Our first trip on Carnival was both good and bad; many peaks and valleys. I will try and break these down.
Check-in at the Port of Baltimore was the best I have ever seen on any cruise line. We drove there in one hour, parked at 11:30 AM, and were on the ship at 11:50 AM. UNBELIEVEABLE. Our bags were delivered about 1:45.
Our first snack was the Deli. My wife and I both had a Ruben. A great start.
I had read articles that stated that the decor was old and somewhat strange. There were comfortable chairs, and lots of them, all over the ship. Sure some of the art is strange; but so what ! Plenty of chairs for everyone.
Bars were everywhere and the bartenders were very engaging; even for sodas. Bar stools had smaller seats and needed another 4 inches or so for knee room.
Cabin was well laid out. We had the extended balcony. This means your cabin is wider; a good thing. Plenty of closet space. Bring an electric strip; there is only one outlet. Mattress was hard as a rock, not to mention the hard pillows. Our room stewart put on about 8 mattress pads and it helped. The "do not disturb" sign fell off the door 99 % of the time. They need another design for this sign.
Now for the food. The any time dining was sold out 2 months before we booked our cruise; agent should have told us. We had the 8:15 PM seating. On the first night, there was a line of 600 plus. A stupid idea. They walked each of us to our table. ALL TABLES HAVE NUMBERS- HAND OUT A DINING ROOM MAP AT CHECK-IN. It was a real annoying problem for the first night.
Food was either very good or very bad; you had to be careful. On a kitchen tour, they said they cooked 20% more meals in case diners were unhappy with their first choice. That meant that they expected 20 % to be unhappy.
All chicken on the ship was grossly overcooked, with the exception of the grilled chicken at the pool deck, which had some of the best food all the time.
When ordering in the dining room, ask what the entire dish consists of. I left out most extras altogether. THE MASHED POTATOES WERE THE BEST I HAVE HAD ANYWHERE. Every night and even when they were in the buffet, they were fantastic.
The buffet has problems. First, there is no concept of breakfast. The scrambled eggs are the worst I have ever had. I did try a small sample later in the cruise and they were still awful. The omelets were better, but still had a mediocre taste. WHY. It took me 2 days to figure everything out. THEY DID NOT USE BUTTER !!! They used oil and flavorless Pam. I brought my 2 pads of butter for all omelets. I also had them wipe the oil from the pan.
Sausage and bacon were another nightmare. First morning the sausage was fantastic. The bacon was undercooked for the entire cruise. This is unexcuseable because commercial bacon comes laid out in 12-15 individual strips. There is no excuse for the bacon to be undercooked and stuck to each other.
The sausage was even worse. After day 1, they had a link sausage that was almost mush. Tasted awful. Day 3, someone came up with Kielbasa. It was like cut up hot dogs. I asked a chef from India and he said it was indeed sausage. I agreed, but informed him IT WAS NOT BREAKFAST SAUSAGE. He was very pleasant, but he had no clue. Good sausage did not appear till the last morning. Potatoes were also spotty.
I have a picture of this sausage.
In the buffet, Chopsticks had Chinese food. Couldn't and didn't eat anything there. Same for the Italian dishes; BOTH were awful.
The Carvery had prime rib one night and was good. Rest of the time it was hit or miss.
The 24 hour pizza was also spotty. When a guy asked for a few extra pepperonis, he was denied. Also denied extra cheese. Seemed stupid to me.
The cantaloupe and pineapple was some of the best I have ever had anywhere.
Breakfast was available every morning in the dining room. This was the place to go. Eggs benedict was a staple and was good; EVERYTHING WAS GOOD. Fried eggs were also well made. OJ fresh. Corned beef hash was also very well made and not with a lot of extra crap that many other cruise lines add. Hours were short, but it is the only place to eat breakfast. BACON WAS COOKED TO PERFECTION !!
WHY IS BREAKFAST SO GOOD IN DINING ROOM, AND SUCH A MESS UPSTAIRS AT THE BUFFET. THEY USE THE SAME KITCHEN !!!
Being in the restaurant business, I know it is easier to prepare food for buffet service than on an individual basis; a lot easier, especially for breakfast.
The staff in the buffet was hit and miss for drinks at the table. You would think they wanted the extra sales; not so. I always looked for a Romanian or Philippine server. They were all exceptional servers and expiditers.
Having Fanta as a soda choice was a big hit with us.
The entertainment was dismal. All the bars had a guitar player sitting behind the bar. There were a lot of jokes about how bad these entertainers were. Recorded music would have been a much better choice. Even the Karaoke singers put these poor guys to shame.
Ingress and egress from the ship was also flawless as was the initial boarding. Debarkation was a bit slow because someone dropped coffee on the gangway and it had to be cleaned up. Bags were exactly where they were supposed to be.
The chair police !! A GREAT IDEA. There were always many chairs available. Chair hogs were at a minimum. Good for Carnival.
Went on a kitchen tour the last day. Saw broiled tomatoes sitting on a serving tray at 3:45 PM under a heat lamp. It was a plastic synthetic tray; the cheap ones used to carry dishes. Whoever came up with this idea is an idiot. Dinner wasn't till 6 PM. BAD IDEA. First, a plastic food tray is not an approved surface to serve ANY FOOD, let alone, placed under a heat lamp. A big NO-NO. Speaking of this, the plates were dispensed in an electric plate warmer in the buffet. There were many minor burns and this was another bad idea.
My problem was this: The kitchen was able to prepare first class food for the dinning room; why couldn't they do the same for the buffet?
David's Steakhouse was also a waste of time. There were 154 seats as well as a bar. There were 26 other dinners when we were there at 7:30. The $ 35 additional charge is a waste of money. I think that many went there just to get away from the buffet. They advertised that they were full every night and they " might be able to get you in". Anyone who went to Davids, knew this was a story from the beginning. I asked 2 servers, and they both said numbers were down; and also let it slip " they have never been full".
We would go on Carnival again from Baltimore because of the proximity to our house. The goal of any foodservice is to serve good food, but the chefs seem to think they know everything and in some cases like breakfast at the buffet, they have no clue or just do not care. The server/cooks did what they could, but were hampered by what they had to work with. A group trip to I-hop or Denney's would be beneficial to all.
All cruise ships make over $ 125 plus per day, per passenger. They are extremely profitable. Unfortunately, there is a blase attitude when it comes to food service. NCL is the worst; even the crew hates the food. The Celebrity Solstice class is one of the best for quality food.
The food was better than NCL, better in some categories that RCL, but light years behind the Celebrity Solstice Class ships. Breakfast is one of the easiest foods to prepare; and it was done perfectly in their dining room, yet a disaster in the buffet. Buffet drink service needs to be put in the hands of the Romanians. They were as good as some others were bad.
Pictures were of those tomatoes left out for over 2 hours under heat lamps and on a plastic serving tray; and the sausage concoction served one day. The kitchen has the ability, but need guidance.
Carnival has the ability, but is blinded to suggestions. There are restaurants world wide that have food service operators that also march to their own tune.
The coffee machines are dated and need replacing with more efficient units. 100 + staff walk past and see this EVERY MORNING; yet nothing is done. FIX THE PROBLEM.