There is so much to say about this cruise. I've been on 10 cruises on 5 different cruise lines so I have a good base to compare it. Despite it being one of the best cruises I've been on, there are some criticisms of this cruise. We were on the cruise that departed 12/9/2012
I didn't realize that the ship came into port so late normally. Going out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, those ships usually pull into port at 6 or 7 am and spend that time disembarking and embarking passengers. This ship normally comes in a 9am. Early and self disembarking (which i will cover later) don't even hit the pavement until 10:30 at the earliest. Therefore, embarking usually starts later and passengers don't actually board the ship until after 1:30. I personally did not get onboard until 2:45. There is an issue that is not Carnival's fault totally, but the Port Authority's fault. The waiting area is within the security zone. So everyone waiting to board, was not allowed to use their cell phones or any electronic devices capable of taking photos. They threatened several people that they would confiscate their phones if they continued to use it. Yeah, right during the Ravens/Redskins Game. Good luck with that.
Carnival tends to take their theme and pretty much pump it out to the max. In this case, this was renaissance art. It was EVERYWHERE. I have heard people say that it made the ship dark. My impression is that it worked well. The point of the decor, in my opinion, is to take you away from the ordinary and put you in another world. This cruise detached me so bad; I walked off the ship in a daze. I absolutely loved the Florentine Lounge. The faux candle lamps with the pictures on the chairs, made it a very relaxing area to hang out.
The Beauties Nightclub. This is by far my favorite night club on any cruise ship. It is a two floor club with the bar on the top floor and a dance floor on the bottom floor. Well defined dance area with all the bells and whistles. There were some slight flaws. 1. The stairs empties you straight onto the dance floor. This is not very good for flow. 2. There is no bar on the bottom floor. If you were in the downstairs area, you would have to either depend on a wait staff, or go up the stairs (through the dance floor) to get a drink. But all in all, it was an absolute blast.
Comedy Club. This was a little small for the amount of people it attracted. The one night they had comedy in the main Taj Mahal theater, it worked way better.
Starry Night Lounge. It was right next to the Casino and smelled badly of smoke.
This went from hot to cold.
Breakfast in the dining room was mediocre. They had the same menu for breakfast every day, but I didn't expect anything fabulous about it. The hot cereals weren't really hot and sometimes, inconsistent. I would get a hot bowl of oatmeal, while my girlfriend got a cold bowl of cream of wheat. The omelets were well done and delicious, but the Eggs Benedict was lacking. The service at breakfast seemed hit or miss. Sometimes, there was no service to be had, and we just sat waiting. Breakfast on the buffet was similar in quality.
The Lunch menu did change every day. Open seating service was a little better than breakfast. Maybe the wait staff needed some coffee to get on their game. The food at lunch was good. You really need to pace yourself here, because you can get the same amount of food at lunch that you could get at dinner without even trying. I found the lunch buffet was decent, but I didn't go up there except for the first day. If I was on the ship, I wanted to be waited on.
Dinner. What can I say here? The food was mostly a hit, but there were some misses. Our wait team, Fernando and Vladimir was awesome. They bent over backwards to make sure our food was to our liking. A couple of the dishes were questionable, but our staff would happily jump on us and offer other suggestions or replacements if we did not like any part of our meal. The one thing that I notice on this cruise that has never happened on any other cruise before; I believe the ice tea in the dining room was brewed! Past cruises have all used that instant syrupy ice tea which is passable, but it's included in the fare, so we don't complain. Here, it was brewed. My last carnival cruise earlier this year on the Paradise gave us complimentary express and cappuccino with dinner. This one did not. Not a huge thing, as I vowed to cut out more caffeine from dinner than my last cruise. It helped. The Ice Tea at the buffet was the same syrupy instant ice tea though.
In addition to dinner, we had two other dining experiences.
David's Steakhouse. Absolutely amazing. The steaks were top notched and perfectly cooked. The appetizers were delicious. The dessert was amazing even though I barely touched mine. They seriously give you a 14 oz cheesecake for dessert. I did not get this, because I knew the size of it before coming in, but that's insane. I had to be rolled out of that restaurant. This restaurant is perfectly placed on the ship. It is located mid-ship on the top level, allowing you a view of the water and the shore (if you're near land). It was perfect as we were there on the night we were in Nassau. Dinner started with Atlantis in the background.
Chef's Table. This is a little pricey at $75.00 per person plus tip (yes, you should tip them). On this cruise, the Chef's table occurred twice. 10 people max. So 20 people out of 2100 can do this. It starts with a tour of the galley with two hors d'oeurves plates. The tour starts at about 6:30 which is the start of the dinner rush (1st seating and open seating). The chef explains the system on how they keep every order and how the different wait staff processes these orders, how they are prepared and plated. It is seriously a assembly line of food. They work they put into this, will put ANY restaurant on land to shame. After the tour and demonstration, they lead us to the Beauties Nightclub where a lavish dinner table was set for 10. There was a rolled up menu tied up with a neat bow. You can have as much wine as you want (I found that out the hard way). The wait staff here was especially attentive. I never saw them fill my wine glass, so it was hard to know how much wine I had until I had to walk out of there. The food at this dinner was a 7 course extravaganza. I can count this meal as one of the best meals I've ever had. Everything was fresh (I'm not sure how they managed that). There were foods there I would never thought of putting together, but it was absolutely amazing. I will do this on every cruise from here on out.
Kirk and Gumby seriously worked the cruise. They were out and about and they were everywhere. However, I did notice a somewhat lack of activities with regards to past cruises. I'm thinking Kirk and Gumby was making due with less as many companies are doing these days. No criticism on their work though. They totally did their jobs.
Vroom was an awesome show. However, I think it was awesome because it surprised me in many ways. My girlfriend said that it was a step above a burlesque show. We both found it very entertaining but much of our entertainment was probably not intended. The older couple next to us did not enjoy the show as I could feel them seething with righteous indignation. That was also entertainment for me. The vocalists. The male vocalist was great. He hit the notes well and was a pleasure to listen to. The female vocalist had a nasal quality to her voice that was very prevalent. It detracted from her performance. I am unsure if it was her, or the sound people who did this, but I noted that this voice was NOT suited to some of the songs she had to sing. The dancers were great. The choreography was a joy to watch. I missed the Motown show, and Jazzin was canceled due to the weather. It was very rough that night.
The comedy club was great. It's a little unfortunate that the comedians were not as funny at the family show as they were at the adult show. They say a mark of a good comedian is someone who can be funny without resorting to crude or adult matters. The comedy club was small given the popularity of this venue. I think they could have done better if they held that in the main Taj Mahal theater. I was pleasantly surprised that there were 4 different comedians during the span of the 7 night cruise. I spent most of my evenings at these shows.
I had an interior cabin. Our steward, Joquim was great. He did everything he was supposed to. He was very courteous and greeted us by name each time he saw us. There's not much to be said about the room steward. They either do their jobs or they don't. I was pleased with his performance. There is ONE little issue that has bugged me through my cruise history that THIS ship seems to have solved. Cold water from the sink. For some reason, across all the cruise ships, one nagging factor seemed to irk me. When I turn the cold water on, it stays cold for a second, and then warms up. Its good, if I want warm water, but I want cold, and no matter what I do other than turning off the water and letting it sit, it stayed warm. This ship, the faucet did what it was supposed to.
Port Canaveral. I went to Universal Studios. I had an absolute blast. It was a bit pricey, but I chose it because I wanted to meet a friend there. Nonetheless, I do NOT recommend anyone do the theme park excursions for several reasons. First, it is expensive if you do it through the cruise line. It's pretty expensive if you don't. The port is about 50 miles away from Orlando and the parks. At best, you can spend 7 hours there. Usually, during other times of the year, the parks will be fairly populated. I was able to do everything with no lines. Add 10 or 15 minutes per ride, and you will run into a time crunch very easily. We got lucky, but I would not expect that kind of luck in the future. Otherwise, it's a fairly lackluster port. I found out during the cruise at the Chef's Table that all the food and supplies is loaded at Port Canaveral, so the first couple days of your cruise, you are pretty much eating the dregs from the cruise before.
Nassau. This is a great place. The people here are friendly. There is a certain charm in Nassau. We did the Ardastra Garden and City Tour. The City of Nassau is fascinating. The one thing I did notice that it was very compact and vehicles travel through the city at their own peril. I saw people driving on the sidewalk and doing whatever. Our tour guide would weave in and out of traffic with bare inches to spare, and it seems like everyone else does the same thing. There is a rich heritage here. The day we were there, was the Junior Junkanoo festival. Children from all over would
Freeport. This is the total opposite of Nassau. There was a lot more room here to breathe and explore. However, you have to get some transportation away from the port, as there is pretty much nothing there but a handful of vendors and a Senor Frogs. We went on the Kayaking and Nature walk. This Kayaking excursion was no joke. The tide had come in higher then usual. The creek was like a maze and navigating through that was a little bit treacherous. The Nature walk was somewhat of a joke, because there wasn't that much nature to surround the "walk" on. A handful of local plants and that was about it, but the end of the nature walk ended us on a beautiful quiet beach. This is what you hope for when you go to the beach. There was no one there except people on the tour. It was easy to stretch out and wander without the crowds. The problem with the Bahamas this time, especially in Freeport, was there was still evident damage from Sandy and even prior hurricanes. Huge swath of land that were once trees and woods have been ripped out and what is left are just dead memorials of what was once trees. I really hope Freeport recovers fully from the hurricanes.
Nothing special here except to note that this ship comes in later than usual. They did say that you had to be out of the rooms by 8:30, but I'm not sure how strict they are with that. We were able to eat a leisurely breakfast and then wait at our debarkation zone. Customs was the easiest I've ever had to deal with, but that is totally luck of the draw and nothing to do with Carnival.
One miscellaneous note on this ship. There was an overlying vibration I had not felt in other ships. Usually, on other ships, the vibration would be felt when the ship got underway when the engines are doing serious work accelerating the ship and maneuvering. However, once we're at speed, the ship generally evens out. This ship had a vibration that seemed to permeate the ship at all times. I could not figure out why. The aft of the ship, I can understand the engines, but we were forward and still felt that same vibration whether we were on deck 1 or deck 8 (where we were staying).
In summary, despite many criticisms, I absolutely loved this cruise. My experience has shown me that the cruise can only do so much, and the rest you need to do on your own. You could have the perfect cruise, and if your mind is not in it, or have such high expectations that nothing will satisfy you, you will not enjoy yourself. Or, if you're like me, have the perfect traveling companion, and have a totally open mind to the different type of passengers that you're bound to meet. You open yourself to having fun without expectations. You end up with the best cruise of your life...each and every time. I've been on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, and Norwegian. As of now, Carnival and Princess are my top picks as of now.