Having cruised mainly with Princess, a few times with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and NCL, decided to try Carnival given the pricing and timing.
We usually travel as a group of 7 to 13, but this time it was just my husband and I.
We spent 2 days in Long Beach, stayed at Long Beach Hilton. Met fellow cruise critics at Yardhouse, which was awesome.
Embarkation: Smooth and efficient. We got there around 1 pm. Within 15 mins we were in our cabin. Half hour later, our baggage arrived.
Sficient, but no time for any thing else.
Dining - we had early seating at Gold Pearl Restaurant. Very colouful decor . Disaapointed that dress code was not enforced as we had passengers showing up with flip flops and shorts even on Elegant night. They should have been politely turned away and offered alternative dining options.
Food was luke warm on most nights. Variety was there for meat lovers, vegetarians, seafood etc. Like their everyday menu. Disappointed with overdone Mahi Mahi on our last night, which was also the roughest night, so half the dining room was empty and we did not finish our dinner due to motion sickness.
Our head waiter Werner was from Peru. He was very efficient, but once again little time for idle chitchat and we really did not get to know more about him the way we always did with other waiters on other cruiselines. Believe, Carnival is cutting corners and have cut back staffing so dining room staff are always on the run and rushed. Love the table top dancing by the waiters. But 3 nights of this is more than enough.
Alternate places to eat: Recommend the Grill and Tandoor on Deck 9 - very tasty and a nice change from regular buffet.
Lido buffet - liked the Mongolian wok, but had to wait 20 mins for food to be cooked. Need more people cooking.
Rotissserie on deck 10 - hidden gem just above Lido deck - corn on the cob, juicy roast chicken and some salad - another welcome change to Lido buffet.
Pizza and hot dog stand - good for food on the go, but not my favourite.
Sushi bar - opened most night from 5 pm to 8.15 pm.. not too bad, many passengers snacked here before their dinner.
Photographers- Don't like how they were set up everywhere and made the hall ways on Deck 5 congested, especially around the Sushi bar and Casino area.
Gift shops - pleasant staff, but they need to set up their watch sales and special item sales in larger rooms like El Morroco instead of the narrow hallways in front of their stores. Their $10 and $19 watch sales were a gong show, with passengers pushing and shoving and sratching.. calm down people, they are only watches and bracelets and they are not free!
Shows - Ok.. standard cruise shows.. Vroom was the best. Stand up comedian - good and always reminded that we will be offended and have option to leave if we are offended.
Deck chairs and pool area - needs to be cleaned more frequently. Same with tables at Lido buffet. Seems like once again, cut back in staff by Carnvival or is this the norm. Not used to seeing empty tables with dirty dishes and deck floors and dirty deck chairs. Other cruise lines have staff cleaning regularly.
Public washrooms - difficult to find amongst the gaudy pink polka dot decorations on the walls and doors. Not clearly visible when you are in need of a washroom.
Adult Serenity area was nice, but why bother when the putting green is just above it, so it is noisy with kids ?
Gym -was good, lots of machines, treadmills, bikes etc.. Dont like the curtains around the windows.. take it away.. blocks the view and will attract dust.
Cabin - we opted for Oceanview and were on Deck 1 - very convenient when we came back from shore as all we had to do was walk one flight from deck 0. Very spacious compared to Princess. Lots of drawers and storage. Bright orange colours in the rooms.. ok with us. Loved being greeted by towel animals after dinner every night.. Best one was our Monkey hanging from the ceiling. Need more electrical outlets to charge our cell phones and cameras.
ATM = loved having ATM on board since we needed some extra cash and our Canadian cards worked.. Also found there was never any line ups at the guest services as once could check on their account from their room or from a machine located right infront of the guest services area.
Casino- please make it completely non smoking!!
Disembarkation - we were amongst the last to disembark, so enjoyed the last of the sunshine on deck 9 before heading down to deck 3 to disembark. Smooth
Overall not too bad of an experience, considering this was our first Carnival cruise. We will sail with Carnival again if we are looking for value and variety of ports of call. At times too many kids running around, but then Carnival is priced as an affordable cruising experience for families. Passengers were mostly down to earth and friendly. Definitely not the party ship reputation they used to have. Heard there was a drug bust on Deck 2.. but then that should not be a surprise, given the Mexican ports of call.