This was our seventh cruise. Previous cruises have been with Star Cruises, Princess Cruises and Holland America.
We stayed in an aft balcony at what we thought was a very good rate. But the bottom line is - you get what you pay for. While we really enjoyed the cruise, you could see why it didn't cost as much as our previous cruises.
What was good:
The itinerary. Four stops in Vanuatu and a day in the Isle of Pines were all excellent. Plus five days at sea to enjoy the cruising life.
The service at dinner. This was our first time we had done fixed time dining and couldn't believe how good the service was.
The entertainment. Well above average for a cruise ship. The female singers and dancers were the best we have seen on a ship, and we loved the band with a brass section in the jazz bar.
The specialty restaurant. Worth the extra $35 a head.
Expresso coffee machines in the dining room.
A very well equipped fitness club.
Travelling with Australians. Much less rudeness and pushing in than other cruises.
Water slides and mini golf for kids - our 10 year old loved it, and also loved the kids club.
What was not so good:
The food was really ordinary. Worst buffet I have seen by a long way. You could see were they were saving costs - it was four days into the cruise before they trusted us to get our own bacon. Very little seafood and very small servings in the main dining room. "Prawns" one night totalled one. (Although eggs and steaks were both well done, as was the sea-side barbecue and the all day hamburgers. So you could still eat well if you were careful). Desserts were terrible.
Decor was just awful and/or inappropriate. Much of it was completely amateurish. We had an explicit painting of a naked 14 year old in our room above our son's bed.
The ship is designed to help you forget you are on a ship. No big lounge where you can sit and look at the water. On the deck areas outside where there were uninterrupted views of the water, they refused to put out deck chairs, even on the promenade deck. When I get on a ship I want to be able to sit and look at the water, but apparently I am in the minority.
Coffee from the coffee shops was diabolical. Staff confirmed to me that claims by Carnival they were specially trained for Australia just wasn't true.
Shore excursion sold out within a day. There weren't anywhere near enough for the numbers of passengers on the ship.
General levels of service and maintenance. You could tell they had a lot less staff than more expensive ships.
You need to bring your own shower and shampoo. What was provided in the cabins was terrible.
No news or weather forecasts provided. In fact the cruise director thought it was funny to give incorrect forecasts.
No sail-away parties. In fact we were three hours late and it was dark by the time we left Sydney, which was very disappointing.
I love cruising and enjoyed the cruise, but will go back to paying for a four star ship in future.