This is our 5th cruise overall and 3rd with Carnival. (2 with RCCL). We booked thru Carnival direct and went with a balcony for the first time ever. I am in my mid 40's my wife is in her late 30's. we also traveled with my in-laws who are in their early 70's. They have cruised with us on every cruise.
Embarkation-besides the fact we went into the terminal to check in without checking our baggage first all went smooth. After we were fully checked in we dropped the bags off and were allowed a quick passage back thru security. Big thank you there! We were at the terminal around 10:30 and were on the ship at 11:15. Very smooth and no waiting. We were in our room by 1:00 which was earlier than expected.
Stateroom-Our initial thought was very nice. We were on the starboard side deck 6. We found after booking the room that we were located over the promenade deck which met no clear view down of water which was not an issue. We also found after booking that we were over the Encore show lounge although loud at times was not a major issue. During the cruise our stateroom became one of our let downs. We had to continually ask for basic supplies. Also didn't get robes until we asked. If we hadn't we would've been charged when they went to check for them at the end of the cruise. Overall the cabin was never clean. We went to the pursers desk and s few things were corrected but it was never right. Our first 3 nights were very rough which caused a lot of spray onto the balcony. It was covered in salt and always soaked. This was out of everyone's control and they wash all balconies mid week. In the future if we book a balcony it would be on a higher deck in hopes to avoid the spray but in this case we got some on deck 11 while tanning so it didn't really matter. The small fridge was nice to keep some of our soda and wine cool. Mini bar prices are HIGH so beware.
Food-This was our biggest disappointment. The food in the Gathering (buffet) was always cold unless you happened to hit it when they brought in a new tray. If you eat there be sure to hit the omelette station and pasta bar as they cook to your order. The floor is VERY slippery no matter what we had on for shoes. We all like the ice cream but the machines are down often for refills is my guess. We had the late seating in the Scarlet Dining room. Our servers were ok but on a few occasions got our meals wrong because they seemed to be in such a hurry they weren't listening. The food was usually hot but not every night. We ate in the dining room 5 nights. We went to a brunch in the Crimson dinging room in order to cash in our free drink coupons. This was what salvaged our cruise. Our waiter (Imade) was awesome! Our food was tasty and hot. We went back a few hours later for a lite lunch and to tell him how much his service changed our cruise and to personally tip him. We wish we would've done this earlier in the cruise as opposed to the next to last day. We tried the pizza station only once for a reason. The burger station was good but the fries cool quick. I would recommend the Pasta bar also. We did not try the steakhouse.
Ports-We have been to all the ports before Nassau, St.Thomas and St.Maarten. We walked around all the ports and ventured inland to shop. If your in St.Maarten checkout Simpson Bay. This is where the planes land right over your head. Quite an experience. We did not do any excursions.
Entertainment-We caught a few shows in the Encore lounge including the Newlywed show which is always funny. We also got an adult comedy show in the comedy lounge, very funny. In all we liked the shows. Gambled very little and left with less than what I started with.
Recreation-We played mini golf a few times and had a great time. Had to play the roll of the ship which didn't always work :). We also played ping pong and you never knew where the ball would go because of the wind. That was a good laugh. We went in one of the aft hot tubs which was a little cool but still relaxing.
Debarkation-Originally my in-laws had a different group number than us which met different times to leave. We were able to change that so we left together. Our total time from leaving the ship to getting to our car was 30mins. That included carding off the ship, getting our luggage, clearing Customs and walking to the car. That was fast.
Overall the cruise could've been better in different areas. The 2 to 3 days off rough seas was nobody's fault. Maybe we were spoiled on our other Carnival cruises but we expected more than what we got. Would I tell anyone not to cruise with Carnival? No I wouldn't, plenty of people clearly enjoyed their cruise as did we in previous ones. We will be going back to Royal for our future cruises. As I have said in other reviews we are pretty easy going and don't need to be waited on hand and foot but this particular cruise just wasn't that enjoyable.
On a sad note a passenger passed away due to medical reasons on the promenade deck during our last full day. The crew did there best and were visibly upset over the outcome. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the passengers family and all the crew that helped.