I have to start by saying that we drove down to our travelling companions home in the Villages two days prior to our scheduled departure. That turned out to be the most relaxing portion of our trip.
We departed for Tampa the morning of the cruise expecting to arrive by 11:00 A.M., have a leisurly lunch ashore, and board the ship. While on the road, I received a text message from Carnival telling me not to go to the port. No other explanation was forthcomming, and being on the road, I decided to continue on anyway. We were parking in a facility about 1/2 a mile from the port anyway. It wasn't until an hour later that the same text message was received, and we were already approaching the parking lot. When we arrived at the lot, the attendant told us that our ship had never reached port, so he would take all of the other passengers from the other lines to the port first. So, we waited in the hot sun in the parking lot for an hour. Once aboard the shuttle to the port, our dirver informed us that the ship still ha not arrived, and that two other ships that were supposed to dock at the same time were indeed in prot and disembarking passengers. Instead of a leisurely lunch, and a boarding, we got in line, and waited to board. This was at approximately 12:00. At 8:30P.M. we were still watching passengers disembark from our ship. While tired, footsore, and a bit disgruntled, I felt sorry for those passengers who ha not booked flights through Carnival, because they were adrift and had to make new reservations at who knows what cost to fly home. The Cruise Line offered us a $40.00 per person onboard credit, and deducted the pre-paid gratuity from our delayed (and not fed), embarcation.
The deduction while nice, was only fair. The Credit was a nice gesture, but cosst the cruise line very little compared to the discomfort and stress that over 2,000 passengers suffered. Once aboard, the captain maintained maximum speed to ensure that we did not miss any ports (and that they did not have to refund any pre-booked excursion monies). The ship itself was clean, well designed, and easy to navigate. The Adults only pool was closed for maintenance the entire trip, and the shows and food could be rated as mundane at best. We had chosen the any time dining option, and were surprised to find that Carnival unlike other lines did not let you make reservations in advance. The brightest point of our dining was that we found a wait staff that was expert at making us feel pampered, and we insisted that we sit in that section each night. The Buffet was set up so that there were different stations offering different fare, which was both good for those who made a meal out of one type of food, and bad for those who wanted a variety, since they had to wander from station to station. Personally, I found the burgers and Hot Dogs to be the best offering (The asain food was too spicy for my wife, and the Reuben I ordered at the Deli station was under toasted so that the rye bread was soggy). Not being a fan of pizza, I did not try ity and can't comment on it. All in all, my wife and I will return to Princess and Celebrity for our future cruises. Two trips on Carnival (25 years apart), have turned out to be two too many.