio apartment. The Magician was entertaining, go to his show, at the end he will tell you when he will be performing a show that teaches you how to do the tricks that is not on the schedule of events. The entertainment games were fairly typical newlywed game stuff. Only gripe was 25 dollar bingo boards. especially the first night for a prize of only a few hundred dollars. b-i-n-g-o = l-a-m-e-o. There was no monte-carlo night. The comedians made the nights, as did the supporting audience members. I saw both shows, and it seemed the only difference between the family and adult show was more usage of 4 letter words. I do wonder if the comedian got a demerit for suggesting the captain of the ship use rosettas stone the english version, lol. Live band Karaoke was indeed a treat, just remember there is only so many songs a live band can play, people complained more about the 90 to choose from rather then the drunk guy who forgot the words to Madonna Like a Virgin.
Recreation: dont hit the ball to hard off the tee at mini golf on the top deck, itll be lost forever in the water trap to your right and left. There was a human size chess board and a very serious match going on between 2 guests. The running track was simple a painted path upstairs; I considered bringing my rollerblades and wonder if that would have been allowed. Not that I was expecting a olympic size swimming pool, but really only 2 pools that were even capable for lap swimming (one with a retractible roof in case it rains) but plenty of hot tubs, including 2 on the serenity deck. Agreeable movies shown (wizard of oz, james bond etc etc) shown at night under the stars, you can watch from a lounge chair or hot tub, but be warned it all shuts down at about 11. They mean business about the towel rental, 20 bucks is a lot to pay if you lose your towel. Yes, I loved the gym, especially with the view and tropical spa. The picture on this site shows it once had a waterfall too (not working anymore?) Yes spa treatments like almost everything else on this boat are extra. Just get off the boat in NYC and get a massage in chinatown for 10 bucks a half hour. True the staff on board was not ultra pushy, but still, sometimes it seemed the only free things were the iced tea, lemonade, and waterslide, which was fueled with seawater -yuck.
Activities: Say what you want, but I did not mind so much they were nothing but sales traps. You know programs like "how to loose weight" or seminars "what your footprint/ signatures/ nose-hairs say about you" etc etc to find at the very end "carnival special if you buy this product, and remember, no cash, we just charge your card and it appears on your bill! I do however find it fascinating, the boat was filled with people carrying newly bought auctioned art and the like. Do people really find a use for this junk when they get home?! Of all the rooms I enjoyed most the hidden gem "blue bar", tucked away to the side of the dance clubs, where they played meringue and salsa and the crowd seemed a bit more chill. The Cinn-a-bunn as well was a favorite spot, however careful attention was paid to the piano bars architecture, a circular piano keyboard was not constructed to scale, and I know a bit about pianos. But the focus was on the piano player himself, who used a flat-finger technique to the likes in which I never seen. Check out the sports bar; bar stools, in the shape of golf balls? Now I seen everything! And lastly the egyptian themed casino; a Camel, wearing sunglasses? ..Whatever!
Avoid the slots like the plague. Even on the first night when your odds fair out better. I bearly broke even and no one seemed to be winning. The tables, particularly fun 21 and craps, yeiled more winners. The largest groups were drawn not to a table or machine but to the 1 dollar free ticket each guest got to try to 'key open' a i-pad and cash. I would like to voice my displeasure at both carnival and the game manufacturer at this piece of hokum. The level people got suckered into this machine was atrocious with their free 1 dollar snooker. My first try I didnt know you had to hold the button down to control the key, and even when I mastered the game I discovered it is fixed. For those of you who like me got addicted, I tried everything, a stop-watch, a side angle, even tilted the machine and got yelled at. It is fixed and they know it, either the key does not fit or it does not release when you do. Even worse, when the key does not go through it turns around in a circle on its descent almost mocking you. Thank you Carnival, standards of integrity in the casino are that of some county fair pier game. Now you know why they call it "carnival glory".
Embarkation was pretty breezy though the NY port authorities were a bit pushy. Debarkation was horrific. Surely there has to be a better more efficient way then having people crowded in the halls waiting for there floor number to be called; I waited for 2 hours. St John had just about enough to see and do in 2 hours. Try the Java Moose coffee house and a walk to the reversing falls. If anything get a good picture of the ship in full view. The town seems to make its daily bread off the cruising tourists so get ready to be mildly heckled.
2 last points important to mention: 1) The entire staff was all international. I did not come across one person other then customer service who was from the USA. One can conclude it is logical for them to live no a ship and sent their wages back home to their families, but just think about discussions in todays lousy American job market. Would americans take these jobs? 2) my 3 issues with guest relations, each met with a different resulted feeling.
1) understandable though unhappy = I requested the PA announcer congratulate my grandparents on ship-wide announcement on their 60th wedding anniversary. He said no.
2) humorous = I requested if they can broadcast the mit romney convention on the big screen live at night on the pool deck. He said that was the worst idea he ever heard and its bad enough there are booze on the ship, but put a political convention speech on and now you have a boat full of angry arguing people
3) unresolved and unacceptable = my families rooms were right above the dance clubs. the walls and floor were not well insulated and thus kept my 80 year old grandparents up all night as well as my 1 1/2 year old niece with a 8 pm bedtime. Numerous calls were placed, no action taken. A request was made for the manager to come to the room and see and hear the vibrating walls for himself. I do not know if this meeting came to be, as the final night guest services did not pick up their phone at all. A letter was written to corporate and I complained on the follow up email survey. This indeed put a damper on a wonderful cruise, and I suggest you call ahead and ask if your room is anywhere near the dance clubs. Hopefully when next in dry dock they will insulate accordingly. All else was splendid.
Until next time, ahoy and smooth sailing ahead!