Embarkation--We arrived at the pier at 11:30 and went to the VIP room checked in and were on the ship before noon. Process was uneventful and moved along very well.
Lifeboat drill---What an embarrassment. At some point the Coast Guard needs to step in and watch what happens. My group was sent to the conference room. Several hundred people crammed into an area a little bigger than a three car garage. People sitting on the floor, chairs, standing and a divider in the middle of the room. For those siting and shorter than the taller ones in the front of the room you could not see the demonstration or the video. Of course you could not hear the video or instructions. People, as usual, brought their food and drink to the drill. At no point were we taken to the deck to see where the lifeboats were and which ones we should report to. The number of people in the room was a life safety issue that would not have been allowed on shore. It's amazing how once you get on the ship the life safety issues of land are no longer adhered to. The next major loss of life in the cruise industry will not be from a ship accident but from a fire or panic situation where rooms are over crowded and exits are locked and or blocked. Comments ranged from, this was ridiculous, someone should report this to the Coast Guard and we are all going to die!
Room-- We were in a cove balcony, 2379. The balcony was nice and roomy. Room was the standard design with the end section of the cabinets missing. King bed, couch, new rectangular table with a shelf on the bottom, flat screen TV that pivoted so you could watch it easier while in bed and there was no chair in the room. The colors were bright and the decor refreshing from the previous ships. The balcony while underway in rough waters received a good deal of spray and at one point the deck was coated with salt to the point that you could feel it crunch under your feet. Calmer days and while in port were great. The rail is lower than the glass on higher balcony decks. There is a ledge that you can put your drinks on. This particular room was extremely noisy as we later found out the pot scrubbing station for the dining room was right above us. It stopped around midnight and started back up at 3:30. There is no way I would ever recommend this room or any around it. People down the hall had the same
complaints. If you want a cove balcony I would recommend the back third of the deck or from the aft elevators back. The halls were bright with blue carpets, the doors looked like cabana doors and nice beach scene murals on the walls.
Entertainment-- We have now traveled 15 times with Carnival and had seen the same shows over and over. This time they had some different or a twist on some old ones. Minimal sets and what they do use are big panels that have graphics on them. Minimal costume changes and the costumes that they do have are nothing like the past. They have a flow chart with 5 different shows and times. You look up the show and it shows the dates and times. You may have to change your dining time to catch some of the shows. In the past they maintained a 10 piece live band for the shows, no more. Taped music with taped background vocals. There was a time when they made fun of other cruise ship companies for doing the same. Get there early, it was at capacity most nights. Another safety issue, overcrowded with people standing along the walls and sitting on the stairs. The comedy club is awesome and we caught several shows each night there were comedians on board. Most of the live music on board is gone and replaced with DJ's
I will give them a thumbs up on this new ship when it comes to open space, bars, food options, the water park and the sports area. First, the Red Frog Pub is great. There is a guitar player there at night. Great drinks and pub atmosphere. Pub food that is very good and the cost is well worth it. $3.33 for everything, sliders, chicken wings and conch fritters. There is an outdoor area with nice seating and umbrellas that is sectioned off. Back inside, there are games to play and more seating that leads back to the promenade area. The pool area has better themed bars and the Guy Fieri burger joint is awesome, make sure you try the hand cut fry's. The new Sushi Bar, there is a charge, is also very well done. On sea days there is an outdoor BBQ. The rope course is well done with an outdoor gym, putting course, the largest basketball court I have seen on a ship, other games, seating, a bar and a hotdog stand. Now there is a reason for the kids to hang out and do things on the sport deck. The water park was outstanding and at 53 I used the water slides many times. You and your kids will love it.
Grand Turk was canceled as we arrived the Captain felt it would be unsafe to dock. Never seem to be unable to dock at Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Have been there before and it is a great port.
Falmouth Jamaica was a new port for us and the port appears to be brand new. Same shops that are at every other port. Typical Jamaica, everyone hassling you. Walked the port and returned to the ship.
Nassau-- Been there probably 5 or 6 times and for some reason can never figure out what to do here. Walked around and did some shopping. Will have to do some research and find something to do since Carnival is hell bent on always going there. This is another one of these islands that we could do without.
Dinning-- The food in the cafeteria continues to decline in both quality and selection. Breakfast is pathetic. The bacon has to be the worse that they can purchase, thin, under cooked, all stuck together and dripping with grease. I'm not sure why they guard it and I'm not sure why anyone eats it. Lines were long, food was cold and sections closed.
Lunch was pretty good compared to breakfast. The salad bar was good as well as the deli with custom made sandwiches. The selection was okay and the deserts were nice. The Mongolian Wok was great as usual. Some days very long lines 30 to 60 minuets. Guy Fieri Berger's was great as well as the hand cut fry's and the seasoning.
Dinner in the formal dinning room was the usual. The staff was okay and the food was okay. Still, quality lacking and the selection was okay. Nothing to really get excited about. We were sat with some people that really distracted from the experience. You know, the formal dining room, cameo t shirts, cameo pants, boots and baseball hats. Formal night my wife and I were all dressed up, they showed up in jeans, polo shirt, baseball cap and tennis shoes. Listen, these are not my rules, they are Carnivals. I don't get dressed up to go out to dinner with my wife to eat with the animals. Forget a table for two. It's 4 inches from the table for 6 and they take your order right along with the others. Casual in the cafeteria, bathing suits by the pool food stations and the formal dinning room is for those that are dressed by Carnivals standards. I looked over the literature and no where could I see that the dress code was "suggested." No more, perhaps anytime dinning and I'll pick the table for 2.
Debarkation-- We left the ship under the VIFP program. The paperwork in our cabin advised us to meet in the theater deck 3 forward. The ship arrived in port around 5:45. At 6:30 we made our way to deck 3. When we got off the ship the escalator was broken so they tried to move 4000 people in the elevator 5 at a time. We were in our car and on our way home by 7:05.
It's sad to see the continued cuts in the cruising experience. While if you are new to cruising you may not notice them. The food quality and selection continues to decline. The souvenir place mats are gone, the midnight buffet has almost disappeared. The chocolate buffet with the ice sculptures and food carvings has disappeared. There is no longer an island band by the pool, DJ. When we got on the ship in the lobby, no live music, DJ. The music on deck 5 is down to one musical group. There are no trays available in the cafeteria. Ice in your room is now an item that you have to request. VIFP travelers usually have 2 treats delivered to the room during the cruise...this cruise just 1. The little extra items in the bathroom almost all gone. There appears to be a new level of intimidating security dressed all in black. You now have to pay for sushi, no live band in the theater, productions have declined in costumes, sets and even the number of performers. Hardly ever saw our room steward. Cost of the steakhouse increased by $5 per person.
The ship is beautiful and there is a lot to do. We had a good time on our 17th cruise, 15 with Carnival. Although, I think next year will be our last. I really wounder if Carnival is more interested in cutting costs or having repeat customers. We have 2 cruises booked and I'm not excited about making anymore bookings. Would it cost an extra $50 per person to go back to the good old days...come on Micky Arison and Gerry Cahill how far are we from having to pack a cooler?