This was our second cruise after 20 years. Overall, very disappointed with the food and constant pressure to buy photos, shore excursions, items from the shops and spa services. Cabin was good, clean with adequate closet space , but needed more hangers. First lunch was a buffet. I chose the stir fry, where you select your veggies, protein and sauce. Then the cook tosses your choices on a Wok along with a cup of water, covers the dish with a lid for 60 seconds. The result is a soupy dish of wet ingreds. I would describe the buffets like a Food Court during a Black Friday sale at a Mall. Dinner was in the optional price steakhouse. Now, that was excellent. The service attentive and the beef cooked perfectly.
The four of us chose the steakhouse because there was an offer for a free bottle of wine only on the first night. This excellent dinner raised my expectations for the rest of the voyage.
Next morning, we were woken on the PA to be advised that due to high winds and small port entrance, we would not be able to tie up at Monaco. Disappointment to say the least. Breakfast buffet... powdered scrambled eggs with overly sweetened orange "juice". The coffee after 2 days drove me to brew tea. Toast was on one side of the line, but jam and syrup were across the aisle. Hard boiled eggs were prob cooked for 10 minutes on a high boil resulting in the telltale black outline. Told the Maitre'd about the HB eggs, but no change.
Dinner, they greeting desk tries to seat you to share a table, not always wanted.
You have to be aggressive. For every seated meal, the first person to attend was the cocktail server who would not bring the wine.
Food in Dining room was good with no shining stars. Each dinner we had to repeatedly ask for lemons in the glass of water, even tho we had the same team.
Ports were 60 minutes from the cities and coach drives were described as scenic. Not so, usually high speed routes. The shore excursion in Rome was rushed. Seemed like a sprint for 8 hours. Stop to shoot a scene and the umbrella was 100 ahead. Guides were knowledgeable and friendly. The best part of the entire 12 days was the locals we met on shore, whether a shore excursion laid on lunch, owners in a retail shop, fruit street vendors or just helpful locals. The entry to Venice in the fog was spectacular along with the historic skyline. We were so fortunate the stand on St. Mark's piazza 10 days before the flood!! Found some reasonable shopping(leather, wool cap, scarf)and wonderful food window displays.The walking along the narrow streets over the canals was a delight. Next morning back to Venice with a water taxi back to the ship to be in time only to learn that the departure would be delayed for 2 hours.
Sadly, there was a death onboard. One of the passengers had a medical emergency, was transferred to another boat for further care. However, we were all advised on the PA that he/she had passed away. Shockingly, in the next sentence we were told about the sale on the shops onboard!!. No pause, no moment of silence!
The Cruise Director was the voice on the PA became very annoying after the third day. Too loud with forced enthusiasm.
The large screen on the Lido deck showed sitcoms( Frazier) and very old movies.
Same for the room TV( Rick Steeves) and broadcast of info for disembarkation and broadcast of entertainment where cruise customers were the talent.
Comedy club in the lounge, we left after 7 minutes, not funny.
Our room was clean and comfortable. the two twins pushed together resulted in a seam to deal with. The cabin staff and for that matter serve staff addressed me as MR. Richard( my first name, not last). I guess this was the training. Felt weird. The emphasis was on the manner of address and animals fashioned out of towels, not upscale thoughtful service.
At Dinner, one of asked for extra vegetables. We received more potatoes and some carrots... no greens. At another dinner, mashed potatoes were included. The server asked if I wanted a Baked potato...I got both. Desserts were on the too sweet side.
So, we were constantly reminded about the level of service and quality of food in the Italian optional Captain`s Table resto. We booked a table for 4. Arrived, met a couple that we met on board and agreed to all 6 dine together. I asked the Maitre`d if we could switch from 4 to 6. She rolled her eyes and said she would look. After a few minutes, she said she was able to switch. When we were guided to our seats, the room was more than half empty?? I ordered the Melanzane which was inedible, overcooked mush and too oily. When asked how I enjoyed it, looking at the still full plate, I described the failure. Shock on her face, but no offer to replace, substitute or credit.
Everywhere on board, they play music at volume. We found the Wine Library, still PA music. It has an auto wine vendor. You use your ship's card to select and pour a selected flavour of wine in a glass. One selection was off and undrinkable( another cruiser agreed with us). I asked the bar attendant if she could replace the glass of wine. She snapped that the vending machine was automatic, our charge could not be credited and there was nothing that she could do. I insisted on speaking to her supervisor. She replied that he was on break for the next 3 hours. I asked to speak to someone. This had deteriorated. After 15 minutes, an office in white arrived, credited the account advised us that we were the only ones who did not like the wine. I pointed to the guy at the bar. The whole process was unpleasant. The staff are unwilling or unable to resolve complaints.
On the exterior decks, the majority are constantly wafted by cooking odours, not fresh sea breezes.
With the constant pressure to spend more cash on board, I started to call the ship by the "Carnival Squeeze".