Let me preface this review by saying that this is a makeup cruise from Carnival in compensation for the difficult experience we had on the Carnival Splendor that stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean due to an engine room fire. Carnival refunded most (but not all) of our expenses from the Splendor experience and gave us an equivalent cruise at no cost. I think Carnival did a great job in handling an unfortunate situation. A note to other seafarers: we had light and air because we had a balcony room and we brought 3 small flashlights. Many others suffered in dark stifling rooms. Balcony rooms may well be worth the extra cost.
The itinerary attracted us to this cruise. We have been to NY and Boston previously but these cities so interesting that you can have a great time regardless. No need for an excursion. The public transportation is excellent and easy to navigate. We had never been to Maine and this part of Canada so we were eager to sign up for excursions and snap away with the camera. Foliage? Well it's always hit and miss. We came at the right time but there had been no cold snap to freeze the color into the leaves. Instead, we saw a lot of muted browns and yellows on the trees. Soon the leaves will fall before they can bring a riot of colors. Oh well, some other year.
We have been on several Carnival cruises. This is one of their bigger ships and we certainly felt the size of the crowd. Example: for the excellent nightly show in the massive Amber Palace theater, you had to come at least 30 minutes early to get a good seat. By 10 minutes to show time, the only seats left were scattered singles or obstructed view seats (there are quite a few support columns). Even the bingo events filled up of the theater. The same is true of the Red Sail buffer, although the really long lines were short lived. However, other than these two venues, the ship did not feel crowded.
The ship is in fine shape. Things were clean with no visible wear. The ship has a reasonably modern architecture with the usual glass elevators and soaring atriums. Missing is the edgy decor of Joe Farcus as seen on many Carnival ships. Instead, the decor is toned down but still cruise ship splashy. Our room was a typical ship cabin (small), about Â½ the size of most hotel rooms. We had a king bed, sofa, desk area, and tiny balcony with a swing door. We did not make much use of the balcony because of the cold temps but it certainly eliminate any claustrophobia associated with the small space. Sheets are changed once or upon request. Towels are change several times a day. I found all of the pillows to be old and smelly (not the pillowcases but the pillows themselves). I requested new pillows and received some that were less smelly. They should dump all of them. This is one defect that they need to correct with this ship.
The food was a disappointment for us, except for the steak house specialty restaurant. It seems that cost cutting has hit the menu. There were few enticing dinner dishes. It was only one-step above casino buffet food. We only had lobster once and it was tiny. Real steak? only at the extra cost steak restaurant. There was not much variety in desserts either. On the positive side, there were many sugar free and low cal choices. The super thin crust piazza was great. There is a mongolian BBQ, burrito bar, and deli bar, as well as the usual burgers and dogs. The coffee was passable and much better than in previous Carnival cruises. The frozen yogurt, though mundane, was tasty. Extra cost sushi, upscale desserts, and expression are also available. The extra cost steak house is the only specialty restaurant. It was not very busy although it only cost $30 per person for a multi course meal with steak or lobster. Or create your own surf & turf for only $45. It's really an excellent meal in a luxurious venue for only $30 per person. It was much better than the Wolfgang Puck steak dinner in NY at $60 per person.
While we are on the subject of food, we purchased a special Chef's Dinner for about $80/person. We got a detailed tour of the kitchen by the head chef and a spectacular 7-course meal designed by the chef. It was an incredible treat and well worth the costs. It is only held once and limited to 10 or 12 people.
We also took a paid extended 3 hour tour of the ship. It was very interesting and well worth it for cruise aficionados. We visited all of the departments and had a chance to ask question of each team lead, including the ship's Captain. We spent a lot of time in the engine control room and the bridge, although the laundry operation was also interesting.
Big ships have a lot to do. The nightly Vegas style show is pretty good. Seating was a problem, so go to the early showing or arrive 30 minutes early. There were many venues with small bands as well as continuous music in the atrium. This disco was lightly attended because the older crowd on this cruise did not match well with the current hits. The sing along piano bar was fun. The karaoke stage was taken over by country music singers. The fitness room is large, well equipped and not crowded. Extra cost spinning and yoga classes are available. The pools are salt water and not much used due to the temps. The hot tubs are very public and fish bowl like -- a bit strange.
The ship is easy to navigate with 3 elevator towers with 4 elevators each plus 3 glass atrium elevators. There were many guests with walkers or electric scooters -- more than I have seen on any cruise. Initial boarding at the Manhattan dock was very slow because the Carnival computer system was down. Deboarding was very orderly until you need a cab. There was an organized long line (1 hr wait) or you can fight it out at the corner trying to hail a passing cab. Take the orderly line because you will be jostling with other guest trying to nab a cab. The cab drivers really want to take people going to the airport (long fare) and my reject you if you have a short ride. All in all, we had a great time and can recommend this cruise.